Diwaniyya: Jews of Kurdistan

The Jews lived in about two hundred villages and towns throughout Kurdistan. Their total number in 1950, just before they left for Israel, was estimated to be about twenty-five thousand. One might say that the entire narrative of the traditional history of Kurdish Jewry is encapsulated between two biblical verses, 2 Kings 17:6, which recounts their exile from Israel, and Isaiah 27:13, which prophesies their return. Kurdish Jews believe themselves to be descendants of the exiles of Samaria, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel. This tradition was mentioned as early as the twelfth century by Benjamin of Tudela and perhaps reinforced by proximity to the river Habor (Ḥavor), which is still known by that name today (Ar. Khabur, Aram. Ḥavora). Historians date the exile to 722/21 B.C.E. With the beginnings of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel in modern times, Jews from Kurdistan were among the first Near Eastern Jews to move there.  Between 1920 and 1926, Kurdish Jews emigrated in larger numbers. With the establishment of the state in 1948, practically all of Kurdish Jewry emigrated to Israel. Many insisted on living in Jerusalem in their own neighborhoods, the best-known of these being Maḥane Yehuda, which includes the famous open market. Others settled in rural areas in the hills around Jerusalem or in villages such as Alroy (near Haifa) and Shetula (near Lebanon), where they continued to farm as in Kurdistan. Of those who settled in cities, most were at first manual laborers, but some eventually prospered as the owners of their own businesses in various branches of the construction industry.

Some very interesting facts about Kurdish Jewry.  I was really happy to see that the author included Asenath Barzani - definitely one of the greatest and most underrated Jewish women in Middle Eastern history, and is considered by some to be the first female rabbi!