The few remaining Jews
A cluster of houses in the Baghdad neighborhood of Battaween
are in a style atypical to the rest of the area. They are
set slightly apart from the road and show signs of disrepair
-- a decaying grandeur.
Inside the houses' cool interiors, a handful of Jewish residents
remain locked away with their chickens and simple possessions.
One of these residents is Hader, and she is wary of visitors.
"we don't really want the press round here" she
said. ''They all come to ask us the same questions and the
neighbors get suspicious and wonder what it is we have done."'
Rumors of rich Jews and Israelis buying up tracts of Iraqi
land, and death threats issued to those who purportedly
sell property to Jewish buyers, have meant that the situation
for a small ethnic community in Iraq who just want to get
on with their lives has just got harder. Some Jewish-Iraqis
have been leaving for safer havens.
''There were about 12 families living in this neighborhood
before the war but then most of them left and now it is
just us and another three families, said Hader.
According to the Israeli daily Nazareth (July 27), an in-country
study conducted by the Jewish Agency has listed the total
number of Jewish persons in Iraq to be 34. The accuracy
of this figure is debatable but whatever the true number
may be, it is a miniscule percentage of the total population
and it is fluctuating.
In what must be a landmark journey, a nonstop flight from
Baghdad (formerly Saddam) International Airport to Tel-Aviv
on July 25 delivered six elderly Jewish Iraqis who decided
to make the journey to Israel and join their families.
But for all those who decide to take a chance on a more
certain future abroad, there are plans for others to return.
"Yes, some of our relatives are going to come back,"
said Hader with a smile, ''and we look forward to that,
but whether or not they will stay I don't know".
Dangerous as it is for any Iraqi to stay in the country,
in Battaween the rest of the community appears to ignore
the presence and practices of its Jewish neighbors. The
local synagogue is guarded by a Muslim man under orders
not to let anyone enter.
''The only people who come here now are old men" said
the guard, "but now they spend most of their time at
home with their families because of the situation".
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