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Iraq's Kurdish Jews Cautiously Return to Homeland
by NPR (reposted)
Sunday Dec 9th, 2007 8:16 AM
Sunday, December 9, 2007 : Lana was a teenager when her family made a clandestine journey from Kurdistan to Israel. It was 1994, and Saddam Hussein had recently lost control of northern Iraq. Rival Kurdish militias were battling each other to fill the power vacuum. In a closely guarded emigration, Lana's family — and a dozen other Kurdish families of Jewish origin — traveled over land to neighboring Turkey in a trip organized and financed by Israel.
Iraq's ancient Jewish community has virtually disappeared, a casualty of the conflict that continues to divide the Middle East. For the last 50 years, Iraq and Israel have been sworn enemies, part of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Most of the ancient Jewish community in Iraq emigrated en masse in 1951. But unlike their Arab counterparts, Iraqi Kurds tend to be less suspicious of their former Jewish neighbors. And some Jewish Kurds have begun making discreet return visits to Kurdistan.

Accepting Their Neighbors

Now Lana, 28, is a citizen of Israel who speaks Hebrew and Kurdish fluently. Last year, she returned for the first time since her emigration to live in Kurdistan with her new husband, Hano, an Iraqi Muslim Kurd. The couple asked that their full names not be used for fear of reprisal.

"I didn't think twice about marrying a Jewish woman," Hano said. "My parents always told me stories about how much they liked their old Jewish neighbors."

Listen Online
Sunday Dec 9th, 2007 8:29 AM
Over 850,000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands in the last few generations. They are truly the forgotten refugees of the conflict in the Middle east
by Joseph Wahed
Sunday Dec 9th, 2007 8:35 AM
There is no longer an Egyptian Jewish community to speak of. We once were over 80,000. Today there are fewer than 50 Jews remaining in Egypt, according to one official tally. Indeed, once thriving Jewish communities in 10 Arab countries were likewise cleansed. Today, only about 5,000 Jews remain in the Arab Muslim world, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia. Arab sympathizers blame the creation of Israel, but in reality Middle Eastern Jewry began to deteriorate years before Israel was established.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Egypt was a much more cosmopolitan place than it is today. Whatever the broader ills of colonialism, Egypt under British rule was at least a place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians got along fairly harmoniously. But all this began to change as the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic group two of the offspring of which are Hamas and Al Qaeda, began agitating against both the British and the Jews.

Along with the rise of Arab nationalism and Arab independence, life for Jews in Egypt and other Arab countries became intolerable. All this started happening years before Israel was established. Within a 20-year period starting in 1945, nearly a million Jews were forced out of Arab countries. Being Jewish was criminalized in Egypt in the late 1940s. Other Arab states such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria, passed similar laws. Jews began facing iron walls of discrimination and harassment by the authorities. Most of us were dispossessed. Our schools, homes, synagogues, businesses, farms, and hospitals, were all confiscated by Arab governments. Our rich, 3,000-year-old culture and heritage was decimated. No trial, no jury, no justice.