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The articles in this issue have been divided upinto the following categories






My Jewish Purple Finger
By Reading ballad, D.H.L.

Approximately two weeks ago Monday: my wife Sheila called me from the family room with good news. "Reading, you can register today in the Iraqi election!'' I was shocked; I thought she was joking. Who was I going to vote for? I didn't know the candidates, much less the names of their political parties. First I had to establish that I was eligible to vote - was I still a citizen? The current Iraqi government in formation had stated that any current or former citizen was entitled to vote in the Iraqi election. Did that apply to a Jew whose citizenship had been cancelled? And why did I want to vote? Sheila drove to the Assyrian Cultural Center in Skokie, Illinois (formerly B'nai Emunah Synagogue where I had taught in the Hebrew school for many years) where registration and voting was to take place to ask if I was eligible. In 1951 when my parents, brother, sisters and I let Iraq, we were told that if we left and didn't return within the next 30 days, our citizenship would be cancelled. We didn't return. An official at the Center verified that indeed I was eligible to vote according to the new government ruling.
The heavy security at the Center was a bit intimidating but exciting as well. The security was much like you'd find at most airports, and the feeling was as if you were entering another world. Common languages spoken were Arabic, in different dialects, and English learned as a second language. As I speak both Arabic and English, I navigated quite well.
The atmosphere was serious and at the same time joyous. The officials were very professional in their job and checked and rechecked documents. I had my American passport indicating that I was born in Iraq. That's all that was needed. By showing my passport and then registering to vote, I once again became an Iraqi citizen! As I indicated to the local ABC television affiliate who interviewed me for the evening news, I felt that as a Jew voting, it was symbolic of a revival of the Jewish presence that had existed in Iraq for 4000 years before the mass Jewish exodus known as Ezra and Nechmiah in 1951. The reporter was fascinated to hear my family's story in Iraq. I thanked the U.S. government and those who had lost their lives so that I and thousands of others could vote. Who would have imagined that with all the politics involved with the invasion of Iraq, the rights and wrongs of it, that a Jew in Skokie could regain the dignity of a culture with biblical beginnings that had been long lost to the Diaspora. In the current legal atmosphere of claims and counterclaims, property rights and relocation, I felt it was important to stake a claim to my birthright. There are international organizations who are documenting property claims of those Jews who left Iraq and other Arab countries with basically nothing but the clothes on their backs. There are Jews who were unable to withdraw their insurance policies. In our family, we have insurance policies held up by the French government since 1951 that were awaiting release by the former Iraqi government.
One of my students at decal University and I studied the list of parties running for election. We did a lot of research on this special project. On January 30, my sister Ronia, my daughter Oreet who had to bring my passport and her birth certificate as proof of her citizenship, and I voted. What a thrill! What a proud day for the Iraqis, especially those who had personally suffered under the regimes of the last 50 or so years. There were voters who were crying and those who were singing. People hugged and kissed after they voted. And just as you saw on television from Iraq, there were men and women of all ages, and especially young children. And all were smiling; the excitement was palpable.
Some Iraqi men come dressed in suit and tie, some came in work clothes, some women were elegantly dressed, and some came in their native culture garb. There were Assyrians, Kids, Christians, Muslims and at least three Jews.
After voting, we had to dip our right index finger in purple ink as a sign that we had already voted and therefore wouldn't be allowed to vote again. How eerie was the feeling knowing that this same procedure was taking place thousands of miles away and all over the world, where ever Iraqis voted. Unfortunately, a few days later I developed a serious infection in that same finger and had to be hospitalized for four days. The doctors can't be conclusive regarding the source of the infection, but the irony of this can't be missed.
How far away is that world of 4000 years of Jewish presence in Iraq, yet how close.
Today I live in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago. I teach Hebrew and Arabic languages in DePaul University and have written a translation of the book, A Nostalgic Trip Through the History of the Jews of Iraq, by Y. A. Ghanimah and published by University Press. It was originally written in Arabic covering the years from the Garden of Eden to 1924 with an update by me to 1994. Yet, when I registered and voted, surrounded by the languages of ancient Iraq, seeing the pure joy and excitement in the formerly disenfranchised, I felt humbled that I too, in a small way, had taken the first steps toward reclaiming the beautiful culture of the Iraqi Jews.

N E Dangoor:

In your interesting email you mentioned that when you left Iraq you were told that you could return within 30 days without losing your nationality. No-one has heard this before and I am interested in ascertaining whether this promise was official and general or only to some people. Do you have further information, which is of historical importance?

Mr Mordechai Ben Porat:

...with regards to Mr. Dallal's 30 days story which is incorrect, I am sending you copies of the material which I sent him from my book "To Baghdad and Back", pages 83-87, 281-290.



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