Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Diminished Iraqi-Jewish Community

I was always interested in the plight of Iraqi and Arab Jews. Then came the exodus of the Iraqi Christians from Iraq, which started after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I find similarities between the exodus of the two communities from a land they inhabited for thousands of years. I started to read any article related to the Iraqi and Arab Jews. I wanted to learn how they coped with their exodus.

According to Wikipedia [Via Mideast Youth], 135,000-140,000 Iraqi Jews lived in Iraq by the year 1948. By 2001, that number was down to 200. According to a recent article on Kuwait Times, very few Iraqi Jews still live in Iraq:

BAGHDAD: In his worn sandals and grey spotted shirt 82-year-old Abu Brahim-one of the last Jews in Baghdad, perhaps the last-seems tired but undaunted by the violence raging around him. "They came to take me away three years ago and wanted me to leave," said Brahim, explaining that well-wishers had wanted to evacuate him to safety in the chaos following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Old, but wiry and alert, Brahim remains determined to stay put. "Why should I leave? Why change? I always lived here. I do not want to shift," said Brahim.

According to the report, there's a synagogue in Baghdad that was built in 1942. I honestly never heard of the synagogue when I lived in Iraq. Kuwait Times has more details on the status of the synagogue:

Baghdad's main synagogue, standing behind a high beige brick wall, is located on a commercial street perpendicular to a large artery of the capital. It was built in 1942, according to an inscription on the front wall.

An Iraqi Shiite has the keys to the temple, and looks after it discreetly, but refuses to unlock it to visitors. "I have clear instructions. Nobody enters it. No movement inside," he stressed, refusing to give his name, and clearly both frightened and annoyed by the sudden visit of an AFP correspondent. Brahim does not need to go to the synagogue these days in any case. "There are no more prayers there. First there were people who came, but now perhaps there are still some Jews in Baghdad. I do not know. I do not see them any more," said Brahim,

This is very sad. Very soon I'll say the same about the few Iraqi Christians who continue to live in Baghdad, Basra and other troubled parts of Iraq.

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