The Jewish community in Iraq dates back to 586 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzer conquered the Kingdom of Judah and exiled the Royal house and the nobility to Babylon. The Jewish community in Babylon became the centre of the Jewish world for over two thousand years, and endured until the mid to late 20th Century when the Jews were uprooted and persecuted by the Iraqi government Following the rise of arab nationalism, and the period leading up to the creation of The State of Israel and the years that followed, the Jews were stripped of their rights and citizenship and dismissed from their places of employment. They were forced to leave with almost none of their assets. The Iraqi Jewish archive was discovered on 6th May 2003,in a basement of a police station in Baghdad which had been flooded with sewage, by American soldiers from a mobile exploration team who were searching for weapons of mass destruction. It is a collection of thousands of documents which include a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible and a 200 year old Talmud from Vienna. There is also a small hand written 1902 Passover Haggadah, a French prayer book from 1930, and a collection of sermons from Germany 1692. The items date from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s and are mostly comprised of Hebrew book, and many arabic documents. Altogether there were 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents which were retrieved from the basement of the police station. There is also a collection of school records taken from the Iraqi Jewish community over a period of 55 years, as part of an intelligence gathering operation that was intended to persecute the Jews and falsely accuse them of being "Zionist spies" The documents were dried out and then stored in 27 metal trunks for safekeeping, and transported to America to undergo restoration work. After 10 years and 3 million dollars spent to painstakingly restore the documents, the Americans are now preparing to hand over the archive to the Iraqis. Once this archive is returned to Baghdad, Jewish scholars and historians would be unable to gain access to this important find, given the virulent antisemitism which is ubiquitous in that country and pervades their society. The archive is important not only the Iraqi Jewish diaspora but to the Jewish people as a whole as it is a testament Jewish life in the oldest Jewish community in the world outside Israel. The archive cannot be trusted to the Iraqis, the very people who had done so much to uproot and destroy Jewish life in Iraq. The level of hypocrisy coming out of Iraq is astounding, it is more disgusting than the sewage in that basement, and one things for sure - it stinks a lot worse.
Israel or USA only
Events over the past half-century have shown that Islamic governments have no interest in keeping the legacies of any religious minority 'alive.' If there is any hope of these artifacts being saved they must be removed from their present location.
With the country still in such chaos it makes no sense to return the artifacts now. Keep them safe until a safe, nurturing and co-operative home can be established for them inside their country's boundaries for ALL countrymen, women & children. If this hostile place isn't safe for them, it isn't safe for the artifacts. Returning them to a hostile regime just because it is inside the country boundaries isn't justified at this time.
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