Jewish Kurds Fear ISIS Advances; Call on Israel for Rescue (VIDEO)
The few hundred remaining Jews of the ancient Kurdistani community in northern Iraq are deeply concerned by advances by ISIS throughout their region, and many want out – to Israel, and elsewhere, Israel television reported Sunday.
They join some eight million other Kurds who are battling the Islamic State’s militants, and Sami, a Jewish resident of Erbil shared his uncertainty of the future, as many of his countrymen have fled.
“ISIS is about 20 kilometers from Erbil, and all the Israelis – the Jews who were here – they fled their homes and headed for the mountains,” he told the network.
“Those who had ever visited Israel, they were afraid for their safety, and they got out,” according to Sami.
He represents a young generation of Kurdish Jews that want to emigrate to Israel, since they see no future in the ancient area, believed to have hosted Jews since the Prophet Nahum.
Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jews lived in the area, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
“I really want to ask the Interior Ministry to provide permits for the youth, because – really now – the situation here isn’t good for us, we’re unsafe,” he contended.
“You can’t get work, because, you know, if you go anywhere, they know [you’re Jewish],” he said. “They know you’ve been in Israel, and they don’t need all the aggravation, whether for work, or for schooling, and such…”
Sami’s parents reached Israel in the 1990s, when he was 12 years old. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, they returned. Sami said that, had he the choice at the time, he’d have stayed in Israel.
“We get extorted and threatened because we lived in Israel,” he said. “And because of that, we get cellphone calls: ‘we know you were in Israel; if we don’t get such and such a sum of money, we’ll abduct and kill you,'” he explained.
Last month, he and several friends arrived at the Israeli consulate in neighboring Istanbul, Turkey, where they asked to be allowed to move to Israel. However, Sami said that their requests to emigrate were turned down.
“The Interior Ministry told me, ‘your parent were Muslims, and, because of that, you can’t return to Israel,'” he said.
“If I manage to get out of here, I don’t want Europe, and don’t want America – I want to return to Israel, because I see it as my country, and that’s that,” he said.
Watch the video of the Skype call with Sami:
“With respect to the Kurds, they are a warrior nation that is politically moderate, has proven they can be politically committed, and is worthy of statehood,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in late June.
Since then, the Islamic State terrorist group has continued to wreak havoc in Iraq. The Kurds, a historically maligned and stateless minority, have borne a large share of the responsibility for fighting the jihadists as they threaten the Kurdish semiautonomous region and the ethnic minorities living there.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Jews of Kurdistan – until their great exodus in 1950-51 – lived mainly in the Iraqi region (146 communities), some in the Iranian region (19 communities), and only a few in Turkey (11 communities). There were also a few Jews in the Syrian region and other places (11 communities).
“An ancient tradition relates that the Jews of Kurdistan are the descendants of the Ten Tribes from the time of the Assyrian exile. The first to mention this was R. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler who visited Kurdistan in about 1170 and found more than 100 Jewish communities. In the town of Amadiya alone, there were 25,000 Jews who spoke the language of the Targum (Aramaic) and whose numbers included scholars. The traveler Benjamin the Second, who visited Kurdistan in 1848, also mentioned this tradition and added that the Nestorian (Assyrian) tribes were also descendants of the Ten Tribes and that they practiced Jewish customs,” according to the reference source.