It has been nearly 60 years since Daniel Khazzoom left his native Baghdad — but the memories remain sharp and painful. Now he has collected them in a newly-published book, J Weekly reports:
“The most painful part about writing [my memoir] was writing about Iraq,” Khazzoom said of the land where he spent the first 18 years of his life. “I did not want to remember it.”
Khazzoom, now 78, retired from U.C. Berkeley’s economics department in 2000 and spent the last eight years writing his just-published memoir, No Way Back: The Journey of a Jew from Baghdad.
The first half of the 256-page book focuses on his early life in Baghdad among the city’s 150,000 Jews, a childhood that began happily enough with six sisters and one brother.
The remainder of the book explores the six years he spent in Israel — which were unexpectedly isolating and disappointing. “In Iraq, I walked with a badge — I was Jewish,” Khazzoom said. “That determined the attitude toward us, which was often very hostile.
“I thought that if I went to Israel, I wouldn’t have to walk with a badge,” he said. “Regrettably, we walked with the badge that we were Arab. We spoke differently, we were less uptight about Jewish observance. [European Jews] didn’t know what to do with us. The easiest way was to call us inferior.
“In Israel, Arab was the enemy. So we became the enemy. And I resented it.”
Though Khazzoom was “disenchanted” by the treatment of Sephardic Jews, he nonetheless joined the Israel Defense Forces and enrolled at Tel Aviv University to study economics.