The Jewish communities in Kurdistan within the tribal Kurdish society

Authored by: Mordechai Zaken

Routledge Handbook on the Kurds

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138646643
eBook ISBN: 9781315627427
Adobe ISBN:


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The Jews of Kurdistan believe that their ancestors were exiled from northern Israel by the king of Assyria, between 733 and 722 BCE, and were settled in “Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (Kings II, 17:6; New King James Version). They favor the saying from the prophecy of Isaiah (27:13): “So it shall be in that day: the great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria... and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” From that era onward, we are in complete darkness for 2,000 years, until the great medieval Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela (circa 1170) rediscovered the Aramaic-speaking Jews. 1 Other travelers followed in his footsteps in the following centuries, and more testimonies were heard; 2 the most noteworthy come from Rabbi David D’Beth Hillel around 1824 and Rabbi Benjamin Joseph (Benjamin II) around 1844. The lack of written and archival records has challenged scholars dealing with Kurdistan, so at an early stage of my research, I realized that I had no choice but to interview Jewish informants (altogether more than 60) about their life in Kurdistan. 3

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