An ancient Sefer Torah once possessed by the Iraqi rabbinic luminary Ben Ish Hai (1832-1909) will soon leave Baghdad and come to Israel. This article in Arutz Sheva cites fears that Jewish property will be wrecked by Islamists as one of the main motivations for shipping the scroll out of Iraq. Another is almost certainly to thwart any claim by Iraq that its Jewish heritage belongs to the nation.
The Torah Scroll, estimated to be 400 years old, is one of the oldest in the world. It was written in large, clear letters on thick parchment known as gawil – meaning it was not split while being processed.
The ancient Torah narrowly escaped fire in 1937. It was once used in the synagogue of the acclaimed Rabbi Abdullah and his famous disciple Rabbi Yosef Chaim, the “Ben Ish Hai.” It is very likely both sages read from the scroll for their congregations.
The poor security situation in Iraq – and fears of murder and kidnapping by Islamists among Iraq’s few remaining Jews – has generated concerns rioters may target the remaining synagogue and its treasures, including the Torah scroll.
Kept in the Beit-Zilkain Baghdad, the Torah was removed to safety with covert US military aid – and will leave Iraq for Israel in the coming days.
On Tuesday the Torah will be inducted to the Beer Hana synagogue in Netanya under the auspices of Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, whose family came from Bagdad.
Ben Ish Hai Tora