City of London service is a tearful reminder of Iraqi massacre

| ט״ו בסיון ה׳תשע״ט (18/06/2019) | 0 Comments

Bevis Marks commemorates 50th anniversary of killing of Baghdad Jews

Samira Elias lights a memorial candle
Samira Elias lights a memorial candle

As a spectacle in barbarity, it was hard to match, even by modern Middle East standards. On January 27 1969, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis poured into Baghdad’s main square to gawp at the bodies of nine Jews strung up on scaffolds erected at the command of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

It was the “beginning of the end of the last chapter” of Iraqi Jewry, said Sabah Zubaida, president of the S & P Sephardi Community, at a ceremony at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the killings.

The candle he lit was not only in memory of the first of the nine, but also for his father, Dadoud Sassoon Zubaida, one of several other Jews who died in Saddam’s prisons during that “sad and terrifying time”.

Recalling the images in the square, he said: “Believe it or not, they even had picnics underneath the bodies.”

While many Iraqi Jews had already left for Israel or other Jewish communities, the events of 1969 prompted most of the rest to seek to escape, ending a history of more than 2,000 years, which included the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud.

When Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recited Psalm 137, the famous phrase “By the rivers of Babylon” carried special poignancy.

The nine men from Basra and Baghdad were condemned on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel in a show trial and put to death in prison the night before their bodies were put on public display, with placards proclaiming their religion.

Some were young students who, according to historian Martin Gilbert’s account, were still in their teens, despite Iraqi law not permitting the death sentence for those under 20.

Some of the relatives of the men took part in the ceremony. Samira Elias lit a candle for her brother Hesqel Salih Hesqel, as well as for her missing sister Suad Kashkush; Nouri Dallal represented his brother Daoud Hesqel Barukh Dallal and Faiza Saigh her brother Daoud Ghali Yadgar.

The hashkabah and memorial prayer were recited for 13 Iraqi Jews who were executed by the regime, nine murdered in custody, seven killed elsewhere and 20 whose fate remains unknown.

Candle-lighters also included the Right Reverend Graham Kings, assistant bishop in Southwark, representing the Church of England.

The moving combination of music and readings not only commemorated the “horrendous massacre”, as SPSC emeritus spiritual head Rabbi Abraham Levy described it, recalling the piercing cry of the black shofar he sounded at a protest in London outside the Iraqi Embassy.

It was also a tribute to the heritage of Jews in Iraq, which, said SPSC senior rabbi Joseph Dweck, was “one of the richest and most fertile areas in the world for Jewish growth, scholarship and creativity”.

[ original here ]

Category: Baghdad, Iraq, Justice for Jews of Arab Countries

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