Reminiscences of old Baghdad by one of last Jews

Sun Nov 9, 2008 12:25pm EST
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By Peter Graff

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - One of the last eight Jews in Baghdad, a portly retired accountant, erupts in a bellyful of laughter when asked why he never married.

"I was a playboy. Don't write that!" he jokes, grinning. "How old do you think I am? Wrong. I'm 65! Don't write that! Write that I am 55!"

His government ID proves his age, and on the back it says, unmistakably: "Religion: Jewish."

He has made contact with a reporter, not because he wants to tell the story of his persecuted community, but because he wants to complain about the landlord who is raising his rent.

"Because we are Jewish he knows we can do nothing. He isn't afraid because he knows we have no tribe here. Don't use my name."

Once one of the largest Jewish communities in the Middle East, Baghdad Jews have now nearly vanished while the country has been consumed by sectarian war.

Speaking in fluent English, the ex-accountant launches into a description of the Baghdad of his youth, one of the Muslim world's most cosmopolitan cities.

He recites the names of legendary social clubs where Jews, Christians and Muslims mingled in better days, with music and whisky and parties that ran through the night.   Continued...

<p>Policemen hold Iraqi national flags as they march during a graduation ceremony in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, November 8, 2008. REUTERS/Sabah al-Bazee</p>