Iraqi discovers Jewish exodus through literature

Ali Shakir is an Iraqi-born architect based in New Zealand. His curiosity piqued by Shmuel Moreh’s series of articles inElaph (amazingly free of anger or blame),   he started a journey of discovery into the exodus of Jews from Iraq through literature. Article on

Memories of Eden: insight into the Farhud

Who would have thought?

At the age of ten, I took to the stage in my
primary school in Baghdad to recite verses that called for an immediate
liberation of Palestine’s land from the vicious Jewish occupation. My
short poem was met with a roar of applause, I felt ecstatic. …
Thirty-six years after what I’ve considered a glorious moment in my
life; my comprehension of the notion of animosity has noticeably
changed, and here I am, writing about Jewish writers and the injustice
done to their people. But wait! Passports aside; the Jews I’m talking
about are no less Iraqi than I am. They were born, grew up and studied
in Baghdad just as I did, and we both migrated from Iraq—albeit in
different times—when life there became unbearable for us and our

My first encounter with the plight of the Iraqi Jews was in 2007 when Saudi-owned, London-based news website Elaph ran a series of essays by Shmuel Moreh – professor emeritus in the Department for Arabic Language and Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Reading the intimate recollection of stories on my laptop screen
triggered memories of the beautiful villas I’d driven by on my way to
the university. The British-colonial-style buildings, I was told,
belonged to wealthy Jewish families, but were confiscated by the
government after their owners had fled the country to Israel in the
early 1950s.

Tormented by the past,
struggling to adjust to an ever-changing, ever-challenging present; the
fresh immigrant that I was at the time could relate to the nostalgia in
professor Moreh’s pieces, but found them unrealistically sterile for a
man who’d been wronged and forced off the land of his ancestors. How could there not be even a hint of anger or blame? I
couldn’t understand. The stories, nonetheless, managed to pique my
interest. I started looking for more information about what might have
caused the mass migration of Jews from Mesopotamia; the land where
they’d established their first diaspora community, following the
Babylonian captivity.

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One Comment

  • "… How could there not be even a hint of anger or blame? … "

    Well, would Elaph have published an article written by a Jew that contained anger or blame against any Arab state or government?

    Nostalgia for the world of one's early years is a deeply ingrained trait of human nature. It is after all the time in our lives when we most actively receive and seek love and romance. Time filters out the bad experiences, feelings and emotions, leaving a rose-tinted residual memory that is often skewed even if not false. It is not for nothing that we are told that our childhood and youth is the best time of our lives.

    Memoires such as those described here and in other posts in this blog are affecting and moving, and within their terms authentic, but they can be only a small part of any objective historical discourse.


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