Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Sixty years since Ezra and Nehemiah
Video of the dinner for the Babylonian Heritage Center in Israel, attended by President Shimon Peres
With thanks: Elsie
Last month, Israeli President Shimon Peres was the guest of honour at a glittering evening to mark 60 years since the end of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah. The airlift, one of the largest and boldest in recent history, brought the bulk of the Iraqi-Jewish community - 120,000 - to Israel in just three years. The Iraqi is the third largest in Israel after the Russian and Moroccan communities.
Sponsored by Uri and Ruti David, the dinner's purpose was to raise money for the Babylonian Heritage Center, a museum and cultural centre just outside Tel Aviv. Among the guests were Shlomo Hillel and Mordechai Ben-Porat, the architects of the 'Iraqi aliyah', now well into their eighties. There were ex-ministers, senior army functionaries, cultural and academic luminaries, internationally-recognised authors such as Eli Amir, actors such as Sasson Gubbay and even a basket-ball star.
Contrary to propaganda about 'Arab Jews' in Israel, this does not look like a 'discriminated' bunch, but a highly successful group of people who had never asked for anything from the state, but had hauled themselves out of the ma'abarot camps of the 1950s and had ended up shining in all aspects of Israeli life.
Perhaps the most poignant interview in this clip is with Emad Levy, Iraq's most recent, and last, immigrant to Israel. The Jewish community in Iraq, which dates back to Babylonian times, is on the brink of extinction. Only five Jews remain.