A cache of Jewish historical treasures stolen from Iraq’s 2,500 year old Jewish community was discovered by American soldiers searching Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters. The treasures were brought to the U.S. but in 2014 will be returned to Iraq and most likely lost to the Jewish people. Act now to make sure these treasures go to Israel!
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration recently opened an exhibit entitled “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” which features the Iraqi Jewish Archive that American troops discovered in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters, otherwise known as the Mukhabarat. The Iraqi Jewish Archive documents this community’s history, which spans some 2,500 years and predates the existence of Islam.
The archive’s historical items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, Judeo-Arabic manuscripts, family photographs, Iraqi Jewish communal documents, and other significant items illegally seized following the expulsion of most Jews from Iraq in the wake of Israel’s establishment as a state. The Iraqi Jewish Archive was badly damaged in a flood during the 2003 Iraq War, yet was restored thanks to the efforts of prominent members of the Jewish community in cooperation with the U.S. government.
After January 5, 2014, the Iraqi Jewish Archive is expected to be returned as part of a 2003 agreement with Iraqi authorities. This is set to take place despite the fact that the archive was stolen by the Iraqi government and never rightfully belonged to them. For the Iraqi Jewish community, who suffered from a series of massacres, persecutions, and a final great expulsion, returning the Iraqi Jewish Archive is equivalent to sending Jewish art stolen by the Nazis back to Germany.
A May 2010 letter from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims that the Iraqi Jewish Archive is being returned to Iraq in order to “preserve all aspects of the country’s history, including evidence of repression and persecution by the previous regime, and make that history accessible to the Iraqi people and the world.” Many members of the Jewish community are skeptical that this will indeed occur.
Specifically, Iraq doesn’t respect the Jewish historical treasures that are presently in its possession. For example, Ezekiel’s Tomb was transformed into a mosque, with Hebrew inscriptions on the tomb wiped out. Numerous synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have also been desecrated with the Iraqi government taking no steps to restore Jewish holy sites. These actions provide no indication that Iraqi authorities are interested in preserving Jewish heritage.
With no diplomatic relations with Israel and widespread political instability within Iraq, Jewish scholars with Western passports find it difficult to even visit the country. A grave injustice will be committed should the Jewish world be deprived access to their own holy archive, which has little significance to the Iraqis who left it in a flooded basement to decay. Justice dictates that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be returned to the Iraqi Jewish community and housed in the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Israel, where the vast majority of Iraqi Jews presently lives. It should not under any circumstances be given back to the very authorities that stole these historical items at the outset.
If you live in the United States, we urge you to write to your representative in Congress, asking them to oppose sending the Iraqi Jewish Archive back to Iraq!
Find your representative here –> http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Although it is preferable to use your own words, here is a sample letter to be used as a guideline.
It has come to my attention that the U.S. government plans to give the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq, a country that presently lacks political stability and is home to Muslim extremists.
Iraq has a long track record of disrespect for its minority populations. The Iraqi Jewish Archive belongs to the Iraqi Jewish community.
For many Iraqi Jews, the idea of sending their communal archive back to Iraq is like sending Jewish art, stolen by the Nazis, back to Germany. Iraqi Jews do not view the regime change in Iraq as a reason to justify shipping away their cultural inheritance. In light of the fact that Iraq lacks diplomatic relations with Israel, sending the archive there would deprive the Iraqi Jewish community of access to an important part of its heritage.
I implore you to oppose sending the Iraqi Jewish Archive back to Iraq. It should be kept in the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center in the State of Israel, where the vast majority of Iraqi Jews currently live. Thank you for taking this important matter under consideration.
United with Israel thanks you for taking action on behalf of the Iraqi Jewish community.
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