Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jewish writers of 19th and 20th century Iraq

Writing in the Jerusalem Post Yona Sabar reviews a new book by Lev Hakak and published by the Babylonian Heritage Centre about the Jewish writers of Iraq.

The Jews of Iraq wrote in Hebrew, Arabic and Judeo Arabic. The Arabic literature they published targeted the general public. Writing in Arabic reflected their desire to participate in Iraqi nationalism and express universal themes at once. Most of these authors, such as Anwar Shaul, Shalom Darwish and Samir Naqash, continued writing in Arabic after they arrived in Israel. Others, such as Shmuel Moreh and Sasson Somekh (both winners of the Israel Prize) turned to academic life and research. Some, such as Shimon Balas and Sami Michael, shifted to writing in Hebrew.(...)

Shelomo Yishaq Nissim's poem is a dialogue with those Jews who hoped to assimilate into Iraqi society; he is calling on them to remain faithful to the deep roots of Judaism, to the Hebrew language and the Land of Israel while incorporating modernity and universalism.

Another author Hakak writes about is Shelomo Bekhor Hutsin (1843-1892). Hakak describes him as a man of intellectual energy who, among his other Hebrew activities, published more than 150 articles and missives in the periodicals of his time, and who reported about various events in the Jewish life of Iraq, Kurdistan and Persia.

In his written work, Hutsin emphasized tradition, faith, and knowledge of Judaism. He was also an advocate of studying foreign languages, honoring women, learning a craft and acquiring scientific knowledge. He did not find any contradiction between faith and secular knowledge and values. Read article in full.

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