The Departure

My mother told me: "They are persecuting us,
We have no place in Iraq any more, my son!
How long should we yield
To their yoke, how much patience do we need?
Let us depart on "Eagles Wings" indeed!
When she realized my grief at the threshold,
She said: "My son, don't grieve,
Those who despise you, despise,
And depart with dignity, with no tears!"
She whispered: "Those who set traps for others,
Beware! You might tumble on one or another!
Why do you need this pit! Live and let us live!"
And we departed to the Promised Land
On 'Eagles' Wings.'

Before she passed away on her last journey,
My mother's voice mingled with psalms
Recited on harps hung upon the willows of nostalgia,
Told me with tears:
'Son! I miss the rivers of Babylon,
I miss its willows!
The harps and the captives' songs,
I miss the breeze of the Tigris,
Whispering in affection to the palm trees!
I miss our morning prayers and feasts,
I miss its soil's aroma,
Miss its orchards' fragrance!
I beg you my son, if you ever visit Iraq,
Kiss the mezuzahs of our gates
And the thresholds of the tombs of our prophets,
Say hello to our former friends,
Even if you feel hatred!
Say hello to the fields,
And forget all the sufferings!"


Last night, my mother visited me in my dream!
Asking anxiously: "Haven't you visited Iraq yet?
Have you forgotten to kiss the mezuzahs?
To visit the tombs of our prophets?"
I replied: "Mommy! Surely I miss Babylon!
But our home in Baghdad has been destroyed!
And the way back is so dangerous and far beyond!
Everything there is in ruins,
Even the glory of the Exilarchs,
The sanctity of our prophets' tombs
And the glory of Harun al-Rashid the great!
Today, on every inch in Iraq there are graves,
The waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates
As in the time of the Tatars,
Are flowing with blood and tears!
The masts are destroyed and the sails are torn,
So how it is possible to set sail and return?
Mother! There is no piety and security in Muslim lands!
There are only perdition and hatred!
Mother! How can I visit Babylon?
Don't you see how our beloved Iraq
Is being slaughtered and its throat is slashed
Like Daniel Pearl's?
Can't you see how Muslims are killing each other?
So what would they do to us,
Since we are Jews like Daniel Pearl!
Please tell me Mother!
If we return to Iraq,
Who among our prophets will protect us,
Since their tombs are destroyed and defiled?
There is no shelter for us in Iraq,
Since we are all Jews!
Like our martyr Daniel Pearl.
Have you forgotten the 'Farhud,'
Don't you know what they have done to our earl,
To our late Daniel Pearl???"

Shmuel Moreh is a professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is Israel Prize Laureate (1999) and Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland (1986). He is now serves as chairman of Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq.