The Late Jacob
Jacob Mahlab was a well-known figure among the Jews. I am
certain many, many Iraqis would be pleased to remember him.
as all students and parents used to call him, was among the
first students to enrol at the Alliance School in Baghdad
when they first opened. He became the assistant Director of
the Alliance Schools in Baghdad. In this capacity, he worked
as Chief Accountant of both the schools for boys and for girls
in Baghdad for over 45 years. He was involved in the collection
of the students fees, seeing that the well to do parents paid
more than those who had less means, and excused those of no
Mr Mahlab, who
spoke French fluently, was awarded the Legion of Honour by
the French Government for his contribution in promoting the
teaching of the French Language in the Alliance Schools in
Baghdad until 1951.
As a teenager
I was sent to study in Paris with two other students, Flora
Hay and the late Naima Nahum. Soon after we arrived, war was
declared and Paris was occupied by the Nazis. My colleagues
and I had to flee Paris to Toulouse. Travelling by train one
day, in July 1943, I was arrested by the Gestapo, interrogated
and kept in their quarters for 48 hours. I thought that was
the end! I was released later because of my Iraqi passport
(during that period, Rashid Ali's Iraqi Government in exile
and Germany were allied). Later on, I was granted a false
ID prepared by the French Resistance. This enabled me to move
freely, but always with fear in my heart.
At the end of
the war, in 1945, after a lot of suffering my colleagues and
myself were sent by the "Joint" as Jewish War Refugees, to
Palestine. Thanks to an influential Iraqi member of parliament,
Abraham Nahum, who happened to be in Palestine, we were able
to renew our Iraqi passport and return to Baghdad, after a
7 year absence (1938 to 1945).
Miss Hay and late
Miss Nahum were nominated as French teachers at the Alliance
School for Girls and myself at the Alliance School for Boys.
This was quite a phenomenon then. I was the first and only
woman teaching young boys of 14 to 17 years of age. Later
I taught at the girls school as well.
On arriving to
Israel in 1951, I continued to teach French at the Alliance
School in Ramat Aviv - thus accumulating over 40 years of
My father came
to Israel in 1953 and passed away in 1963 in Tel-Aviv.
teachers and directors at the Alliance schools, in Baghdad,
taken in 1949. From left to right:
1st row : Mrs
Sabagh; Mr Laredo (the director of the boys school); Mrs
Laredo (the headmistress of the girls' school, Laura Kadoury);
2nd row : Melle
Totah (Mme Elkebir); Mme Barmaymon; Melle Rachel Mahlab;
Mme Shohet; Mme ...?
3rd row : Mr
Tarrab; Mr Barmaymon; Melle Flora Hay
members of the "Alliance Club" Baghdad - taken
in 1949. From left to right :
1st row : ?
Khebazza; Akram Nissan; Rachel Mahlab; Flora Hay; Shlomo
Behind : the
late Ovadia Herdoun
Above: A group
of students of the "Ecole Israelite Orientale"
in Versailles - France, holding gas masks, taken in 1940.
Standing : from left to right : Flora Hay; the late Naima
Nahum and the 3rd from right Rachel Mahlab. The rest of
the students are not Iraqis. Some of them must have perished
in Auschwitz in "La Grande Rafle".
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