Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ezra Levy's quest for lost love - on Al-Jazeera TV

Soon after the US invaded Iraq, six elderly Jews were airlifted from Baghdad to Israel. One of them was 82-year-old Ezra Levy, the focus of this two-part report, 'The last Jew of Babylon', broadcast on al-Jazeera's Witness programme on 15 July. Ezra's son Emad achieved a high profile in the press as Baghdad's 'last rabbi' and unofficial spokesman for the handful of Jews still left in Iraq, before he too left for Israel.

The programme presenter, Rageh Omar, tells us that Ezra - who we are told, despite his kippa, is 'fiercely secular' - did not leave for 'political' reasons. Filmed hawking her picture around the hairdressers of Ramat Gan, Ezra came to Israel solely to find a woman he had fallen in love with more than 50 years ago - Daisy. We are told that Ezra stayed behind in Baghdad to nurse Daisy through an operation. We are not informed why the couple did not marry. Daisy and the rest of Ezra's family moved to Israel in the early 1950s while he remained in Baghdad. We are told only that Ezra's wife died 15 years ago - and nothing about his two sons, Saleh and Emad.

The programme puts a fascinating spin on Ezra's story. In spite of the apparent comfort of his sheltered accommodation, his move to Israel has been a bitter disappointment. In Iraq he had Muslim friends, even girlfriends. He feels 'a stranger in a strange land', more Arabic than Jewish, and has more affinity with his Arab cleaner than with his own family. The moral of the story is that an 'Arab' Jew's natural habitat is an Arab country, unless they have a compelling romantic reason for leaving it.

Watch Part One and Part Two of The last Jew of Babylon on Youtube. (With thanks: Lily)

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