Jews of Iraq at the Crossroads
To be or not to be?
With the end of Saddam’s nightmare, should
the Jews depart or re-trench?
Israel has sent an emissary to Baghdad asking the
30 remaining Jews to leave for Israel, but The Exilarch’s
Foundation has plans and funds to revive Jewish settlement
in Iraq and intends to purchase houses in a suitable
area in the capital to provide accommodation for those
Jews who intend to go to Baghdad.
The partition of Iraq into three regions correspond
to the Ottoman vilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.
The region of Baghdad is where Jewish life, historically
and in modern times, was concentrated. The Shrines
of the Prophet Ezekiel and of the Geonim, Joshua the
High Priest, the Shrine of Mar Isaac Gaon, who led
a procession of 90,000 Jews to welcome the arrival
in Iraq of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed,
and The Great Synagogue of the Exilarch, which may
have been the first synagogue ever built.
Central Iraq corresponds to Babylonia hence the
name "Babylonian Jewry", which denotes the
Jews of that area. Likewise, during Ottoman rule,
the Jews of Iraq were known abroad as Baghdadi Jews.
The Daniel family owned large tracts in Hillah, whose
Jewish ownership may go back to 2,000 years.
The Exilarch's Foundation plans to buy houses in
Baghdad and provide free or affordable accommodation
for all Jews planning to start life in Iraq.
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