A 16th c. Kol Bo artefact from the Iraqi-Jewish archive being restored in the US
This article in the SFGate News is notable for being the first news agency report on the subject of the Iraqi-Jewish archive. It also shows that the Iraqis are at sixes and sevens over what should be done with the trove once it reaches Iraq. An official from the Tourism ministry contradicts the director of the national archives Saad Eskander’s assertion that the trove would be put on display in 2015:
(AP) — The tattered Torah scroll fragments, Bibles and other religious
texts found in a flooded Baghdad basement 10 years ago testify to a
once-thriving Jewish population that’s all but disappeared from Iraq.
from the Iraqi intelligence headquarters and shipped to the United
States for years of painstaking conservation was a literary trove of
more than 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents that are being
digitized and put online. A sample of that treasure is being displayed
for the first time this fall at the National Archives in Washington.
thing that is particularly touching about them, or particularly
interesting about them, is that they connect to a community that no
longer lives in Iraq,” said Doris Hamburg, the National Archives’ director of preservation programs.
exhibit of two dozen items offers a rare glimpse into a Jewish
population that dates to antiquity but dispersed after Israel was
created in 1948. But the decision to return the collection to Iraq after
its display here has raised bitter feelings among Iraqi Jews in the
United States and stirred debate about whom the materials belong to: the
country where they were found or the people who once owned them?
Jews consider the artifacts part of their heritage and say a nation
that decades ago drove out its Jewish citizens doesn’t deserve to
recover sacred objects of an exiled population. Some also fear there’s
no constituency of Jews remaining in Iraq to ensure the books are
maintained, especially in a country still riven by violent conflict.
A petition circulating among Iraqi Jews seeks to prevent the materials from being returned and Sen. Charles Schumer,
D-N.Y., made a similar public statement to the State Department last
week. Some have written newspaper opinion pieces urging the items to be
shared with the exiled Jewish community and have discussed burying torn
Torah scroll pieces, as is customary for holy texts that are no
“The fact is these were archives that belonged to the Jewish community in Iraq,” said Gina Waldman,
president of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa and a
Libyan Jew. “They need to be returned to their rightful owners. They
were looted from the Jewish community and they rightfully should
Department officials have expressed confidence that the Iraqi
government will make the materials accessible in an educational exhibit.
The materials will be housed in Iraq’s national library and archives,
with the goal of helping future generations understand the contributions
Iraqi Jews made and the repression that they endured, said Saad Eskander,
director of the Iraqi institution. Though an adviser to the Minister of
Tourism and Antiquities said there were no current plans to exhibit the
materials and that the public and researchers would be able to see them
online, Eskander said an exhibition would happen either next year
Iraqis have no problem in accepting the fact that the Jews are true
Iraqi patriots who can live with their culture in a multi-cultural
society,” Eskander said, calling the archive part of the country’s
history and cultural heritage. He said the country now has the ability
to adequately protect the materials. Two Iraqi conservators are expected
to receive specialized training here ahead of the
The artifacts were found in May 2003 after the collapse of Saddam Hussein‘s
regime as American troops searched for weapons of mass destruction.
They found the material in the flooded basement of the Iraqi
intelligence building, its water system damaged by an unexploded bomb.