Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Side of Iraq

This blog is from Keika who studied a lot of ancient history in college, and we're not talking early 1980s which is ancient history to some of our interns...

Last night, at the Museum, I attended a captivating program called Tales from Iraq. Authors Ariel Sabar and Jessica Jiji, both children of Iraqi Jewish immigrants, shared stories about their heritage and charmed the audience with an intimate look into the culture and history of both the Jews of Baghdad and the Jews of Kurdistan. Jiji and Sabar have admired each other’s work for years, but had never met in person until last night so it was great to share this moment with them as they reminisced. One amazing fact I learned is that Sabar’s father is one of the last people on earth to speak Aramaic fluently.

Prior to attending this program, I knew little about the 2,600-year history of Jews in Iraq, but have always been intrigued with this topic. To me, these communities seem to be the closest we’ll ever get to see how the Judahites lived in the land of Israel thousands of years ago. I also learned that, historically, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived side-by-side in relative peace in Iraq; and the Jews in Baghdad were also successful business people and politicians. But, between 1948 and 1951, there was a mass exodus of about 130,000 Iraqi Jews to the State of Israel due to the increasing tensions. As a result, fewer than 100 Jews live in Iraq today. That is why it is important to preserve the history of these communities, and both Jiji and Sabar accomplish that through their literary works (both fiction and non-fiction). To learn more about this fascinating history, you can order their books from the Pickman Museum Shop.

Photo: Ariel Sabar.

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