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Where Do Babylonian Jewry's Archives Belong?

The archives of Iraq's Jewish community should be returned to Baghdad and serve as the cornerstone for a historic reconciliation between Babylonian Jewry and their homeland.

Tension has reigned in recent years between Washington and Baghdad regarding the future of a rare treasure trove: the archives of Iraq’s Jewish community. The collection includes about a thousand precious artifacts, mainly books of Jewish law and commentaries that served the Babylonian rabbinical colleges and its eminent rabbis since the 16th century.

For the last decade, the artifacts have been held at the US National Archives and Records Administration in Washington. Experts there have been restoring the archive collection after it was damaged in the American bombings of Baghdad in 2003. The Iraqi government views it as a national asset and demands that it be returned to its authority. In fact, the collection’s status was fixed in a written agreement between the two countries. But now a third party, which is not a party to the agreement, categorically demands ownership of the treasure. They are "the Jews of Babylonia." Are they truly entitled to it?

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