Issue 75 Download Archive Links Search Contact Us


The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







Al Em Haderech

by Shoshana Levi

Self-published in Hebrew
Reviewed by Ilana Avissar

In her book, Shoshana Levi describes in great detail the trials and tribulations of her generation, which the young generation of the Babylonian diaspora suffered before and after the aliyah to Israel.

She was born to the Shebairo family, a direct descendant of Hakham Sasson Ajmi (a great expert in alternative medicine in his time in Baghdad). The Shebairo family was in fact the Shapiro family, from the town of Sefat in the land of Israel.

Two members of the family travelled to Iraq to conduct business but they married Babylonian wives and stayed there for good. For reasons of pronounciation the name Shapiro became Shebairo in Baghdad.

Initially, through the life of her family, she in fact succeeds to paint in lively colours the life of the Babylonian Jewry before the establishment of the State of Israel. She describes their habits, their food, their games, songs, places of learning and worships. For example, how the Babylonian Jewry tried very hard to marry their daughters at a very early age (three generations earlier one of the daughters of her family was engaged at the age of eight. She was seated on pillows so as to look older than her age.) She describes how the young generation of males in her family were hidden in covered holes in the ground so as to escape conscription to the Turkish army in the First World War. After an early happy and tranquil childhood, worry and uncertainty started to creep into her life. When she was ten years old Israel gained independence and the hostility to the Babylonian Jewry increased to a dangerous level. Her father and grandfather were interrogated by the Iraqi police because they received a letter from an uncle in Israel. As a result all their assets were frozen. Fear engulfed them as the rest of the Jewry were obliged to give up their citzenship and emigrate to Israel wearing their best clothes and taking with them merely 20 kg of belongings. Further in her book, Shoshana describes her and her family’s absorption difficulties in Israel.

The cultural shock started with spraying with DDT their best clothes that they wore to celebrate their arrival to the Holyland. Then came the difficulties of communication in the Absorption Centre, “Shaar Aliyah”, the food that they were not accustomed to, the lack of hot water and the adverse sanitary conditions of the place.

As a result she and her younger brother were taken by their uncle to the Kibbutz. There they were faced with another shock - of religious kids which have to live in a secular society and also the humiliation of discriminating the young new immigrants from the rest of the veteran kids of the Kibbutz.

Shoshana also conveys in her book the pains and difficulties of living in a transition camp (Ma’abara) compared with the comfortable life of her friends and her family in Baghdad.

She also conveys vividly her life in the army, her soldier Yemenite boyfriend who became her husband and the father of her two daughters, the tension and the difficulties of a marriage between two different Jewish communities in Israel. Then she describes painfully the agony and the anguish of a widow and a mother of two young daughters after her husband fell in the Six Day War.

And most painfully for her was the fact that the authorities in Israel did not treat the war widows honourably and did not look properly after their material and cultural needs. This fact made her dedicate her life to the fight for the rights and the well-being of the war widows of Israel.

In summary, it’s a most interesting, informative and impressive book. It is worthwhile reading.

If you would like to make any comments or contribute to The Scribe please contact us.