The ancient Jewish community of Kurdistan traces its roots to the first Babylonian exile; its members, like their Assyrian Christian neighbors, spoke Aramaic, the language of the Talmud. And unlike Jews nearly everywhere, they tended to be illiterate even into the 20th century. While Kurdistan, however defined, stretches from Syria and Turkey to Iran, the majority of Kurdish Jews lived in Iraq, a country they left en masse, with the rest of Iraqi Jewry, in the 1950s. Alongside this history, there is a separate history of Israeli outreach to Iraqi Kurds, and a tendency among Israelis to see them as kindred spirits. Mardean Isaac, who was born in London to Assyrian parents from Iraq and Iran, explores these connections, in part by interviewing Kurdish Jews living in Israel:
The Jews of Kurdistan, the Jewish State, and the Kurdish State That Might Be
The Woman behind a Notorious Suicide Bombing Walks Free. Will America See That She Is Punished?
On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi and Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri traveled from the West Bank to Jerusalem, where Masri detonated himself in a Sbarro’s pizzeria, killing seven children and eight adults, and injuring scores. When the two passed through an Israeli checkpoint earlier that day, they appeared to be a young couple; had Masri been alone, police almost certainly would have stopped him and discovered the deadly bomb in his guitar case. Tamimi was arrested shortly thereafter and sentenced to life in prison. Ten years later, she was among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She now resides in Jordan.