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Baghdad Jewish cemetery reminds of bygone days

Jewish monuments in Iraq are numerous and make some Iraqis nostalgic for the time when Muslims and Jews were neighbors.

BAGHDAD — In Baghdad’s Sadr City lies a cemetery of some 4,000 Jewish tombs and graves. There are only a few visitors, and silence predominates. Most of the Jewish families who buried their dead in the cemetery's five dunams (1.2 acres) left Iraq during 1950-51. In July, Ali al-Allaq, a member of the parliamentary Religious Endowments and Affairs Committee, had reported that only nine Jews remained in Iraq. In 1941, they had numbered some 130,000. Commenting on the small number of Jews left in 2008, Stephen Farrell wrote in The New York Times, “In the city that was once the community’s heart, they cannot muster even a minyan,” referring to the group of 10 men needed to perform certain rituals.

In June, committee Chairman Abdel Azim al-Ajman said that representatives of Iraqi Jews had held meetings with parliamentarians to discuss the issue of Iraqi social peace. Talking about Iraqi Jews remains a sensitive matter in Iraq even though the current political turmoil has strengthened Iraqis’ nostalgia for a past when Muslims and Jews lived as neighbors.

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