Iraqi Jews:

The BBC has a story on Iraqi Jews living in Israel, who remember their former homeland with fondness. My wife is of Iraqi descent, and I think it's fair to say that both of her parents enjoyed life in Iraq, especially her mother, who was from a very wealthy and prominent family (Khalaschy, which can be spelled many different ways in English). Life in Israel, by contrast, was very hard when Iraqi Jews were forced to emigrate around 1950, made worse by the incompetence and ignorance of Israeli authorities. (Well, at least they weren't herded into refugee camps and denied citizenship rights to serve as a political tool for the next sixty years). My father-in-law certainly misses Arabic culture, as witnessed by his new satellite t.v. system which gets 300(!) Arab-language channels.

But as with Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1930s who longed for their homeland, the Iraqi Jewish experience was not always as happy as it seemed in retrospect. My wife's great-grandfather was killed by an anti-Semitic gang in the late 1930s, on his way to synagogue on Friday night. The gang had apparently resolved to kill the first Jew who showed up to services. Not to mention the widespread anti-Jewish agitation and violence that greeted the establishment of the State of Israel. Perhaps not surprisingly, the BBC story is rather light on such details.

Thanks to Honest Reporting for the pointer.

jelewis (mail):
There was an Israeli documentary a few years ago about the Iraqi Jewish experience in Israel, although it was heavy on the experiences of those Iraqi Jews who were communists. I am not sure of the exact figures, but I would venture to guess that, like in Eastern Europe prior to 1939, that the Iraqi Communist Party had a disproportionate number of Jewish members. If anyone knows more about this, I'd be curious....
5.21.2007 12:53pm
Capitalist Infidel (mail) (www):
Life was so hard he was able to buy a satellite tv with over 300 arab speaking stations. I wish my life were so rough!
5.21.2007 1:52pm
ed o:
he is probably talking about today, not the '50's. I don't think they had satellite TV back then. Perhaps the rough transition related to that era, not what he has made of himself today.
5.21.2007 2:30pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Next year in Baghdad?
5.21.2007 2:58pm
GilbertZ (mail) (www):
I saw that documentary the first poster was talking about. actually there were a series of them. I wish I could remember the name and website. It was very interesting. The director spoke at the end of the film and one of the people in the audience had a relative in the film (the director did not know that until afterwards)
5.21.2007 3:13pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I saw the film, too, with my wife. Good film, but not surprisingly the views of the small contingent of Jewish Iraqi Communists about Iraq, Israel, Zionism, etc., are not necessarily reflective of the views of the community at large, and their claim that Israeli agents were behind the anti-Jewish violence in Iraq in the late 40s have not been substantiated, and seem to be in the "who shot JFK" conspiracy genre more than based on fact. The film does highlight the fact that the European-dominated Israeli government was not bright enough to distinguish between the well-educated, reasonably wealthy, and assimilated Iraqi community, which collectively had a skill set that would have been very valuable to the new state had it been properly deployed, and downtrodden communities like the Yemenites.
5.21.2007 4:50pm
Capitalist Infidel (mail) (www):
ed o

My point was that it's always "tough" when you move to another country but by being able to now buy a satellite tv the transition was probably no tougher than any other country would have been.
5.21.2007 5:08pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Capitalist, he got the satellite t.v. only 57 years after first moving, I doubt it helped the transition very much.
5.21.2007 5:22pm
Capitalist Infidel,

You completely misunderstood. These Iraqi Jews almost all moved out of Iraq in the 40's and 50's (with most of the remaining few leaving in the early 60's), mostly to Israel and the U.S. These people reached their new countries 50-60 years ago, and settled down long ago. Anyway, satellite TV is only about 25 years old, and affordable in most places outside the US and Western Europe (that can even get satellite TV) for only the past 15 or so years. And as Prof. Bernstein states, his father-in-law's satellite is new.
5.21.2007 5:30pm
Jueri :
The Jews of Iraq by: Naeim Giladi
5.21.2007 5:30pm
ed o:
maybe he should load his satellite TV into a time machine and go back 57 years to ease the burden-although, without actual TV stations or satellites, would having the satellite TV assist much?
5.21.2007 6:00pm
jelewis (mail):
Regarding David's point about the Israeli government's failures... this only heightened the "exodus" of educated, Anglophone Iraqi Jews to London and Los Angeles. There is a vibrant Iraqi Jewish congregation in West L.A. - I think the synagogue may actually be on Wilshire not too far from UCLA. London, of course, got the "who's who" of Iraqi Jewry - the Sassoons (Sasuns) and Kedouries. Some Iraqi Jews also left Iraq for Iran (circa 1950-1960) and then made their way to the US with the rise of Islamism.
5.21.2007 7:11pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Even Lot's wife looked back with some regret, despite the generally rotten conditions of living in her home town.

I'm not geting why this documentary is supposed to be meaningful.
5.21.2007 8:53pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
JE, my mother in law's family spoke English and French, and could have gone to France or England, but decided to "try" Israel for Zionist reasons, and got stuck there.
5.21.2007 9:36pm
Can't find a good name:
I doubt that David's father would have gotten much use out of a satellite television in 1950, given that the first regular communications satellite, Telstar, didn't launch until 1962. Israel didn't even have terrestrial television broadcasting until 1968.
5.21.2007 10:52pm