In Israel, Iraqi Jews Reflect on Baghdad Heritage

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tags: Israel

During a boisterous Passover Seder with her extended family, Sabiha Ziluf, 75, paused and said softly that she could still see the Baghdad streets of her childhood. “I would love to visit Bab al-Sharji,” she said, referring to an old neighborhood near where her aunt lived.

Ms. Ziluf, whose first name translates roughly to “morning” in Arabic, is one of countless Iraqi Jews in Israel taking fresh interest in a heritage once considered unseemly, even shameful. Facebook pages with tens of thousands of followers debate the fine points of Iraqi Jewish dialect, music and cuisine. A Babylonian heritage center near Tel Aviv has drawn daily crowds of more than 1,300 people during Passover, and its number of yearly visitors has increased by more than 50 percent since 2011.

Among those viewing the center’s reconstructions of the shops and crooked alleys of Baghdad’s old Jewish quarter were swarms of children, generations removed from those who experienced Babylon’s allure firsthand. “They are heroes,” Liel Ovadya, 13, said of the Jews of Baghdad, who included his grandmother Oshrat Berko, who immigrated to Israel at 15. As of 2014, there were 227,900 Jews of Iraqi descent living in Israel, according to government data.

Read entire article at NYT

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