Last month, the current Miss Israel and her Iraqi counterpart Sarah Idan took a picture of themselves at the Miss Universe Pageant and posted it online. Idan subsequently has received numerous death threats and her immediate family has been forced to flee Iraq. Yet some Iraqi-born Jews are considering returning to their homeland, and there has been some reciprocity from the Iraqi side, as Ofer Aderet writes. (Free registration may be required.)
In December 2016, Iraq Day—a cultural exhibition organized by Iraqi students – was held at Imperial College, London. Prominent members of London’s Jewish community were surprised to receive an invitation to exhibit their books about the history of Iraq’s Jews.
“Our stall was the most popular one there and all the books were sold,” says the Londoner David Dangoor, who was born in Iraq in 1948 and left when he was ten. As he puts it, the Iraqi ambassador didn’t cringe when he saw that the books had been printed in Israel. . . Dangoor has already taken the first step to normalize his relations with Iraq [by gaining citizenship]. In London, he voted in Iraqi parliamentary elections. He says other Iraqi Jews have applied for passports too, but so far in vain.
“Many Iraqi Jews have good, warm memories of life there, which haven’t faded even after the [massive 1941 pogrom in Baghdad],” he says. “Many identify with Iraqi culture, music, and literature to this day.”
The Israeli author Eli Amir’s novel The Dove Flyer will soon be published in his native Iraq, where his books have been popular for years. His attitude is different. “I don’t think for a single moment of going back there, heaven forbid,” he says. “It’s over and done with. We have nothing to go back there for.”
Amir admits that when Iraq is mentioned in the news “it strikes a chord, but I also remember that the Jews were driven out of there as refugees with nothing. So I prefer my Jewish Israeli identity.”