Medieval Jewish Books from Iraq end up in Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Some 300 rare and valuable books confiscated from Iraq’s Jewish community by Saddam Hussein’s regime have been secretly spirited into Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

The books include a 1487 commentary on the biblical Book of Job and another volume of biblical prophets printed in Venice in 1617, the Haaretz daily said… Many volumes were damaged during the bombing of government buildings in the opening weeks of the war, and after the fall of Baghdad most of the books were sent off to be temporarily stored at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Full article after the jump…

Some 300 rare and valuable books confiscated from Iraq’s Jewish community by Saddam Hussein’s regime have been secretly spirited into Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

The books include a 1487 commentary on the biblical Book of Job and another volume of biblical prophets printed in Venice in 1617, the Haaretz daily said.

The volumes are part of a massive collection of books confiscated by the secret police of the executed Iraqi dictator and stored in security installations in the Iraqi capital until the US-led invasion of 2003.

Many volumes were damaged during the bombing of government buildings in the opening weeks of the war, and after the fall of Baghdad most of the books were sent off to be temporarily stored at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Others however ended up in the hands of private dealers.

“We bought them from thieves,” Mordechai Ben-Porat, an Iraqi-born Jew and the founder of Jerusalem’s Babylonian Jewry Heritage centre told the newspaper, adding that the foundation paid some 25,000 dollars (16,000 euros).

In the beginning, Ben-Porat sent an emissary to Baghdad who shipped the books directly to Israel, but once the Americans caught wind of his activities they forbade further shipments, forcing him to smuggle the rest, he said.

Iraq once hosted a thriving 2,600 year-old Jewish community that numbered some 130,000 people at the time Israel was created in 1948.

But after Israel came into being and into conflict with its Arab neighbours, Iraqi Jews began to suffer discrimination and were often accused of being agents of the new Jewish state.

By 1952 more than 123,000 had left the country, and 20 years later there were no more than 500 left.

Many more left the country following the 1991 Gulf War and today, after the chaos unleashed by the US-led invasion and the overthrow of Saddam, only some two dozen are believed to remain.

6 Responses to “Medieval Jewish Books from Iraq end up in Israel”

  1. Completely off-topic post on my part but here goes.

    This further illustrates the folly of allowing arabs to live in Israel. The Jewish presence in Iraq is older than the arab one. Yet, once the arabs have the demographic advantage it’s out with the Jews!

    Millennia of Jewish presence in Iraq didn’t buy them the right to live there in arab eyes, why should 1400 years of arab presence in Israel entitle them to residency in the land of Israel?


    formermuslim · June 29th, 2008 at 12:46 pm
  2. That’s a lovely Machiavellian platitude, but those views as a pragmatic political plank belong only to the quackery of Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beteinu. I just don’t think transfer is going to pass in the Knesset anytime soon. Sorry.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 29th, 2008 at 1:17 pm
  3. After all, just look at Turkey-Greece for such shining examples of population transfer!

    The Arabs (i.e. non-Kurdish Muslims and non-Assyro-Chaldean Christians) ALWAYS had the “demographic advantage” in Iraq, and don’t you forget it. That population didn’t just suddenly boom in the 1940s outnumbering the Jews.


    B.BarNavi · June 29th, 2008 at 8:57 pm
  4. And here’s a better one – India and Pakistan! If anyone knows about the benefits of population transfer, it’s them.


    B.BarNavi · June 29th, 2008 at 9:01 pm
  5. At least in this regard, Lieberman is correct. There could be a political “transfer,” in which not one person would leave their home or job. But there would be a resultant demographic (and logical I might add) partition of the land between the River and the Sea.

    “I just don’t think transfer is going to pass in the Knesset anytime soon. Sorry.”

    I respect your confidence, KFJ, but that is a bold statement, considering that at least 3 former, and possibly 2 future (Sharon, Netanyahu, and Barak) prime ministers have referrenced ideas mentioned in the Lieberman Plan.


    Jonathan · June 29th, 2008 at 9:34 pm
  6. B.BarNavi, the point is when arabs in Israel (all of it) whine saying “we have been living here for centuries!!!” just point to the above example and say “didn’t do us much good, why should it for you”? Then you throw them out.


    formermuslim · July 1st, 2008 at 10:41 am

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