With its 17 different religious communities, Iraq is like a fragile ecosystem whose rare and precious plants are threatened with extinction. The editors of Memories of Eden, Mira and Tony Rocca received this moving letter from a Mandaean reader, who recalls the variegated social fabric which the book's author, Violette Shamash, describes. But now he doubts if his community will survive.
"Thank you a lot for showing the real Iraq and how we lived in harmony. I am born in 1960 in Baghdad, my doctor was a Jew, his name Daoud Kubaya, and the nurse that used to give me injections and I ran away from her (Rahma) also she was a Jew. I remember her.
I am a Mandaean (followers of John the Baptist),we lived like you a good life, I spent all my school years in (Rahebat Altakdema),this was a Catholic school on the Tigris river very famous.
My mother had many Jewish friends.
We always think about you.
Although I cried a lot but for the first time I felt really as if I was there, all her description was right.
Now I am living in Australia and nothing left for us, just the memories.
We are scattered everywhere. I have 5 sisters, 2 in England senior doctor consultants, another doctor in Canada, another in Sweden, and another in Holland.
Historically it is said that we are Jews originally and we came from Israel 2,000 years ago. We are Gnostic. I am not a religious person but I love my people…the Mandaeans. Almost 90% left Iraq, we were about 60,000, now left only 5,000.
As a community we will not survive.
Mandaeans are stranded in Syria and Jordan as refugees.
And all of them are very well educated and they have nowhere to go.
At least you have Israel, but we don’t have that backbone to keep us safe, our country Iraq has been taken from us, hijacked by those extremists.
The religion and the culture is going to disappear.
I heard a lot about the Iraqi Jews and how nice they were.
I heard stories from my father and the house where we lived in the late Fifties was owned by a Jewish man in Bataween (Bustan Al Kass).
And the Jewish man before leaving asked my father to take all the gold he had which was a fortune and just give him 100 Dinars, but my father refused, he said How can I receive that money? First because it was against his will to sell, and secondly it is not equal.
There were many honest people during that time and till now.
And the Jewish man said Oh my God, you are an honest man and I am not lucky.
I am still afraid to speak out loudly because I have cousins still living in Baghdad. Forgive me, I don’t want you to write my name, just write what I said about our memories.
And thank you so much.
And maybe we will meet one day."
Mira and Tony Rocca will be taking part in a discussion, Paradise Lost, together with Lucette Lagnado, on 22 February at 5 pm at Jewish Book Week in London.