Transcribed by: Sonix
Proofead by: Rebecca Lash
Interview date: 6/29/2017
Interviewer: Lisette Shashoua
Location: Montreal, Canada
Total time: 2:52:49
Joseph Dabby: Born December 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. Arrived in Israel 1970 via Tehran. Arrived in Montreal circa 1978.
[00:00:15] [background communication]
Lisette Shashoua: [00:00:18] Ok, first of all, we'd like to thank you for you for giving us an interview for Sephardi Voices and we'll start with having your full name.
Joseph Dabby: [00:00:31] My full name is Joseph Dabby, the son of Hodouri [ph] Dabby, and my father also had a nickname, which was the Hourijinku [ph]. For those that may know that side of the business.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:00:54] Which is?
Joseph Dabby: [00:00:56] Well, because. My father's business was import of metals for construction. And he, of course, all the imports to heavy stuff like that to Iraq had to go through Basra because that's the port. So one in one year, the story that I heard is one year he imported steel, which is zinc plated. Zinc in Arabic they sort of flip it into Chinku [ph], so he had that whole shipment on a local ship that was there and was being pulled up the Tigris to bring it to Baghdad. And on the way it sank. And because of that, everybody started sort of I don't know, I guess that in Iraq, this is always they use different things, specialty things to to call the people, by them. So they they say that because of that, there is some people you started calling him Ginku [LS: and what was your name at birth was the same?] Yeah the same, well, the name at birth is actually to be truthful is Yusef, which is the Arabic version of Joseph.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:02:24] And when and where were you born?
Joseph Dabby: [00:02:27] I was born in Baghdad. In December 1950. And. I don't remember which hospital. So don't ask me [chuckles] but yeah, that's possibly that's the one at the time my brother was born in Samarai [ph]. So that I know because I have a picture of that. Anyway, as I said in December 1950 and I. Basically stayed there till we escaped from Iraq in 19 in August 1970.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:03:08] Ok, now can you tell us something about your family's background, your grandparents, any vivid memories you have?
Joseph Dabby: [00:03:17] I never met any of my grandparents because of the fact that, as I said, I was born in end of 1950 and most everybody escaped or actually not escaped. They all flew to Israel in nineteen fifty one. I know. I heard that from my late mother that they went on a trip in early fifty one.
Joseph Dabby: [00:03:43] And my her mother was there and she was she held me all the way on that trip and back, of course I do not remember any of that.
Joseph Dabby: [00:03:53] First thing I did when I landed in Israel in September of 1970 is ask my sister that came to pick us up at the airport if my grandmother or any of my grandparents are still alive. And the answer the answer was then by a 19, by 1970, they were all they all passed away. So I never had dealings with the grandparents in any way.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:04:19] Ok, tell us about your parents. And first, let's say, how did your parents meet?
Joseph Dabby: [00:04:28] Ok, my as I mentioned before, my father started a business importing. Metal for construction. So he had that business and he had taken in some partners in it. And my late mother also was a French teacher. And-
Lisette Shashoua: [00:04:56] where?
Joseph Dabby: [00:04:59] I she studied in Alliance and whether she was teaching in Alliance or in one of the other schools, I don't know.
Joseph Dabby: [00:05:05] I don't remember really, if you need that answer, I can probably ask my sisters. They would know. Yeah, the, one of the people that was working in the office with my late father at the time was her brother, my mother's brother, and in the process somehow he decided that he would be like my wife, my sorry, my mother would be a good connection with him. And somehow he worked it out. And that's how they met and they got out, [LS: your uncle?] My yeah, my mother's brother.
Joseph Dabby: [00:05:47] Ok, so in the process, they got to meet and and the whole thing. Got into marriage. And that's how they met and that's how that's when they got married.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:06:02] Can you give us your mom and dad's names and where were they born?
Joseph Dabby: [00:06:08] All of us who were born in Iraq. The, we are abnormal in many ways, the family name is, as you as I mentioned before, is Dabby In Hebrew, it's written dalet, bet, yud. Dalet bet yud stands for David Ben Yishai. David Ben Yishai for those I don't know, is the name of King David.
Joseph Dabby: [00:06:43] In Israel a long time ago and even until the 19th century. Nobody. Technically, had family names.
Joseph Dabby: [00:06:57] The the people were known by the fact of the name of the person, name of the father. So like David is David, Ben is the son of, Yishai, is the name of his father, so I would have been known as Yoseph Ben Hedouri, my late mother's name was Semha Shahrabani.
Joseph Dabby: [00:07:28] And as I said, we were descendants, we are actually descendants of King David all the way from three thousand years ago we were when we were brought to Babylon.
Joseph Dabby: [00:07:48] As slaves, and we stayed in that in Mesopotamia, which is the land between the rivers for two thousand six hundred years. So as far as I know, we are.
Joseph Dabby: [00:08:02] From that area, we were not mixed with anything.
Joseph Dabby: [00:08:08] Uh. As I said, my mother's name was Semha Shahrabani, but I also know that they the original family name was changed at one time, so. What I can't remember the original name, somebody mentioned it to us once,
Lisette Shashoua: [00:08:27] How old were your parents when they got married?
Joseph Dabby: [00:08:31] I really don't know, but I know that my father was older, much older than my late mother.There was quite a difference between the ages, between them.
Joseph Dabby: [00:08:47] How old? I don't I don't really know.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:08:50] Tell me about your brothers and sisters.
Joseph Dabby: [00:08:54] Ok, I am the fourth child in the family. Of five, I had three sisters that are older than me, they all three of them live in Israel, one is in Arabic is Naqama [ph]. She is called Noami. The second was Lydia. And the third was Farah, her original name, which is interesting enough, means the same thing as Semha, which is joy and her name in Israel today. She uses Kathy. Then I was the first boy that was born. And after me, there was a second boy, my brother Jack, and he also lives in Israel. I'm the only one of the family that lives outside Israel. I also have two cousins that live in California. The family. The norm in in Iraq at the time was always over the years was to call the first son. And the second son in the name of the grandfather. Of the father and the mother, so my name, Yusif, Joseph, is the name of my grandfather.
Joseph Dabby: [00:10:28] But he had to have to pass to have had passed away by the time I was born. [overlap] Yeah, his name. Exactly. You're not supposed to use the somebody's name when they're still alive.
Joseph Dabby: [00:10:44] My brother's name is Jack, which is actually from Arabic Yakub, which is Jacob. That's the name of my grandfather, my mother's father. Today, it doesn't happen anymore because our lives are much longer than it used to be in the at that time. So today you can have grandparents living until the age of 80 and 90 or even one hundred. So it's very difficult for the family to call the children after the grandparents. This is one of the defects of today's technology. But on the other hand, that's part of life. There is nothing you can do about it.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:11:32] Ok, now tell me your earliest memories of your home where you grew up, the circles you and your parents belong to.
Joseph Dabby: [00:11:43] Well. We grew up in, uh. I really can't remember. Sorry, I'm very bad with names, so we grew up in a very central area of Baghdad.
Joseph Dabby: [00:12:00] It used to be. Lots of Jews there and and there was on our street, there was Christians and Muslims at that time, there was pretty good integration between the people.
Joseph Dabby: [00:12:20] And one of the things that I managed to do, because I'm very good with languages, is I learned to speak. Iraqi in three dialects, Iraqi, Jewish. Which is different.
Joseph Dabby: [00:12:39] Most Christians and and, yeah, most Christians and Muslims do not understand because a lot of the words are from Aramaic and.
Joseph Dabby: [00:12:53] And Hebrew, I also learned to speak to Iraqi Muslim and Iraqi Christian, so I was able to deal with people in their own language and they know none of them would ever be able to tell that I'm not one of them. I'll give you a joking example. One of the kids that was with me in high school is a Muslim. His name is. Hosain al-Samari [ph]. And. Basically, he grew up with us, so he used to speak a lot of words out of the Jewish dialect. A few years later, after we all were gone, he got married. And many times he used to have troubles with his wife because she couldn't understand what she's saying. One example is one of the examples is. We, would like to say the weather is nice. So what we did in Iraqi Jewish is say. [arabic] "awir" is not a word in Arabic, it's actually a word from Hebrew. The the weather in Hebrew is "avir" in Hebrew today, but in actually the way it should be said is "awir".
Joseph Dabby: [00:14:30] So there was a lot of little words like that that was normal, but she wouldn't understand. So she always wants to ask him, what do you mean, what do you mean?
Joseph Dabby: [00:14:40] So because of that, I did pretty well. I did not have any troubles with people, you know, giving me issues because they didn't know I was Jewish unless I told them my family name. My father was very well known and they all knew his family name. The the first language I studied was French.
Joseph Dabby: [00:15:09] They taught us French when we joined kindergarten in the Jewish school, the Frank Iny school.
Joseph Dabby: [00:15:15] And interestingly, [LS: how old were you when you studied French?] I guess I was probably about.
Joseph Dabby: [00:15:24] Five or six, the problem is, is because I was born in December, I lost a year. Because they only accepted you if you're, let's say, five years old at that when the school started, but because I was born in December, I was four and a half at this point. So I had to wait till next year. So I may have been six when I joined.
Joseph Dabby: [00:15:49] But anyway, Frank Iny school was a bit weird, it's a it's a Jewish school that was built and I think they were finished. They finished building it in nineteen fifty one or fifty two or something like that.
Joseph Dabby: [00:16:03] So we were some of the first classes. But some other kids, older kids also joined, moved from other schools into the school.
Joseph Dabby: [00:16:13] So they taught us, as I said, French in kindergarten, and after that we started studying Arabic and French until sixth grade, in sixth grade, they started teaching us English. And we started learning things one year in English, one year in French, one year in Arabic, depending on which exams we had to take at the end of the year, [overlap] so like the exam. Yeah. So if we had to take the breve [ph] which is the exam for the French universities, we studied most everything that year in French. Yeah. If we had to take the exams of the government of Iraq, then we studied most everything that year in Arabic was with a bit of French and English. If we had to take the Oxford exams and stuff like that, which is for the British universities, we studied in English.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:17:10] And when you say everything, you mean physics, geometry?
Joseph Dabby: [00:17:14] Yeah, they basically because when you taking the Oxford or you taking the breve they, they put in a lot of stuff they did not really teach us. One hundred percent, everything in English or French, but they made sure that we understand the words and the issues behind them.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:17:34] Yeah, the sciences, algebra. Chemistry.
Joseph Dabby: [00:17:37] Exactly. So I finished I finished high school in nineteen sixty nine.
Joseph Dabby: [00:17:43] And because I'm Jewish. Jews were not allowed to go to university so.
Joseph Dabby: [00:17:49] I volunteered in nineteen seventy.
Joseph Dabby: [00:17:55] Sixty nine and 70 to work in the school to help them, and for some reason the they decided to make me the spokesman of the of the school. So everybody every time somebody from outside the country or the government or whoever came to speak to the school, they used to send me to talk to them.
Joseph Dabby: [00:18:22] And in the process, I got to know a lot of things about the area, the community and some other stuff. And in the process, I also figured out a way to get out of Iraq.
Joseph Dabby: [00:18:36] And, uh, and I also met somebody else, a very nice person.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:18:42] We'll, uh, talk about your leaving Iraq in a few minutes. [JD: That's fine] because I want to backtrack again. [JD: Sure] Uh, to start with your childhood, um, uh, that your family's role in the community, uh, the foods that you remember. And the life you had as a child before everything became like Shabbat synagogue, things like that. Tell us about that part and we will go to how you got out and all that.
Joseph Dabby: [00:19:21] Ok, well, anyway, the, uh, I mean, the food, uh, was always made either by my late mother or we had.
Joseph Dabby: [00:19:34] A Jewish lady living in the house, she was our cleaner. Plus, she also helped my late mother with the preparing all the stuff, so. We always ate Jewish stuff.
Joseph Dabby: [00:19:52] Yeah, Jewish cuisine.
Joseph Dabby: [00:19:56] We had at a certain point, we moved from where we were to a new area of the city and we had some extra rooms in the back that were officially, I guess, for helpers and others. But we didn't have anybody. We converted one of those rooms for it to make to tbeet. That was for Saturday.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:20:19] Wow.
[00:20:21] That that was the real stuff. Like every Friday they used to prepare it and go put it into this place and they used to cover it and it used to cook till Saturday [LS: in an oven? a special oven?]
Joseph Dabby: [00:20:37] It was not an oven, it was an actual fire.
Joseph Dabby: [00:20:42] The real stuff, the real stuff, the way it used to be. So they they built.
Joseph Dabby: [00:20:50] Sort of a round container for the fire, and they used to put some wood there and start a fire and put the the pot. In the middle, and they used to put the eggs on top of that, and then they used to cover it.
Joseph Dabby: [00:21:09] Yeah, [LS: so the eggs don't touch the rice] No. so basically and they used to cover it and that basically [LS: cover it with them with something like it's a blanket or something?] not a not a blanket.
Joseph Dabby: [00:21:29] Actually it was more like. Something like woven tweed or something, I don't know exactly [LS: probably that shouldn't burn, I guess] No, it wouldn't burn because it that wasn't touching the fire.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:21:42] It was on top.
Joseph Dabby: [00:21:43] Yeah, it's covering the pot and everything. And the pot fits exactly like in the area. So it wouldn't really touch it.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:21:52] Was it like a fire? Like when you do the bread the old fashioned way?
Joseph Dabby: [00:21:58] Uh. No, because, well, it's the same concept in a way [LS: it's like a kiln?] No, it's it's it was they used to put some wood in there, start the fire. Let it run a bit when it becomes it just getting to embers, they used to put the pot on top.
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:19] And because of the fact that it's a lot of embers and it's covered, that used to keep the heat for very nicely, at least 24 hours.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:22:27] So it was a little smoked, had a smoked taste?
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:31] In a way, yes.
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:32] And the the eggs used to cook from the heat, and they used to turn brown from the steam that comes out of the pot. That's how they used to be brown. [LS: The inside]
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:47] Yeah. No, the outside also was brown.
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:52] So these I mean, that's what we used to eat on and so used.
Joseph Dabby: [00:22:56] We used to eat the eggs for breakfast and then we used to eat the tbeet, uh, for lunch. It was incredible.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:23:05] That big meal was lunch. [JD: Yeah] In fact that. This is beautiful. What else do you remember from your childhood home?
Joseph Dabby: [00:23:18] Nothing really special, I mean, what I [overlap] Yeah, but I, I used to enjoy [LS: your social life and birthday parties]
Joseph Dabby: [00:23:27] Yeah, there was lots of birthday parties to the point where because I was the first boy in the family, I my late mother used to have a birthday party for me every year.
Joseph Dabby: [00:23:42] My I discovered that my sisters were a bit upset about that because they didn't get those parties as much as I did. But anyway, I mean, I also miss the sleeping on the roof in the summer.
Joseph Dabby: [00:23:57] Baghdad gets very hot, temperatures could easily reach 45, 50 during the day centigrade, I'm talking so at night you really can't sleep in the house going sleeping outside on the roof. You basically the temperatures usually go down to the 20s and even the upper teens, so it was very comfortable and.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:24:24] And the weather was dry,
Joseph Dabby: [00:24:26] It was always dry, I mean, the chances of rain in the summer was practically zero.
Joseph Dabby: [00:24:35] The. The other thing that I used to enjoy also was the Jewish community was really. Shrunk. After nineteen fifty one, when about 100 and some people say 120, some people say one, 50000 left Baghdad to Iraq, to Israel, sorry.
Joseph Dabby: [00:25:00] There was they say about 6000 were left after that by the time I was there and grew up. There was even less than 6000.
Joseph Dabby: [00:25:14] My my sister, Naomi, had left. To get married.
Joseph Dabby: [00:25:23] And well her husband lived in Iran, but they got married and in Italy, my sister Lydia got married to the late Shoua Gigi. He was a lawyer, and after they got married, they ran away from Iraq through Basra.
Joseph Dabby: [00:25:51] So. Basically, [LS: how old were you when your sisters left?] When Noami left, I was early teens.
Joseph Dabby: [00:26:04] Maybe 10, 11, Lydia left after she got married, so I was there in their marriage. And.
Joseph Dabby: [00:26:16] I'm probably was maybe about. 14, 15 or so. And that was basically it. The nice thing about it is we used the Jewish community had a playground or a close playground.
Joseph Dabby: [00:26:36] They call it the Mahlab. And we had all access to it all the time, so that was the. One of the beautiful things is the fact that going to Frank Iny, was all Jews and you knew everybody, so we were all friends sort of then going to the Mahlab we were all the same same people, same everything. So it was also fun. And in there we had everything we could play tennis, we could play football, European football and a whole bunch of other things. Whatever we wanted we could do and we could be there all day. And we I used to be on the bicycle all the time, I used to go everywhere on bicycle. It was fun. That was one of the benefits of Iraq, is the fact that. We used to leave the bicycle, we never had locks for it, and we used to leave it everywhere and nobody. Stole them, even though some people tell me that their bicycles got stolen, I did not know or hear of anybody that had his bicycle stolen and we used to even go all the way to the Sharia Rasheed, which is the main street in Baghdad. And we used to just stand the bicycle there and disappear in the stores for half an hour, for an hour or whatever. Come back downtown. Yeah, in downtown. Nobody, stole the, nobody usually even to touch the stuff.
Joseph Dabby: [00:28:10] I don't know if it's because of the Muslim mentality or what.
Joseph Dabby: [00:28:16] I have no idea. But I know that they did not touch stuff. And so between the. The school and the mahlab, but we had a pretty good life. I mean, I enjoyed myself.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:28:32] And we had the mahlab up till the sixty seven war. When the 67 war came, they closed the mahlab and they.
Joseph Dabby: [00:28:45] Well, the things got changed after this, the the six day war things became more difficult for the Jews, especially the government of the [LS: what year was that?] In sixty seven, six days war. They they really had their ass kicked in a very bad way and they had to sort of, so at that point in time.
Joseph Dabby: [00:29:13] They disconnected all the telephones from all the Jewish homes.
Joseph Dabby: [00:29:17] They closed all the, well, they didn't close them, but locked all the bank accounts for all the Jews, like Jews, could not go to the bank and take a big amount of money out of their account. They could only take a very small yeah, they froze everything and they did a lot of things like that. They made life a bit more complex for us and they also blocked us from leaving. We couldn't even leave the city. We have to get a permit to be able to leave the city. So from 67 till 70, things were dangerous, there was a few Jews that got that got arrested and.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:30:08] Let me take you back. I'm going to take you back to the good times a little bit.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:30:13] How observant was your family? Tell me about the synagogue. Did you have a bar mitzvah? Any traditions your family kept other than this wonderful story of your tbeet, your Passover memories, the Seder. Tell us about that.
Joseph Dabby: [00:30:30] Well, we, uh, my late mother kept a kosher house and we did all the.
Joseph Dabby: [00:30:41] All the special seasons we followed all the rules, so like we did, all the prayers and everything.
Joseph Dabby: [00:30:49] On the on the holidays we walked. To the nearest synagogue to us, so I was about a 45 minute walk.
Joseph Dabby: [00:31:00] Wow. What synagogue did you go to?
Joseph Dabby: [00:31:03] Tp tell you the truth, I don't know if it had a name, but it was in a house in the middle of a Muslim housing area.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:31:12] Was that in the [al-wiya] area?
Joseph Dabby: [00:31:14] I think so. It was like a house in the middle of the Muslim area and the houses in Baghdad, the old ones were open in the middle. So while we were praying, you can see kids, whatever, looking in from the their roofs on us. Yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [00:31:41] So we used to walk to the synagogue that was the nearest one to us at the time, and we did all the holidays fully like with everything, all the prayers and everything. So from that point of view, we kept a very religious, but we were not very religious ourselves and.
Joseph Dabby: [00:32:08] And interestingly enough, my late mother, even though she kept a kosher house, she never forced us to keep 100 percent kosher. So like we would be out, we would actually I would get on the bicycle and ride to one of those great hamburger places that they had in Baghdad that nobody here has that kind of. Yeah, that kind of hamburger. And I used to eat it. And that's not kosher. So she as I said, she never forced us to keep one hundred percent kosher and, uh. That was basically it we had. We were really not blocked from anything from that point. That's one of the nice things about. Even though there were issues, I did not really feel any issues with the Jews until the first time that my father was arrested, when I was maybe about.
Joseph Dabby: [00:33:16] 13, 14 years old, [LS: what year was that?]. That would have probably been sixty four, sixty five.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:33:26] Before sixty seven when the Baath arrived.
Joseph Dabby: [00:33:29] Yeah, that was before, so he was arrested, that was the first time and there was a while when we didn't know what's happening and whatever. So I was really worried.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:33:39] What was the pretext?
Joseph Dabby: [00:33:43] And I don't I never got all the details from the family, they they didn't consider it this important. Actually, I had an ulcer at that time. That was I mean, that was very abnormal for a 14 year old or 13, 14 year old to have ulcer. I had my we all had.
Joseph Dabby: [00:34:03] The two boys had. Bar mitzvah at the house and at the synagogue.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:34:14] you had a lot of people invited?
Joseph Dabby: [00:34:20] I am sure there was a lot of people invited because the late, my late parents used to have parties all the time, so like once a week there was a party where they used to either go somewhere or have it at our house. And there was a whole lot of people come in and they used to play poker and whatever. And I used to when I was like in my teens, I used to go and make ask them what they want to drink. And I used to prepare the drinks for the whiskey and whatever. Yeah. I mean I did that, I, I hate whiskey but I, I basically was serving them to give them what they want and these parties were all around and there was also parties with the kids. I mean we used to get invited to parties either for certain holidays like. Like purim that was a day of playing cards for all the kids. Our parents used to give us cash and we used to go somewhere, sometimes in the morning here and the afternoon there, and we used to play cards all day. We had we had a car and we had a driver. My late father never drove, so we had a driver that lived into the house. He had a room attached to the garage and that's where he was. So he used to take us to all these places that we needed to go. Plus, the other nice thing about Baghdad at the time is the bus system was reasonably good. So if we wanted to go anywhere downtown or whatever, we could easily take a bus and go. And that worked reasonably well.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:36:19] And your driver, was he Muslim?
Joseph Dabby: [00:36:21] Yeah, he was a Shiite Muslim originally from Iran. And I mean, a long time ago. And but as I said, he lived in the in the house.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:36:38] he had a family?
Joseph Dabby: [00:36:41] Now he was alone.
Joseph Dabby: [00:36:43] So he lived in, uh, in an apartment that was attached to the garage.
Joseph Dabby: [00:36:50] And as I said, he took us everywhere, he took us to school in the morning, he took us he came picked us up after school in the morning, in the afternoon, and everywhere else we needed to go, we used to ask him. So he used to take us.
Joseph Dabby: [00:37:07] So as I said at that, I mean, generally memories that I have are reasonably well, I never had any fights with anybody or problems with anybody about the fact that I'm Jewish or whatever.
Joseph Dabby: [00:37:21] As I said, the reason was because of the fact that nobody knew that I was Jewish.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:37:27] But your neighbors would have known.
Joseph Dabby: [00:37:30] My neighbors didn't know about religion until I explained it to them [chuckles]. This is something weird that [LS: you're talking about your Muslim neighbors] Muslims and Christians. So I mean, they. They grew up and that's the way it was, and they didn't really think about it, that there is other religions or other things. So to them that was there was no relationship to this. And I guess that the families did not need did not think that they need to. Teach them or explain to them something different. Different parents look at things differently [LS: and different times]
Joseph Dabby: [00:38:14] Yeah. [LS: No TV brainwashing] well also that was the other thing I was for most of that time, there was no TV, so there was also no TV brainwashing in a way.
Joseph Dabby: [00:38:27] Like, I think they only started TV in the late mid 60s or something like that.
Joseph Dabby: [00:38:35] But. We used to. Enjoy it because they used to have a lot of cartoons, so if we had time, we used to sit down and watch the cartoons. That was interesting.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:38:51] How many channels was there on TV?
Joseph Dabby: [00:38:54] At the beginning, I was only one or two maybe. Yeah, it started with one and then after that they added maybe a second, I don't know, I don't remember.
Joseph Dabby: [00:39:05] We used to go every Friday evening. We used to drive. We had what is called a lodge, which is a place like a booth. And we used to go ourselves and my uncle. To watch TV or watch movie every Friday, we used to go through the same movie theater and we used to watch whichever movie they had
Lisette Shashoua: [00:39:32] Which one?
Joseph Dabby: [00:39:38] It just escaped me right now
Lisette Shashoua: [00:39:42] Roxy? Rex? [overlap] No, some other.
Joseph Dabby: [00:39:53] I really can't remember, but we used to go there and. My uncle and aunt did not did not understand. Languages other than Arabic, so basically all the movies were English or French. So my mother used to sit there and explain to them what's happening.
Joseph Dabby: [00:40:23] We basically were.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:40:25] The uncle and aunt were your mother's sister?
Joseph Dabby: [00:40:28] No my uncle and aunt. My uncle is my father's brother from the same mother and father. And my aunt is his wife. These are the parents of my cousin in L.A. Joe Dabby [LS: Oh, yes] So because in Iraq, the only family we had left was my Uncle Hezkel [ph], his wife, and my cousin Joe, my cousin Joseph. In the family, there was in the end four Joseph Dabby. Because they were four brothers, my late father, my late uncle and another two uncles from a different mother. My father's mother passed away. And.
Joseph Dabby: [00:41:36] My grandfather married another one, and from with her, he had another two boys and some, I think one girl or more. Which I did not know because they left Iraq in nineteen fifty one,
Lisette Shashoua: [00:41:49] LS: So they were in Israel?
Joseph Dabby: [00:41:51] So yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [00:41:52] And so each one of those four boys had called their first born boy as Yusuf, Joseph. So there was four.
Joseph Dabby: [00:42:07] Joseph Dabby in Israel. When I got there-
Lisette Shashoua: [00:42:12] OK, maybe you can describe to me the wedding of Lydia your sister?
Joseph Dabby: [00:42:19] Well, the wedding was actually done in the [overlap]
Joseph Dabby: [00:42:28] Ok, anyway, Lydia got married in the school in the Frank Iny School. The wedding was there because I remember the day of the wedding, the day before the day of the wedding.
Joseph Dabby: [00:42:44] Shoua had- [LS: a hernia?] no not a hernia. You know, the extension of the. Of of the. Stomach, anyway, he had a problem, so they had to operate on [LS: Oh appendicitis] appendicitis, yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [00:43:09] So they they had to operate on him. So of course, he wasn't going to get married the day after. So I had to go to the school and stand there for like about three hours. Making sure that people don't come in to the wedding, are told that there is the wedding has been delayed by a week or whatever it was at the time.
Joseph Dabby: [00:43:32] Actually, [overlap] interestingly enough, even though there was no phones. The word spread-
Lisette Shashoua: [00:43:38] Oh, it was there were no phones also ready. So they got married after the 67 war.If there were no phones.
Joseph Dabby: [00:43:49] I think so. Well, I don't really know I mean, if we need to get an exact date, I can do that [overlap] there was no phones, but the word still spread.
Joseph Dabby: [00:44:03] No, no, no Jews came that day. The only person that came was the only person we could not reach was that Mrs. Lucy, [LS: our teacher] our English teacher.
Joseph Dabby: [00:44:20] She's the only one that came, she came in a taxi and I told the taxi to wait and I told her the bad news and she went back home and I told her that the wedding is like a week later or whatever it was.
Joseph Dabby: [00:44:37] Well, Mrs. Lucy with us was a special deal because of the fact that. She had a daughter. And one of the agreements that you had with the Frank Iny School is that she will bring her daughter and she will go in school along with Yeah. Her daughter was the same age as Naomi. Mm hmm. So she was in Naomi's class and they were very good friends. So because of that. We had a very special relationship with her, so she got invited to Lydia's wedding.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:45:18] So did her daughter come to our school? [JD: Yeah] I wasn't aware.
Joseph Dabby: [00:45:23] Yeah, she was in our school. She did the school with my sister, Naomi. In the same class,
Joseph Dabby: [00:45:32] She studied Arabic with us? that I don't know, [LS: very interesting] but it's possible.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:45:38] Can you say who Ms. Lusy is?
Joseph Dabby: [00:45:41] Ms. Lucy was our English teacher. She was contracted by the Frank Iny School from England.
Joseph Dabby: [00:45:49] And she came and lived in Iraq for quite a while. And she was the teacher, the English teacher. We had one other English teacher. He was a Muslim. At this point in time, I can remember his name. [LS: William] William. Yeah. So he was he was also a teacher, but relative to Mrs. Lucy, he wasn't that good. And he had some really weird things. [LS: was he Egyptian?] I think he was Lebanese, was, you know, no Egyptian. I think you're right. He was he was Egyptian, originally Egyptian. But he had some really weird things of doing things he used to try and impress us by. He used to always wear a jacket. So one of the things that he used to try and impress us where they used to take a whole bunch of chalks, different colors, put them in his pocket, and he would say, OK, now I can extract the red one. He put his hand in there and he would do this for a few minutes and he would take his hand out with the red one in it, like he would feel as if the color with his hand probably marked each one in a different way. And based on that, he would actually know which one is one. And anyway, that he was really weird in that way. So.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:47:14] Well, that sounds like fun in Frank Iny it's a novelty. Teachers were serious
Joseph Dabby: [00:47:20] Yeah teachers were different, so. Anyway, that was it, as I said, we were four Joseph Dabby, that's why I'm talking about my cousin in L.A. is also Joseph Dabby, one of us.
Joseph Dabby: [00:47:38] Was lost, the son of my second cousin, my uncle David, his son was on the car, the submarine that got lost in the Mediterranean, [LS: which submarine from Israel?] Israel bought a submarine, a used submarine from England. [LS: Uh huh, what year?]
Joseph Dabby: [00:48:10] That was late sixties, No, sorry, that was early [overlap]
Joseph Dabby: [00:48:18] Yeah, because he was already dead by the time I got there, so it must have been late 50s.
Joseph Dabby: [00:48:24] That was the first submarine that Israel bought and it was a U.S. submarine they bought from the British Navy. So they sent my. Uncle Joe David's son, join the army, and he was put into the Navy and he was one of the group that was chosen to run the submarine, so they shipped him to England to be taught everything about the submarine and to bring it back to Israel. For some reason. They did not have enough time. Something happened. I don't know what happened, and they asked them to come back earlier. So they didn't get all the education that they needed, whether that was the cause or not, nobody knows.
Joseph Dabby: [00:49:14] But the bottom line is. The submarine was on its way back and for some reason. The Navy group that was running it decided they want to come back early for some reason. And they were pushing it.
Joseph Dabby: [00:49:35] It disappeared.
Joseph Dabby: [00:49:39] In the Mediterranean, off Egypt. Not in Egyptian water, but off Egypt. Israel at the time. They got they went out and they everybody, all the navies and the air forces and the Europeans and went looking for it. And the submarines, the Russians and the Americans, whatever, they went out looking for it. They couldn't find it, but Israel knew that it disappeared in the water of Agean. They kept it quiet. They didn't want to mention it because they thought that the the Israeli people will be pushing them to do something, to attack Egypt or do something to Egypt, because they would maybe the Egyptians blew it. But anyway, so they kept it quiet. They did find the submarine later, uh, many, many like a couple of decades later, and they actually even extracted the. The top of the hull, it's actually in Israel now, it's in a museum somewhere.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:50:48] And did they find out if it was attacked or was it?
Joseph Dabby: [00:50:52] From what I managed to read about what they found and everything, it was not attacked. Something happened either the British did not.
Joseph Dabby: [00:51:03] Finish the submarine, one hundred percent good, or this Navy group, which wasn't really fully informed about the submarine, may have made a mistake. You know, when you're under water, there's one little mistake can actually kill you. So, uh. So basically, that's there is only three left now, there is one in Israel, there is one here today and there is and my cousin is in L.A.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:51:34] Ok, now, I would like to see if you could if, you know, if there were any prominent Jewish organizations like some, Zionism, the Zionist organizations or any non-religious, was there anything of that when you were growing up?
Joseph Dabby: [00:51:55] Not really. I did not. And nobody approached me about anything like that? No, never heard or seen anything related to that. So at this point in time, in the, uh.
Joseph Dabby: [00:52:06] In the forties. In the early yeah, in the late forties, there was a lot of activity because of a major, misconception by the Israelis. The Israelis, when they were when they established Israel, they needed people, laborers, especially farming and others for some reason, people like Ben-Gurion. Thought that the Jews in Iraq and the Arab countries are mainly like laborers and farmers and other stuff. So they decided that he sent some people to Israel. And told them that he wants those people to be brought to Israel. Which was a completely misconception because the people that they received, as I said, some people say 120, some people say 150. Among them, there was very, very few laborers or farmers, there were all. Doctors, lawyers and and everything else, so they say they, the Israelis, the government of Israel did not expect, did not think that that's what they're going to get. So in the late forties after the war, there was a lot of. Activity. There was also a few Jews that were actually had left earlier in the thirties went to Israel and they were sent back. Not officially. To try and convince the Jews to come to Israel and there was even some people that say that some of the things that some of the bad things that were done in the 40s, like a bomb exploding some near synagogues or some other places like that, were planted by the Israelis to try and scare the Jews to leave. Anybody has proof? I don't know, I never I never looked so when I grew up in Iraq, no, nobody approached me for anything like that.I really never did any.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:54:38] Tell me about your mom's involvement when she was young. Your mom.
Joseph Dabby: [00:54:46] I don't think she was involved in anything, the only person in the family that got very involved was my cousin Charles. He lives in L.A. Now. [LS: Tell me about that] He got very involved and. The point was, and he got so involved that his name surfaced in the security services and [LS: where? In Iraq or Israel?] Yeah, in Iraq and, uh, before 50, like in the late 40s. My late father had very good contact in those areas, so he got the word that the security service is looking for Charles. In Arabic, his name is actually Salah. They were looking for Charles to arrest him. When he heard that he went to visit his brother and they discussed it and they between them, they decided they're going to. Get Charles to leave Iraq.
Joseph Dabby: [00:55:58] So. At that point in time, in the late 40s, even in the 50s and early 60s, the way through Basra, which is the south of Iraq, was open to go to Iran. So.
Joseph Dabby: [00:56:16] He set it up for him. He sent him. He actually he didn't send him, he handed him to a smuggler in Baghdad. That took him to Basra.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:56:32] How old was Charles then?
Joseph Dabby: [00:56:34] Charles was probably in his late, late teens. So. He set it up with him and he even from what Charles told me, he gave the smuggler half the money, he tore the money in half. He gave him one half. He put the other half in. He took Charles' Shoe. He emptied out the. The sole, yeah, that's all, and he put the rest of the money in and he told them when you when you get into Iran and you were safe, you can give it to him, give him give him the other half of the [LS: as a sign that he arrived] well that there was also as a sign of he was supposed to return one piece of paper to my father to confirm that everything is [LS: one piece that he took?] No, he lets say it was a hundred dinar. I'm just throwing numbers [overlap].
Joseph Dabby: [00:57:36] So he took one hundred dinar [overlap]. He cut it in half. He gave him one half and he stole I mean, stored the other half in the shoe in it with it he [LS: that's the price for smuggling] I'm just throwing numbers. I have no idea. I was told at the time that that's not information that I kept in memory.
Joseph Dabby: [00:57:58] And at the same time he gave him something else to be returned to my late father to confirm that everything went fine. So, uh. Charles got into Iran because of the fact that he was knew, the the Israeli [overlap] he was he was able to get into Israel and he stayed in Israel for quite a while. Then my late uncle and late aunt decided that my my late parents and them had at the time decided that they're going to leave Iraq in nineteen, 1950. But they did not register with everybody else. They decided to delay the registration just a bit for some reason.
Joseph Dabby: [00:58:50] And. My late aunt decided to send her daughters to Israel and then they're going to join them. So her daughters went to Israel and they were lucky that their brother was there, so and they had family also, they somehow they took very good care of them, but they never saw their parents until like mid 70. So, uh. From what I heard, my late father, after they left in nineteen fifty one and then got to Israel and they put everybody in the maabarot. Things were not so nice.
Lisette Shashoua: [00:59:36] Can you say what a maabara is?
Joseph Dabby: [00:59:38] Maabara was sort of a tent city that the Israelis built because they didn't have anywhere to sleep and get all these people to live. So there was sort of a tent city. There was no not much water. There was no sanitation. There was not much food. There was like it was a total chaos. I mean, I can understand for a small city, for a small country that just got established. Two years or so ago, and all of a sudden you have one hundred and twenty two hundred and fifty thousand new immigrants coming in.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:00:15] This is only from Iraq, not exactly other Arab countries also. And Europre.
Joseph Dabby: [01:00:19] So I mean it wasn't it wasn't easy to do something, but word came back to my to my late father about the fact that they were in not a good situation.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:00:32] So at that point in time, they discussed it and they decided they're not going to go at that point. And they decided they're going to delay it a bit and then go. In the end, they didn't go until we had no choice but to escape in 1970.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:00:53] Ok, let's take a little break, OK?
Joseph Dabby: [01:00:57] What do you want to break?
Lisette Shashoua: [01:00:58] Anybody who wants to go to the washroom or something and I'll be and then we will get into, you know, by the way, did you know your mom knew learned Hebrew and you didn't know till she got to Israel? Your sisters told me that?
Joseph Dabby: [01:01:14] No, I didn't know that.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:01:14] Your mom. I think she was involved in this, you should ask the girls. She was involved in the Zionist organization. I think she was for whatever reason, I don't remember everything, but I know she spoke Hebrew. And you kids didn't know about it till she got to Israel
Joseph Dabby: [01:01:36] Well, she never.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:01:38] You don't know but your sisters told me
Joseph Dabby: [01:01:41] Well, don't forget, I also only stayed seven years with them in Israel. So.
Joseph Dabby: [01:01:47] Well I just spoke about Charles and then you were talking about my mother knowing Hebrew.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:01:53] Yeah, well, it's OK, you can mention it. You can not mention it it's up to you.
Joseph Dabby: [01:01:59] It doesn't matter.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:00] Anyway, she she was involved for some reason. I don't know what I think oh yeah!
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:06] Now, now, now, now that you mention it,
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:09] You're born already.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:11] The kids were in the house and she used to have.
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:14] She used to bring people into the house.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:17] Yes.
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:17] She used she offered them the house for a meeting place. [LS: Yes Yes] Now I remember.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:23] And and you know, the other thing you could, I thought of something for a minute, but I don't think it's that important that you used to swim in the river no? You can tell me that because at one point I'm going to ask you, do you have any other memories you'd like to share growing up? And you can talk about the river part. Another thing this summer, why, why don't you tell him to come to the reunion?
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:47] He's coming.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:47] Is he?!
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:50] No, no, no.
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:53] Hussein Alawi [ph] is coming,
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:54] Yeah, but what about Sam Urai [ph]?
Joseph Dabby: [01:02:56] I have no idea where he is.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:02:58] How do we catch him how do we find him?
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:00] I have no idea. You may be able to catch him through Linda. [LS: Linda who?] Linda Abdul Aziz
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:08] Oh, so we better.
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:10] She may know where he is. I have no idea. I never
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:12] Hussein Alawi, Do you have Hussein Alawi's e-mail? [JD: Yeah] if you can send it to me, because I know him or you can, Hussein was in yor class?
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:26] Hussein Alawai, Mohamed Al-Samari [ph], both of them were in my class.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:28] Write to Hussein, tell him, where is Mohamed?
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:33] They are not friends
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:35] No? They don't like each other?
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:37] I don't think so, because Hussein is Shia and [overlap] Mohamed Alawi, Mohamed Samarai
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:43] [overlap] ok so tell Hussein to tell Jafar his brother to come. Because I wrote to Jafar [overlap]
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:51] No, but you can you can you can just ask Ilan because he's he's he's already talked to them.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:03:57] He didn't talk to Jafar.
Joseph Dabby: [01:03:59] No, he did, Yeah. But he can reach Hussein
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:03] Yeah, but if Hussein is not going to give us Samarai, his number.
Joseph Dabby: [01:04:09] I have no idea where Samarai is today, even.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:12] I don't know if, you know, we are having a school reunion. In Montreal.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:18] So all the people who went to that school, which is one Jewish school from all over the world, Israel, and we had elite, the elite, the children of some ministers, Iraqi ministers, Muslims who also went to that school, you can mention because you did have Samarai, So you say we had a few elite, you know,
Joseph Dabby: [01:04:41] Yeah There was quite a few.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:43] Because you said you had a classmate was Muslim. [JD: Yeah] you can mention that.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:48] Ok, OK. Shall we continue?
Lisette Shashoua: [01:04:53] Charles, so what did Charles do afterwards in Israel?
Joseph Dabby: [01:05:04] I really don't know the details exactly. All I know is that Charles today specializes in.
Joseph Dabby: [01:05:13] In tourism, [overlap] he has a company that does tourism, his specialty was Mexico and Israel.
Joseph Dabby: [01:05:25] Whether he started learning that in Israel or he learned that when he went to L.A., I don't know.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:05:33] Ok. Tell me about any other, uh, Zionist organizations that your family might have been involved with before 1950?
Joseph Dabby: [01:05:43] I don't really as I said, I don't know much about it, but I just remembered that my late mother. Used to. Allow them to use our house for meetings, so they used to come in and meet in the in the house. So that was one of their meeting areas. Whether she was personally involved with them, per se, or not, I don't know.
Joseph Dabby: [01:06:18] I. A lot of this information only came out after we left Iraq.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:06:26] You weren't aware of it when you were in Iraq?
Joseph Dabby: [01:06:28] No, she never mentioned anything. She was very secretive.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:06:32] And anyway by the time you were born, that movement was not in Iraq anymore, right?
Joseph Dabby: [01:06:38] No, it was very, very quiet. The girls the girls were there already. At that point, because it was late 40s, uh. So basically, uh. A lot of this stuff sort of surfaced. After in Israel, [LS: after you left Iraq]. Yeah, but I only stayed in Israel for seven years, so a lot of that stuff surfaced after. Yeah. So I didn't I didn't know a lot of the stuff. And when I go to visit the girls, my sisters don't always tell me [chuckles]. So all these details, because for them it's it's a given. So there's no need to discuss it and mention it. So I no I don't know about it. But as I said, I remember now that they mentioned that she used to allow them to use the house for meetings.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:07:33] That's wonderful. OK, um. I'd like to ask you about you mentioned you had a Muslim friend, a classmate, Samarai. Can you tell me a Muslim, how many, this was a Jewish school.
Joseph Dabby: [01:07:47] Yeah, but they it was considered. As one of the best schools in the whole Middle East.
Joseph Dabby: [01:07:57] At one time, they used to say that if you finished high school in Frank Iny and did relatively well. If you got a good recommendation from the manager, which is Abdullah Obadiah you would be accepted in MIT without a problem, without a question.
Joseph Dabby: [01:08:21] So basically, it was really a very special school, and because of that, some of the rich, non Jews, families. Wanted their children to go there. So in my class was Hussein Alawi. He's today, he's a lawyer. I'm sorry, today he's a doctor in in Washington, D.C. I didn't know that his father was a doctor, so he forced him to become a doctor.
Joseph Dabby: [01:08:57] There was another Muslim, a Sunni actually, in this case.
[01:09:03] His name was Mohammad Samarai. His father was also a doctor and he had a hospital called the Samarai Hospital. He was basically uh specialist in childbirth and pregnancy and other stuff.
Joseph Dabby: [01:09:23] Where he is today, I have no idea so but besides, besides those two, these are like the two that were in my class, they also had their brothers and some of them, their cousins also in the school in different classes.
Joseph Dabby: [01:09:41] We also had some. Children that were, as I said, like Mrs. Lucy's daughter, she was Christian, of course, there was also some kids that came in. That were from India and some other places like Talwar and whatever, so there was there was also. But the majority, like as I'm saying here, is probably, I would say ninety eight percent of the kids in the school were Jews from Iraq.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:10:23] Now what was your relationship with these people? They they were part of your group, they were invited to your party? Yeah, you treated them-
Joseph Dabby: [01:10:33] Yeah well Hussein Alawi was more involved with us. He used to get invited to parties and we used to go out for suppers and other stuff. And Mohamed Samarai was not as deep with us as Hussein was. Maybe the reason being is the fact that one is Shia and one is Sunni or what I don't know. At the time, we never thought about it. It wasn't it was part of life to us there was nothing special about it. We didn't care. So at the time, that was basically it.
Joseph Dabby: [01:11:11] So. I remember Hussein used to come to parties, we used to have parties, dancing parties, you know, when we were young kids and whatever he used to be their. So that, as I said, Muhammad was not as deep with us as from that point. The reason I have no idea.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:11:33] Many of the. Many of the Jewish kids after Meir Elias was, which was a Jewish hospital, I think it was closed or taken over, and all of us were more or less the older ones were born in Meir Elias. But afterwards, they were all born in Samarai, right?
Joseph Dabby: [01:11:57] Yeah, my brother Jack was born in Samarai Hospital. I have a picture of my late mother laying in bed and all the kids around her because, you know, she just gave birth. So that that was actually one of the pictures that we showed in the last reunion. [LS: And where is it now?] It's on my computer downstairs.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:12:22] So these are the ones we need to
Joseph Dabby: [01:12:25] Well, what I said is I'll email them. Since I have the pictures electronically, it will be just easier to email them. I don't have to scan and I don't have to show anything. All I have to do is send them one by one and explaining who is in the picture. now, one other thing that you asked me before that. Slipped my mind what some of the. That's my wife. [background communication]
Joseph Dabby: [01:13:04] I was saying that you're asking me about some of the good things that [LS: you remember] Yeah, and I did sort of slip and you reminded me. Thanks. It's about learning how to swim in Iraq. At the beginning. There was not too many. Like associations and other stuff that accepted Jews so we couldn't join, let's say, a swimming group or some other stuff because they wouldn't accept Jews as members. So at that point in time, what we used to do is we used to go. I remember my father drove us to the river, to the Tigris, and there were some Jews there that did nothing but teach how to swim in the river. So we used to swim. We learned how to swim in the Tigris River, and I remember in the beginning when we used to swim, because here when you have children and you put them in the water, you put air bubbles on their back to. Keep them afloat. We didn't have that in Iraq. So what they used to do is they used to take the pieces of the date, tree, the triangle, which is the base of the of the leaf they used [LS: the bark] Yeah. They used to put two like that on our back. And that was enough to give us buoyancy. So this is how we started swimming. And then [LS: it was itchy wasn't it?] Oh yeah [chuckles] it used to slice through the back sometimes if they don't clean it.
Joseph Dabby: [01:15:02] And then eventually, after we learned how to swim, we used to in the beginning, they used to take us in in boats to the center of the river and we used to swim from the center of the river back to the to the beach [LS: and you were how many in each group?].
Joseph Dabby: [01:15:18] I don't remember, but it was something that I would think it was something in the range of about maybe 10 to 12 people, 12 kids.
Joseph Dabby: [01:15:28] Yeah, and then after we got used to learning how to swim good enough, we used to swim across the river. Now, that river was not small and it was very strong currents.
Joseph Dabby: [01:15:42] So swimming against the currents, we used to end up like maybe half a kilometer or maybe more away from the side we started from. So we had to walk back on the beach and then swim back to where we started. And then the other beauty of this was we used to go in the summer evenings. We used to take a boat, rent a boat to take for us a whole bunch of stuff to the other side, because in the summer is less water. So there would be some islands on the other side of the river. And we used to swim to there and the boats would come there and then we used to set up a fire.
Joseph Dabby: [01:16:36] And barbecue fish on that fire, and that was our meal for the evening, it was incredible barbecued fish and these are all [LS: How many were you then?]. It was just the family. So it was just family at that point in time. It wasn't like a public thing and.
Joseph Dabby: [01:17:04] Basically, these are fresh fish from the river caught that day, and they and they got barbecued on that fire.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:17:12] They were still swimming in the, the little tub. Chosen-
Joseph Dabby: [01:17:18] Yeah, well, no one of them, once where they used to do is they used to tie them behind the the boat. So they are swimming in the water. And then they used to bring them in, cut them and prepare them so that they can actually. Stake them, like at forty five degrees around the fire to barbecue. So this was something really incredible. Eventually, it became also a bit dangerous because the other side of the river, got the US embassy built a bit further up on the other side of the river, so it was dangerous to walk on the beach near them. Because of the security services, they wouldn't want anybody walking because as far as they're concerned, this is embassy ground. And before the embassy, there was a few buildings that also belonged to the government, so nobody wanted to go there either. So eventually that became a problem. Today, out of the Tigris River, there is not much left because most of the water is being stopped in Turkey. Yeah, they built a big dam in Turkey, and there is very there is a lot less water, especially in the summer when we had to go swim. When we used to go swim in the summer, there was quite a lot of water still there. But today, from what I've seen and heard, there is not much it's like a little river and the same thing with the Euphrates. Also Euphrates is even worse because Euphrates, there was a dam built in Turkey and another dam that was built in Syria.
Joseph Dabby: [01:19:19] And now, from what I hear, the Kurds are also planning to build a dam in northern Iraq on Tigris, so by the time the Tigris gets to Baghdad, it will be like you walk across on rocks. Anyway. This is. Some of the crazy changes of that world. Yeah, we, we have one other. Point of interest that I would like to mention that one of the things that always interested me or. Drove me crazy about is. My family name in Arabic is written in exactly the same way as the name of Dubai [ph] in Arabic, exactly the same. And I could not understand why. About five years ago, we discovered the reason. The reason being is I am assuming about about one hundred years ago. There was. A merchant, a very well-to-do merchant in Baghdad from my family, his name was Jamil Dabby. He went to the area there and he met with the Sheikh of that area and they agreed to start a country. And they called it. Whether they called it Dabby the same way as it is written, but for some reason either he changed the pronunciation to keep it away from his family, you know, to protect his family or the idiots in the area don't know how to read well, and they changed it to Dubai instead of Dabby [chuckles] So anyway, this was as I said, this was really interesting because I couldn't understand why it could be written the same way. Now I know.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:21:21] So they created a city.
Joseph Dabby: [01:21:24] They created a country, [LS: a country] Dubai.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:21:32] And now are other Jews in Dubai?
Joseph Dabby: [01:21:37] They used to be. [overlap] I think in Dubai, the wasn't the foreign minister or something a few years ago as a Jewish girl, a Jewish woman? [LS: I think so] yeah. There are and they are also friendly with the Jews in Israel. Yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [01:22:00] Well, I mean, this is it, the issue here is that the Jews of Babylon, the Jews that lived in Iraq, were involved in a lot of things past all the way to, they established Shanghai. They established Hong Kong. They established Bombay, Singapore, the Hong Kong. Today, the mountain in Hong Kong is still owned by the Khadouri [ph] family, which is actually the one that was brought by the Jewish by the British to start to start Hong Kong.
Joseph Dabby: [01:22:35] They wrote all the original laws of Hong Kong that the Chinese cannot break because these are the laws that they signed against. So they they were involved in Malaysia. They were involved in everything.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:22:53] And are there any Jews left in the Arab countries?
Joseph Dabby: [01:22:59] In Iraq, they say something like maybe five or 10. Or maybe four, maybe even less, I don't know, [LS: and Bahrain maybe?] I don't know, honestly, I never yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [01:23:13] [overlap] maybe 25.
Joseph Dabby: [01:23:16] There is a few in Yemen, but the Israelis are trying very much to get them out. They actually took out quite a few of them. The, uh, the Americans also when they went into Iraq, they tried to establish contact with the Jews there to see if they would be interested to leave. A lot of them are very old, they didn't want to leave because they know nothing else about life than what they have there. There was a. Some people claim that there is a Jewish tribe in Kurdistan still.
Joseph Dabby: [01:23:59] But nobody has been able to find any link or any information about them. The interesting thing also about the Jews from that lived and and the Kurdish area. Did not speak Hebrew or Iraqi Jewish, they.
Joseph Dabby: [01:24:21] Spoke between themselves in Aramaic. This is the only group that is still uses Aramaic today in the world. And the other crazy thing is the only group today on the planet that can speak Hebrew the way it was spoken three thousand years ago, and can speak Arabic the way it was spoken at the time of Muhammad. Are the Jews of Iraq. Nobody else. We can still say all the letters the right way. When all the Arabs, all the Arab countries cannot say most of the quite a few of the Arabic letters. But-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:25:04] in their dialect
Joseph Dabby: [01:25:07] Yeah. So. We have been a special part of the Jewish, background. Most people don't know about us, but we actually Babylonian Jews helped redesign the Jewish religion to keep it alive as opposed to it could have easily died after the destruction of the first temple.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:25:35] And Aramaic is also the language that was spoken by Jesus Christ.
Joseph Dabby: [01:25:41] Aramaic is the mother tongue of Hebrew and Arabic and a few others.
Joseph Dabby: [01:25:50] So and actually today, even still, it is used for the Ketubah is written in Aramaic, [LS: and what is a ketubah?] Ketubah the wedding contract between a man and a woman. And that is still written in Aramaic. The-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:26:10] And that was established where?
Joseph Dabby: [01:26:14] In Babylon time, a lot of the Jewish traditions of today were all established in Babylon time. Because before the establishment of before the destruction of of the first destruction of the temple, before the that even. Only the temple did all the prayers and there was nothing written.
Joseph Dabby: [01:26:39] So. The Jews were. Their, return to the temple was that they would give the temple 10 percent of their income. So if they were farmers, they may bring in a few a couple of cows or a couple of animals and give it to to the temple.
Joseph Dabby: [01:27:06] If they were whatever they did, gave 10 percent of their income to the temple.
Joseph Dabby: [01:27:11] And that's how the temple stayed in active and alive. After the temple got destroyed.The Jews that were taken as slaves to Babylon. They had to re define or redesign the religion in a way, so what at that point in time they established the synagogue, which did not exist before they established the position of the Rabbi, Chazan. They wrote all the books that are existing today for the prayers and everything. All of that. [LS: the five books of Moses] Yeah, everything everything that is written today was established at the time in Babylon.
Joseph Dabby: [01:28:01] Some other, like the Bible, a version of the Bible is eventually written in Israel also they call it [overlap] Yeah, the Jerusalem version that was done like more than a thousand plus years ago. Later. But anyway, so all of this stuff is was in Babylon and everything, all the traditions, everything that exists today is from Babylon.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:28:33] And very few people know about it or we have to educate the world [chuckles].
Lisette Shashoua: [01:28:40] Ok, now tell me when things were getting hot for the Jews in Iraq, first of all, before that, what was your family's views about Zionism and what was their view about the state of Israel while you were in Baghdad?
Joseph Dabby: [01:29:01] We never really discussed Zionism and all the other stuff that wasn't something that was raised by my parents at all as far as. About Israel, the. My parents always listened to the radios and we didn't listen to the radio locally, we listened to BBC or or German radio and other stuff like and I remember.
Joseph Dabby: [01:29:27] The day of the 1967 war, the six days war, the way they started.
Joseph Dabby: [01:29:37] Weird enough, that was the day. All of us my age were in the British embassy. On the other side of the river. We were doing the Oxford tests.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:29:54] Oh, the GCE exam.
Joseph Dabby: [01:29:56] Yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [01:29:58] And in the middle of the test, we could see all the,the people that were in the embassy getting excited, we didn't really know exactly what's happening, but we could see that they everybody excited. I mean, there's a war going on between Israel and the Arabs. Anyway, when we finally finished, we got out and I heard about all the details.
Joseph Dabby: [01:30:25] So I forced our driver who came to pick me up to take as many. Of the people with me that were in the test, especially over the girls, he got really upset, but I. Because I didn't want them to take the bus back.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:30:41] Why did you get upset the driver?
Joseph Dabby: [01:30:44] Because all taking all these people somewhere, you know, he wasn't planning on that. So anyway, we took them, we dropped them off in different places. At least I know that everybody was safe. Everybody got home safe.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:31:00] So. Which exam were you given?
Joseph Dabby: [01:31:05] Actually, it was the only exam we were able to take, the English. That was the first day of the testing, [LS: oh so you couldn't go back?] No, the whole thing was [LS: called off] Yeah. So the only test we were able to take was that day was the English, the extended English test or whatever.
Joseph Dabby: [01:31:26] So anyway, that was the only test that I was able to take in the end. All of us
Lisette Shashoua: [01:31:30] A level.
Joseph Dabby: [01:31:34] Yeah yeah. The most difficult one. Anyway, I got home. And turned on the radio. Looked around, found radio Germany, and we already knew that the that the Israelis were creamed up, all the Ar-the Arab.
Joseph Dabby: [01:31:53] Air forces and armies, they were there, they they they really destroyed everybody, everything like in the in the first few hours of the war. So we already knew that. But the radio, the Arabic radios, of course, were claiming that they're winning and they're doing this anyway. That was but we already knew by early afternoon that it was already finished.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:32:23] You are one of the few who knew.
Joseph Dabby: [01:32:26] It was on radio, on the German radio.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:32:29] Not everybody found the German radio
Joseph Dabby: [01:32:31] No, I know, but- [LS: What language were the-
Joseph Dabby: [01:32:36] In English. It was an international radio. I just happened to find it.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:32:42] It took others much longer to find out.
Joseph Dabby: [01:32:44] Yeah. This is it, so we already knew that the whole thing.
Joseph Dabby: [01:32:50] Do you remember what was showing on TV in Iraq at the time of the war?
Lisette Shashoua: [01:32:56] No, because I didn't really watch TV. The only thing that I told you I watched on TV was the cartoons and nothing else.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:33:08] I remember there were seven year old kids singing Kill the Jews.
Joseph Dabby: [01:33:13] Yeah, I don't I didn't watch I didn't watch any of that stuff.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:33:20] Ok, so, uh. OK, now tell us about after the war, now the war sixty seven things changed, you couldn't continue your exams. You found out that Iraq, would not [inaudible] earlier than others
Joseph Dabby: [01:33:46] We found out early, uh, by the time I got home and it was early afternoon when we found that out. After the war, things were a bit more. We were I was a bit more weary at that point in time, because, as I said before, that I never had any problem. Even even then, I didn't really have any problems because of the fact that nobody could tell that I'm Jewish. The only problem at that point in time [LS: well the neighbors did know at this point] Yeah, but where we were living, where we were living, there wasn't much neighbors.
Joseph Dabby: [01:34:25] I mean, my late father, after a while decided to move to a bigger house, so we moved somewhere on the way to. To the. To the [inaudible]
Joseph Dabby: [01:34:39] It was a nice area, it was big, bigger home, so there was less interaction with neighbors. Across the street from us was the Austrian embassy, next door to them was the home of the Syrian ambassador. Next to us on this side, I don't that was really I mean, it was bigger homes. As I said, everything I remember in Baghdad, everything is high walls. So there wasn't much interaction with people and uh. So basically. The the a lot of the people in the area knew, like.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:35:26] Ok, now I just wanted to backtrack, because you said your dad was arrested once
Joseph Dabby: [01:35:36] Quite a few times but that was the first time.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:35:37] The first time was in 60
Joseph Dabby: [01:35:41] I would think sixty three. Sixty four.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:35:43] Ok, so that was once before the war. That was only once before the war. Now the war. How did it affect your family?
Joseph Dabby: [01:35:53] It. Other than the fact that we lost the phone and some some other restrictions that came with it.
Joseph Dabby: [01:36:02] There wasn't I don't remember that. I mean, I was, I was always on the bicycle and I stayed on the bicycle. I used to go visit my friends on the bicycle, and we were still-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:36:14] but you couldn't go to university so tell us about how you started going to school and can you tell me about your dad's arrest
Joseph Dabby: [01:36:23] Well, basically, I finished high school and I couldn't go to study.
Joseph Dabby: [01:36:30] We couldn't even I couldn't even register for email, like for mail courses, because I can't go to the bank and get them to make me a money order to pay for it.
Joseph Dabby: [01:36:43] I tried, I even went to one bank and I told them my name is Dubai instead of when I wrote it down. He says no it's Dabby. Yeah, they know. That was the other problem also is that my father had a car early.
Joseph Dabby: [01:37:01] So in the beginning, they used to give them. A numbering system like a contiguous numbering system, so my father's car had three numbers early. Then that was there wasn't enough numbers in the license, so they have to come up with something, so they ended up adding a letter. So the people that had numbers already, they ended up with the letter A. Alif. So my late father's car had the three numbers and a so everybody knew they knew the number and A is is from my father.
Joseph Dabby: [01:37:46] I don't know how people like that. I don't know how they do it, but they do it. So anyway, at that point in time. I don't. It affected, I think, some business from my father also because of the fact that he I mean, as I said after the war, you also mentioned that after the war, the government restricted a lot of stuff. They actually forced all the Jews to be relieved of their jobs. They convinced a lot of companies also to let go of the Jews.
Joseph Dabby: [01:38:25] And they. Locked all the bank accounts so Jews can't go to the bank and take money out of their accounts, [LS: their own accounts] Yeah, if they could take anything, it would be very small amount. So they actually they made it very difficult for for us to do a lot more stuff.
Joseph Dabby: [01:38:46] [inaudible] exactly. At the time, as I said, I didn't really feel the difference because of the fact that I used to get on the bike and ride it to go visit some friends in like about 15 minutes away or so. And we used to still did that. The-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:39:07] Now there was no mahlab anymore
Joseph Dabby: [01:39:12] Well, that was the other downside to it. We had no place to, but we used to still go. We used to get together and go sit for supper on Abu Nawas on the river, we still had access to all of the stuff in certain areas. Some places may have given us trouble if they knew that we were Jewish, but some others didn't care. So we still used to do that. And from that point of view, we still OK, we could go into stores and buy stuff, do things. In a way. I didn't feel it as as badly, but that there was a lot more restrictions now that we had before.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:39:55] Ok, now you were telling me you decided to volunteer, and I want you to tell me about that. And I want you to tell me about your dad's arrests. And why? What was the pretext for each one? They use some kind of silly pretext. What is it, if they do?
Joseph Dabby: [01:40:16] They, I don't know what the pretext were. Honestly, I don't know. I didn't ask. He got arrested. Worst case was in, as I said, sixty three, sixty four. After that, there were some. Scraps here and there, but they weren't that heavy, you know, like maybe arrested, came to visit him in the store for a few hours or took him for questioning for a few hours, like within a day or two, he was fine. But the worst case was sixty three, sixty four. And then later on in [LS: how long was he arrested in sixty three how long was it?].
Joseph Dabby: [01:40:58] it was much longer was I don't remember how long but it was longer and we couldn't reach him, we couldn't know what's happening with him. So that's why we were [LS: like a month or two?] I don't, I don't think so.
Joseph Dabby: [01:41:11] I think it was also weeks, but I'm really not sure. And because usually we manage to find out where he is and what's happening. In this case, we couldn't find anything. That's why we were I was very worried, too. That even got the ulcer. When I finished high school and I had nothing to do or I could not work. As a Jew, I could not go and find a job. So. What was I going to do with my time, so I decided this is the best thing to do is to help the school.
[01:41:45] So I went and volunteered to work in the school [LS: in the Jewish school] in the Frank Iny school and at the time. Obadiah asked me to take care of the library, and I helped with some classes, you know, sometimes the teachers didn't come in or or they had something happen here or there.
Joseph Dabby: [01:42:09] So I used to help some of the smaller kids I used to take teach them. I also gave a course in typing, stuff like that.
Joseph Dabby: [01:42:18] But most of the time I was actually either in the library. But for some reason, as I said, because I also multilingual. Because at the time I spoke five different dialects of Arabic, I spoke to three Iraqi, I spoke Egyptian and I spoke Lebanese. So because of that, plus the fact that I'm French, I speak French and I speak English well.
Joseph Dabby: [01:42:43] I became the spokesman of the school, so any time anybody came, uh, they would.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:42:50] What do you mean by anybody? Reporters?
Joseph Dabby: [01:42:52] Yeah. There was a lot of reporters coming to check on the status of the Jews in Iraq and and stuff. So basically, the fact that they kept the school open and active was their way out.
Joseph Dabby: [01:43:07] So the first thing they did is they took them, brought them to the school. See? This whole school is Jewish and still works on its own. Everything is open, you know, no restrictions. So that was perfect for them. They had a perfect place a
Lisette Shashoua: [01:43:24] and you actually were on camera there?
Joseph Dabby: [01:43:27] So they they used to send me to speak to those reporters, you know, and and I became adept because all these people around me would write up notes and give them to me. And I used I became adept at passing on notes to some of these reporters. Anyway, [LS: because why?] They wanted to know that things are not good for the Jews, but they didn't want to do it officially, I mean, I couldn't have opened my mouth because these reporters are coming with security agents, with them. If I would have opened my mouth the wrong way, I would have been arrested immediately.
Joseph Dabby: [01:44:05] So I knew the downside to it and I had to play it that way.
Joseph Dabby: [01:44:10] So I was as I said, I became adept at passing on notes and I had to only to certain ones that I trusted that I would pass it. So I was there. Every day doing that.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:44:24] Do you know who was there, the BBC?
Joseph Dabby: [01:44:28] There was quite a few Europeans. I'm not sure I think there was also one group that came from the States, but I didn't they did not I didn't know these companies at that time, so I didn't really care or keep it in memory. The worst part was all of a sudden, one day Mrs. Lucy shows up.
Joseph Dabby: [01:45:00] That was abnormal to me. Because she never. She had no money and I knew that because Noami and lady were friends with her daughter, so we knew. We knew exactly.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:45:12] She showed up from England, from London?
Joseph Dabby: [01:45:14] She flew from England. She came to visit us.
Joseph Dabby: [01:45:19] She didn't say anything. She didn't say tell us anything. But she's standing there asking what's happening? This was happening, that. I couldn't-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:45:28] she came with the reporters?
Joseph Dabby: [01:45:30] No, she came by herself. Uh. Many years later, Noami spoke to her daughter and she was told that the Jewish group in England. Paid her to go to Iraq.
Joseph Dabby: [01:45:56] That's my wife opening up the garage, sory. The Jewish group in England knew that she was.
Joseph Dabby: [01:46:07] Like for many years, she was in Iraq teaching at the school, so they figured the safest thing to do is to send her back, to see what to get a real view of what's happening.
Joseph Dabby: [01:46:20] I she didn't say anything.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:46:23] Because she had been she had retired and went back to England.
Joseph Dabby: [01:46:26] That's right. Yeah. So they figure she can come in and she can take a look and speak to everybody and everybody will speak to her because they knew that when the reporters are coming, nobody is telling them anything. Worst case, they're getting a piece of paper saying things aren't that good. So basically, the problem was.
Joseph Dabby: [01:46:46] She ended up in my lap. And I did not want to tell her anything.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:46:52] Why?
Joseph Dabby: [01:46:54] Two reasons, one, I didn't know why she was there. I know that she doesn't have the money to have spent. To buy a ticket from England to Iraq and back, she didn't have that money, so who?
Joseph Dabby: [01:47:09] Is financing her, for all I know, it could be the government of Iraq financing her to try and get an inside feel of the status.
Joseph Dabby: [01:47:20] So I I couldn't trust her. That was one point. The other point is, even if she would have told us that she came based on these, that she was sent by the Jewish deputies and in England to find out the status and all the other stuff, I wouldn't have told her anything. Because. To protect her.
Joseph Dabby: [01:47:46] The only way for her to have informed the Jews in England of what's happening with us would have been either to call them and they would have definitely been listening.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:47:59] Why she would have gone back to England she can tell them when she's there
Joseph Dabby: [01:48:03] I had no idea how long she's planning to stay. So if she had to report to the British, she either had to call them to tell them what's happening or to send them a letter either way.They're going to catch her.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:48:19] You were thinking
Joseph Dabby: [01:48:21] So I was protecting her by not giving her anything this way, she had no way of being caught.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:48:30] Oh, boy, you were really thinking too far ahead.
Joseph Dabby: [01:48:35] Well, I think I did the right thing because of the fact that.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:48:38] Did she not talk to the other teachers? [inaudible]
Joseph Dabby: [01:48:44] Semha Abdullah and [inaudible] I am their, the only spokesman. So I was making all the decisions.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:48:56] Oh, boy. How long did she stay a week?
Joseph Dabby: [01:49:02] Yeah, not not long because.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:49:05] Didn't she speak to the students?
Joseph Dabby: [01:49:08] There was none of her students there anymore.
Joseph Dabby: [01:49:12] All she had left already like about four or five years before, so and she only taught in high school. Yeah. So nobody was there left. And she when she was there, she didn't know where the people live, so she couldn't go to somebody's house in.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:49:32] How terrible,
Joseph Dabby: [01:49:33] Even though if she would have done that, she would have gotten herself into trouble because all the Jewish homes were being. Looked at by the security. Yeah, so at this point in time, I played it the safe way, protecting her and protecting us. So I wouldn't I really didn't think it would be something abnormal for the Iraqis, the Iraqi government, to bring somebody like her. To get the inside view of the community.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:50:10] But but the government doesn't need Miss Lucy to tell us they knew what they were doing. [JD: no] the government knew what they were doing.
Joseph Dabby: [01:50:22] They knew what they were doing, but they didn't know what was happening inside the community. I discovered that physically later on [LS: how?] I told you I wanted to study something to learn, you know, like we're used to learning.
Joseph Dabby: [01:50:38] So eventually there was. A school to repair TVs and radios opened somewhere in Baghdad. The guy that opened it was from a very well known Muslim family, like high ups, and they can't be touched. He went to study, I think, in England, he finished and he came back and opened that school. So. I went and asked him if I can join. He says, yes, so I explained to him I'm Jewish and all the other stuff, he said, that's fine with me, I have no problem with.
Joseph Dabby: [01:51:18] He. We had a very open relationship discussions at the time. Obadiah was worried about some of the old books in the library, so he asked me to get rid of a whole batch of books, any books that had to do with radios and other stuff. He didn't want them there, so he wanted me to destroy them. Now he's asking a kid that was educated in Frank Iny where we were taught to take care of our books like Gold. And he's asking me to go and destroy those books? I couldn't do that. So what I did is I asked this. Teacher. If it's OK, if I bring him some of these books and put it in his library, so he asked me why and I explained to him and he says, yeah, no problem. He took me to his office and he showed me had some bookshelves and he said, just put them in here. So one day I came to the office to do the school. There was a car parked outside one of those ritzy North American cars and running at full blast with the air conditioner running. So I found it a bit weird, but I didn't say anything, I went in. Knocked on his door, opened it. He was sitting there and then in front of him, there was a few people, which I do not know. So I asked him, I told him I have some books is it OK if I put them in. So he says, yeah, go. So I went and put them in. When I finished, he called me and he said in front of these guys was asking me about the Jews.
Joseph Dabby: [01:53:05] These were government people. And he was because I told you he was from a very high up family. And he had all the contacts, so he was asking me and I answered him [LS: in front of these guys?] Yeah, yeah, I listen, I am not the type of person that.
Joseph Dabby: [01:53:29] You know, you asked me-
Lisette Shashoua: [01:53:31] Did you say what the books are?
Joseph Dabby: [01:53:32] No, I didn't say what he didn't ask me about the books he asked me about. The Jews, like any any one of the questions, I don't remember exactly where it was, but I answered it by basically saying that I guarantee you that none of the Jews would do anything to harm Iraq.That would never happen.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:53:52] That was the question?
Joseph Dabby: [01:53:54] One to answer one of the one of the questions I don't remember what the question. So there was issues like that that came up and I answered them. Then he said, thank you. And I left.
Joseph Dabby: [01:54:06] So they definitely were very interested in finding out what's happening in the community. They knew what they were doing. Some of them knew what was happening, but not all of them knew what was doing.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:54:20] Ok, OK, so we're going to have to try to wrap up a little bit, go a little faster, um, I want to know now about, about when you decided to escape and how you escaped?
Joseph Dabby: [01:54:38] Well, basically. In sixty nine, when I joined the school, I started being the spokesman of the school, for some reason, I became the center of communications, everything that was coming through me.
Joseph Dabby: [01:54:54] And I have. A weird thing with my mind is I can hear a lot of stories that have no relationship, but they sit in the back of my mind and eventually they into and interlace and make sense. Actually, I discovered a few years ago that Obadiah used to call me The Walking Encyclopedia.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:55:24] [laughs] Wow, what a compliment from Obadiah. The principal of the school.
Joseph Dabby: [01:55:28] So basically we were. I was getting information from different people about different things, and at the same time the war between the Kurds and Iraq ended in sixty nine. So at that point in time. We had a new way to possibly get out of Iraq through the north, which was not available because there was like the war between the Kurds and the Iraqis was on for many years.
Joseph Dabby: [01:56:00] At that point. There was another problem. The Iraqi government decided that any people living in Iraq that are originally from Iran are going to be taken and dumped on the border with Iran. So there was a family, you know, them Zilkha, Aodi Zilka. His originally they are from Iran. So we figured if they take them and they throw them on the border with Iran, either the Muslim Iraqis will kill them when they know that they're Jews or then the Iranians are going to kill them when they know they're Jews. So we have to find a way to get them out. We started asking, you know, investigating, I met finally a gentleman that I did not know because he's much younger than me. Uh.
Joseph Dabby: [01:57:04] He's from the Zubaida family, but he's not related to Albert Zubaida in London.
Joseph Dabby: [01:57:12] He this guy was really crazy in some ways because he used to go to embassies, find ways to steel himself in and speak to the people inside. In the process, he found somebody that will actually take the Zilkhas out of Iraq through the north.
Joseph Dabby: [01:57:37] So he told me about that. It happens to be that Aodi Zilkha's family used to live not far away from Nassim Shina [ph]. Yusuf Shina used to go every day to Aodi's house to be with him. So it was planned that they're leaving the next morning, early in the morning, so they were preparing and then, Yusif Shina showed up. And in the process, he was there, he felt something is not normal. So he forced them to tell him what's happening. So they mentioned it to him and he immediately said, I'm coming with you. So Zubaida guy shows up at, rangthe door in my house at 11:00 at night. You know, at 11:00 at night, somebody rings your door, you think it's the security people.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:58:36] Now we are talking mainly about escapes from Iraq, how the young people had to escape. Yeah, sorry continue.
Joseph Dabby: [01:58:45] So basically, he told me what happened and all the other stuff. So I said, what were you upset about? It's one more person, and Joseph Yusuf is going to pay for himself. What are you upset about? Let him go. What do you care? If the guy is ready to take him with him and he's getting paid for it? Let him go. So he left with them [LS: Yusif Shina left?] With the Zilkha.
Lisette Shashoua: [01:59:15] And now Yusif Shina's father was your dad's partner.
Joseph Dabby: [01:59:16] Yeah. For a few weeks, I kept asking my father if Nassim mentioned anything about his son. No, he didn't say a word. Personally, I'm speculating here, I don't have proof, but I think what happened is. When Yusif Shina got to the Israeli embassy in Tehran. And they figured out. Which Shina it is. A whole bunch of bowls fell in place. Because
Joseph Dabby: [01:59:54] Naseem Shina.
Joseph Dabby: [01:59:57] Has a sister called Regina Shina. She was tops of the Labor Party in Israel. She was at the top. That woman can call the president of the United States and ask him something, she had so much power. So my feeling is when that whole thing clicked that way, the Israelis knew that they had a new way out.
Joseph Dabby: [02:00:28] Because Basra was no longer available.
Joseph Dabby: [02:00:32] So my feeling that that's what happened, as I said, this is my speculation. At that point in time, I didn't know this, I discovered this after the fact. They sent a very high Kurdish guy to Baghdad to meet with Nassim.
Joseph Dabby: [02:00:55] And he explained to him how to set it up so that he can move the whole community out through the north safely and without problems. Nassim is the type of person that is scared of his shadow.
Joseph Dabby: [02:01:10] He didn't do anything. He had the way to get the whole community out of Iraq safely without paying a penny. And without causing any problems. He didn't do anything.
Joseph Dabby: [02:01:28] Just before the day or two days before he left, I heard that he mentioned it to a couple of friends. One of them was Atah [ph] the other one I don't know. And these two decided to make some money out of it, so they told people that they can take them out, but they want to get paid per head. And then the whole group was caught on the way to the north and arrested and put in jail for a few for a while. All of that, because Nassim Shina decided not to do what he was told by the Israeli government.
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:09] The other problem that I discovered-
Lisette Shashoua: [02:02:13] Now, is this something you heard or is this part of the speculation?
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:18] No, this is this is part I heard. This is definite. This is definitely [LS: this is not speculation anymore] Yeah.
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:25] One day I came back-
Lisette Shashoua: [02:02:27] what is speculated is that they realized who he is, related to this lady, and so they figured they could trust him.
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:35] By no, I think my spec, but I'm speculating is, I showed them, by sending him out with the Zilkhas, we showed them that there is a way to go out this way, which they did not think about or know about.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:02:50] Oh, wow.
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:51] That's what I'm speculating.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:02:52] And when did Fuad Saudaii leave? After [inaudible] After Zilkha?
Joseph Dabby: [02:02:57] I don't really know
Lisette Shashoua: [02:02:58] what year, what year did, what year, what month did Aodi leave?
Joseph Dabby: [02:03:04] Early in 70. Like maybe seven. Yeah, like maybe, I don't know, maybe February, March or April, maybe I left in August seventy. so basically one day I came back from school and my father was screaming in the room. So I didn't know what was happening. I went and asked my mother what's happening? She told me that. Nassim Shina has a way to go out to leave. But he told my father that he won't take him with him.
Joseph Dabby: [02:03:41] And my father knew that if Nassim and Anwar leave without him, he's dead. So I went in. [LS: why dead?]
Joseph Dabby: [02:03:53] Because of the fact that he's the most known of the group, if the other two escaped and he didn't go out with them, they're going to he's going to get arrested and he's going to get beaten up to tell them how they did it or what they did. Even though he didn't know, it doesn't make a difference, he's going to get beaten up and killed. So I went in and I explained to him that I I helped Joe, Yousif Shina leave and I can get him out before them at the same time with them. And if I want to, I can even block them from leaving. He started feeling better and he quieted down. What I discovered a few years ago is that there was another change in their. When Nassim told Anwar that he had a way out. And the two of them only are leaving without my father, and when I said I am not leaving if Khedouri not with us. So he forced Nassim to change his mind. So that way, we actually all three families left at the same time.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:05:02] And how many were you all together?
Joseph Dabby: [02:05:08] Uh, Nassim Shina, he was. Himself, his wife. His son, Haqi [ph]. And I I think his parents were still there or they are dead already, I don't remember. Anyway that was them and he took a few other people with him. We were four people, my parents, myself and my brother Jack, and he made us take a few more people with us in the car. [LS: What about Farah? your sister?] We didn't because she just gave birth and she was we didn't want to open problems. So at that point in time, it was safer for her to be there with with with us out. And then Anwar was also another that we were three cars on the way up north we met with a very high Peshmerga official. Peshmerga is the is the Kurdish army. That's what they call themselves. And he was the one that's supposed to coordinate everything and take us through the border. Nassim was in front of us, we were way behind him. We're driving and I see this Kurdish guy walking on the street, so I stop the car and we took him back with us, Nassim was too scared to have him in the car with him. So he left them out in the middle of the of the road in the middle of nowhere
Lisette Shashoua: [02:06:39] You took a car. it was your own car?
Joseph Dabby: [02:06:40] No, we were we were taxis, OK. Because don't forget, in Iraq, they all had the big GM and Ford cars, they were very wide and they had bench seats so they could easily fit five or six, five people on each bench so they can easily fit eight or 10 people inside the car. So anyway, we took him with us. This is a guy that's taking us out and he takes him out of the car and dumps him in the middle of the street, nowhere near not even a village. So he can go and find a way to get somewhere. Anyway, we took him, we got there and we stayed in a. He took us to a hotel, a small hotel somewhere near the border. We stayed there for, I think, a day or so.
Joseph Dabby: [02:07:30] And then. One night, something like maybe two o'clock in the morning in August, they we walked across the border. Just like that, we didn't pay a penny to anyone.
Joseph Dabby: [02:07:47] We got into the onto the Iranian side, the we were met with the also Kurds and some security people from Iran, and we were taken to a hotel in Iran on the other side of the border. [LS: That was when the Shah was there] Yeah, the Shah was still there. So the situation with the Jews in Israel was very good. And we woke up in the morning, we discovered that they had a problem so they couldn't bring the luggage across the border, so. At that point in time, what was decided, everybody left except for me, Haqi,
Joseph Dabby: [02:08:24] and another guy I can't remember his name now. Somebody that wasn't related to the family that was brought there with by Nassim. So we walked around the whole village, whatever the whole, the whole day. That night, they managed to bring in the luggage. Next morning, the security guy took us with the luggage, put us on the bus and we. Got on the bus, we. Went to some bigger city and there we got on a train and went to, got to Tehran and he took us to a hotel that was assigned for the Jews at that point. [LS: Splendid, Splendid hotel?] I don't remember the name of one of the problems we had on the way was, you know, in Iraq, we couldn't put on Star of David or anything. So we had the Torah.
Joseph Dabby: [02:09:24] So Haqi was wearing one and it was out so that everybody on the bus was asking, what is this? What is this? So the security guy got worried about it. So he asked him to put it away, to hide it. And he explained to them that it was just a book or something. I don't know what he did.
Joseph Dabby: [02:09:40] So anyway, he was really worried about us. He wanted to protect us. Anyway, we got in. To Tehran and in Tehran, basically, a few days later, they took us to the Israeli embassy and we got a laisser passer to go to Israel and we got to Israel the day after I got into the hotel. There was something happened before this whole process in the beginning,
Joseph Dabby: [02:10:13] I don't remember it was, late sixties nine or early 70s, Meir Rabia [ph] Convinced us to take a trip to the north. Remember, in the summer, we used to go to the. Yeah, yeah. [overlap] Oh, because the war was finished and he wanted he claimed he wanted to see the north. Because we used to go there and spend two or three weeks every summer because it was colder there, cooler. So anyway, we agreed I went with him, Meir Rabia, and I don't remember, I think it was Samir Gabbay. And maybe Albert Zubaida. I'm not sure. I think we were three, four, maybe five people. We got to the north. And then I was worried because Meir was asking every, everywhere we go on how to get out.
Joseph Dabby: [02:11:12] And he was asking it in taxis, these people could be like 50, 50 percent of the people could be security agents. If we get arrested and they can kill us and nobody would know what happened to us. So after a day or two of that, I forced all of them to go back to Baghdad as I was, I knew that we could end up only. In bad shape. So Meir was very upset with me. We got to.
Joseph Dabby: [02:11:44] Baghdad, one day I was on the bike because I used to go to Meir and Samir, they used to live next to each other and Albert also was not far away from them. So one day I was went to visit Semir and we ended up getting to Meir's house, Meir, of course, is upset with me, but all of sudden his father came to talk to me.
Joseph Dabby: [02:12:05] He wanted to know why I forced him to come back, because Meir was sure that if he would have been there for a few more days, he would have figured out a way to find a way out. I couldn't tell him that I know a way out. So I explained to him everything, hypothetically. I told him that I think that if somebody went to the Kurds, to the Peshmerga and told them that I'm Jewish and I would like to. Find a way to Iran, I told them, I'm pretty sure that they would help.
Joseph Dabby: [02:12:41] Or if not, they would tell you what to do. So anyway, we were talking for quite a while, we ended up actually I finished by the time we finished talking, I was already we walked from Meir's house to my house. I mean, that was probably over an hour walk. Meir's father, I can't remember his name right now.
Joseph Dabby: [02:13:07] Anyway. He was in business selling, he was importing equipment from Europe, and that was his business, like selling everything radios and shaving equipment and stuff like that. So I am pretty sure he had good contacts with the Peshmerga, with the Kurds. As I said, I got into the hotel. Went to sleep that night, woke up the next morning, got dressed, came down. Got to the bottom, to the main floor. The front door opens and who walks in the rabia
Joseph Dabby: [02:13:54] The whole family. His father sees me friends to me, and it gives me a hug. I am pretty sure he had contacts. So he basically did exactly what I said. He contacted his contacts and he told them he wants out and they helped him like this. This is within maybe a week after I spoke with them less than a week or.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:14:16] So, they were out within a week.
Joseph Dabby: [02:14:18] Yeah. Because I sort of gave him the. The smell of it, and he had enough contacts to be able to take care of it, and he didn't pay a penny also, [LS: what month was that?] In august.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:14:36] OK, we're going to have to go a little faster now once you got to Israel. How did it go, how did you settle it quickly, just summary?
Joseph Dabby: [02:14:48] Well, I got into Israel September nine, 1970. And basically, as an immigrant, as a new immigrant, and they decided to send us to a course to study Hebrew and to like to get ready for.
[02:15:11] They sent us to the Technion, which is the technology university in Haifa. So we did the first year there, I studied Hebrew in the process also. Then the Technion gave me a test and they decided I will be best for mechanical engineering and I didn't want to mechanical, I wanted electronics, no, mechanical. So at that point of time, after I finished first year, I took off, went. Applied in Beer Sheva University, and I studied electronics there for three years. So I was, I did very well.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:15:52] How were you able to, was it free schooling? I mean,
Joseph Dabby: [02:15:54] Yeah, that was part of the Aliyah.
[02:15:59] Ah ok. Aliya is the immigration.
Joseph Dabby: [02:16:01] So basically, there was it was all immigrants. Like, I had a lot of Romanians and Russians and some other, you know, it was it was really mixed in the.
Joseph Dabby: [02:16:13] And Hebrew is very simple, honestly, [LS: if you speak Arabic] if you speak Arabic, it's 50 percent Arabic. So like within less than a month, I already was able to speak. I remember the time.
Joseph Dabby: [02:16:27] I took the train back from Haifa to Tel Aviv, and that was the weekend, that was the week that my parents, because they stayed in Iran for a few more months because they had friends and they wanted to meet with them and all the other stuff. So I knew that they were coming in. So I didn't know where they were going to be staying, so I got to the Tel Aviv station. And I got out and I found somebody that works at the station and I asked him for telephone sibui [ph], which is a public phone in Israel. Everything was public phones and there was a special coin, a simon [ph], to use it. And I had a whole bunch of them in my pocket because I needed to call. So the guy looks at me and says, no, we don't have one. Or do you need one for so explain to him in Hebrew. I was speaking to him in Hebrew all this time, explaining to him in Hebrew that I'm a new immigrant. I came here about a month or so ago and my parents came into Israel this week. And I need to call my sisters to find out where they are so I can go see them. This guy looks at me and he says, You're telling me you are new immigrants, you've been here for a month and you're talking to me in Hebrew? I said, yeah. So he went crazy. He went. He says it's not public fund. He went took me to the the manager of the station and he explained to him and he told him exactly what we spoke about. That guy also went crazy. He also asked me the same question. I answered him. So he told his guy, take him to my office, let him use the phone as many times as he needs, as long as he gets what he needs. [LS: Wow] that was really weird. So I called and I found out where my parents are and ended up going to see them.
Joseph Dabby: [02:18:17] So that was I remember also once I was staying in the beginning, I stayed at, in the beginning I stayed at Lydia, then I stayed at Noami. Your sisters? Yeah. Lydia, my second sister, lives in Givatayim so. And Naomi lived at the time, actually still lives in Kiron [ph], which is outside the city.
Joseph Dabby: [02:18:47] So I took a bus from Noami. I'm coming into Tel Aviv, actually, first in Ramat Gan and I need to get off on Bialik Street. I have no idea where that is, so I went to the driver and I asked them in English, if you can tell me. He says, I don't speak English. I said French? He said, no.
[02:19:13] I'm stuck in a bus [chuckles], don't know where to get off, so I stood in the middle of the bus and I asked my question and I said I asked anybody speaks English? Nobody answered.
Joseph Dabby: [02:19:25] So I asked in French, anybody speaks French? This old lady raises her hands says I do. So I asked her what I need in French. She said, [overlap] no, no, she was European. Yeah. So I told her what I need and she said, no problem. Stand here and I'll tell you, she told me when we got near Bialik and they got off and walked to Lydia's house, it was quite a bit of a walk, but that was the only way to get there. So, I mean, this is one of the nice things about Israel is that you can get away with practically any language.
Joseph Dabby: [02:20:07] So I finished the schooling in seventy four by then I also got married. Sorry, no, sorry, I finished in seventy four, joined the Air Force at that point. Because I was already twenty four years old. I did.
Joseph Dabby: [02:20:28] I only had to do two years but I signed an extra year, [overlap] keavah [ph] in the Air Force.So I signed an extra year.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:20:37] What were you doing, mechanical?
Joseph Dabby: [02:20:38] No I. The Air Force, the way they work, is everybody that joins the Air Force that is going to be working as a soldier is sent to a technical school north of Haifa, and there they teach them everything they need. So that way the soldiers after that can service their radars and planes and all the other stuff. So so when I got there and because I had a degree already, the school manager of the of the of the basic School of the start school decided to keep me as a teacher.
Joseph Dabby: [02:21:18] So I ended up teaching in Haifa for nearly two years and I managed the last year to get them to transfer me to another base near Tel Aviv where I was doing repairs of electronic equipment for the Army.
Joseph Dabby: [02:21:33] That was. The last base that they send any technical equipment that is not working for repair, if we cannot repair it, they ship it back to the manufacturer to repair. So. In that in that process, when I was in in the base near Tel Aviv, I got married, I met Yolande and we got married and I finished the Air Force. I had an idea for to start up a business, but it just was about five to eight years too early. So I couldn't do anything in Israel.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:22:14] What was the business you wanted to do?
Joseph Dabby: [02:22:18] I wanted to get small computers that point in time, they were just a concept coming out. [overlap] This is this is 70. Seventy seven, seventy eight. And I was thinking of writing some software on them so I can sell to companies a small computer with a special software, let's say, to do accounting or to do some other stuff like that, that was nonexistent yet at that point.
Joseph Dabby: [02:22:50] PCs did not exist yet. The problem was finding small computers at that point was also not easy. There was one company in the States, but they were so overloaded with orders they had no way of supplying anything to Israel. And I didn't have the money to go to the states or to Europe to try and find some supplier for. So it was either trying to find a job in Israel, which wasn't going to be anything interesting or go live in Canada because Yolande is Canadian, so I could do that. And every weekend she used to cry, missing her family. So in the end, we ended up coming here. We're planning to go to Toronto, not to stay in Montreal, but. Two weeks after I got here, I found a job and we ended up getting stuck in Montreal.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:23:42] Where did you find a job?
Joseph Dabby: [02:23:44] There was a small company. They worked with video games. So they hired me to repair video games for the. So that's what I did for about. Maybe six or eight months or so, and then the guy closed. He wasn't making enough money or whatever, but also he screwed me because he you know, how you pay a salary, you pay a net and you pay the government the taxes. So he gave me a net and he kept the taxes in his pocket.
Joseph Dabby: [02:24:24] So when the year finished and I did my tax papers, I was supposed to get some money back. The government said we never received the money. So anyway. That was it. I ended up here and we stayed in [LS: what did you do after that?] A short while later, I found another job somewhere else. I mean, I and by then also. Yolande found a job also like about six months or so later, she went to work at the Royal Victoria. Because she had a masters in social work, [LS: Yolande was born where?] Yoli was born in Iraq.Early fifty one. But her parents left Iraq when she was maybe six months old. [LS: So they went to Israel?] No. Uh, her father loved France. So they went to France.
Joseph Dabby: [02:25:27] They stayed in France for a year or two. Trying to get Immigration to Canada. And the immigration group and the embassy and the Canadian embassy was not behaving with them. They couldn't get them the papers. They wouldn't give them the papers. Turned out to be that Duplessis in nineteen fifty had restrictions on the number of Jews allowed in Canada so they wouldn't give it to them because they're Jews.
Joseph Dabby: [02:25:58] They were in the embassy one day and walking in a corridor to go see somebody and a guy pulled them aside and told them.
Joseph Dabby: [02:26:10] If you want to get into Canada, change your application from a Jew applying for immigration to an Arab applying for immigration. They did the change a month and a half or two months later, they got the immigration papers and they wouldn't give it to them for two years.
Joseph Dabby: [02:26:33] So that's how they came to Canada. The rest of the rest of her father's family, all in New York, were all in New York, but they didn't want to go to New York. He wanted to come to Quebec because he wants French. So that's how they ended up here. And we ended up here, too, so as I said, I found- and then she found a job at the Royal Victoria and we ended up staying in Quebec as opposed to going to the Toronto.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:27:09] Now, tell me here you you are members of a synagogue?
Joseph Dabby: [02:27:15] We were in the beginning. We were members of the synagogue [LS: which one?] The Spanish and Portuguese. But I had a major mishap. With one of my businesses, my partners embezzled. Big amount of money and left me holding the bag. So I was nearly broke and the synagogue was very expensive and was getting more expensive. So at that point in time, we stopped paying membership to the synagogue. They actually still claim that we owe them like six, seven thousand dollars [laughs] [inaudible] we never actually joined them as members, we never got anything from them for it. So, I mean, why do you ask me to pay you something that I never got? But anyway. As I said, I was nearly broke. It was a very difficult life for quite a long time. Yeah. Plus we had the girls and going to day school to Jewish Day school. So we had to pay for that. As opposed to going to regular schools, they don't have to pay much. [LS: who was your partner?] Two Ashkenazi Jews from here.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:28:39] [laughs] OK, continue
Joseph Dabby: [02:28:44] Anyway, I mean, I never knew them before, I just met them. So anyway. That was it and after that.
Joseph Dabby: [02:28:57] Well, I mean, I even went at one time and my house was paid, the mortgage was paid, I went and took a new mortgage on my house to save the company because of the money they stole.
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:10] And they claimed after that that I didn't ask for their permission, so they don't owe me anything. So I I've been paying for this mortgage for the last twenty five years.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:29:21] You didn't ask for whose permission?
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:24] The two partners.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:29:25] Permission for what?
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:26] To me get the mortgage for the house. I mentioned it to them, but I didn't get anything in writing. So they claim we didn't agree to it.
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:36] So I'm still paying a mortgage on this house today after twenty five, 30 years. That the house was paid 30 years ago
Lisette Shashoua: [02:29:44] I'm so sorry.
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:45] Hey, this is part of life, nothing goes the right way all the way.
Joseph Dabby: [02:29:52] So at this point in time, that's why I mean, we were even members of the. Lord Redding Yacht Club, we had a very good time. The girls loved it there. And then that also got messed up, thanks to some. Jews. That played some dirty games. Also. Sorry to say, Ashenazi. And that whole thing fell apart, the whole place now is nearly bankrupt, actually it did go bankrupt. They gave the whole ground and building to the city because they couldn't afford to pay it anymore. They couldn't afford to pay the. The city tax.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:30:44] Wow. Ok, now. Do you preserve your Sephardi heritage?
Joseph Dabby: [02:30:52] I am not Sephardic. We are not Sephardic. You have to identify this. Ashkenazi are European Jews. And the reason why they call Ashkenazi is because the center of Germany original name was Ashkenaz. So these are the Jews that went through central Germany. These are Ashkenazi Jews and they speak Yiddish, which is basically German with some Hebrew. Sephardic is from the word. Sfarad, which is a Hebrew word for Spain. These are the Sephardic Jews. These are the Jews that were kicked out of Spain. By, uh, what's her name? Isabel and her husband, [LS: Ferdinand]
Joseph Dabby: [02:31:47] Yeah. They were kicked out of their. They all speak Ladino, which is Spanish with Hebrew.
Joseph Dabby: [02:31:58] They were kicked out, given a very short time to leave. A lot of them went to North Africa, some of them went to other countries in Europe that would accept them at the time. A lot of countries in Europe didn't accept Jews and quite a few of them were taken by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman caliph at the time. Decided that he wants those Jews and he opened the doors to them to go to Turkey. And when the Europeans told him he is being stupid or crazy about it, he said, you are the ones that are stupid and crazy about it. These are the best people that I can bring to Turkey. And the bottom line is. Even Spain today has figured out that they made a major mistake. The problem was. Ferdinand and his wife decided at the time to start a war with Britain. And they needed money, so they borrowed money from the Jews and they lost the war. By losing the war because they figured they win the war and they're going to be able to take all the gold and all the other stuff from the from the British Empire. When they lost the war, they got nothing and they were owing all these Jews a lot of money.
Joseph Dabby: [02:33:33] So the best way to do it is to get rid of the Jews that we don't have to pay them anything. And that's when they started with the. Inquisition's and all the other stuff, they actually established the Inquisition.
Joseph Dabby: [02:33:48] Today, the Spanish government, the Spanish country has finally figured out that they made a big mistake and they opened up their mouth and they said they are going to give back all the Sephardic Jews, that they can prove that they're Sephardi, that they will give them back their nationality, their passports and national if you apply to it. But the majority did not. We are Babylonian Jews.
Joseph Dabby: [02:34:20] We did not go through Spain, so we're not Sephardic and we did not go through Europe, so we're not Ashkenazi. we're Babylonian Jews. The same thing as the Jews of Yemen are [inaudible] Jews or Yemenite Jews, depending on which language you use and the, so . We're definitely not Sephardic,
Lisette Shashoua: [02:34:43] Do you what do you think of the term Mizrahi that they're using for us?
Joseph Dabby: [02:34:48] That's excuse me for using this. It's a B.S. term that was established by the Israeli government because in the beginning they used to call all the Jews from the Middle East, from the East.
Joseph Dabby: [02:35:06] They used to call them Mizrahi. I mean, when I got to Israel also I'm sorry, they I used to call I mean, Sephardic. Then when I knew all the details about it, I actually wouldn't allow them to call me Sephardic anymore. So that eventually also surfaced to everybody else. And so they came up with a new term. Mizrahi Mizrahi is from the word the Hebrew word which means east.
Joseph Dabby: [02:35:34] So these are the Easterns Easterners. Uh. It has really nothing to do with us.Because of the fact that, uh.
Joseph Dabby: [02:35:49] The other actually, I mean, honestly, the only reasonable or acceptable is Babylonian Jews.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:35:56] So do you preserve that, the Babylonian Jewish heritage?
Joseph Dabby: [02:36:00] Yes, yes.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:36:01] The celebrations, prayers food?
Joseph Dabby: [02:36:04] One hundred percent.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:36:04] Ok, and what is the most important part of that heritage for you? The Babylonian Jewish heritage.
Joseph Dabby: [02:36:14] The whole kit and caboodle, I mean, I'm not picky about things, I see them not as just plain must it's to me, it's part of my life.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:36:30] How would you describe yourself in terms of your identity, Jewish, Canadian, Babylonian? What's your identity?
Joseph Dabby: [02:36:43] I would say being Jewish is definitely a primary. But the rest of it, I don't I don't really care whether. I mean, I'm in a way, I'm happy it's Canadian, I'm Canadian, but that's really not something that I am going to be boasting about or anything like that. But I the fact that I'm. I mean, I'm happy about it, but I'm not.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:37:11] But your identity, you.
Joseph Dabby: [02:37:13] My identity, I'm Jewish.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:37:16] Ok.
Joseph Dabby: [02:37:18] And the fact that I told you also that from my family name, I am a direct descendant of King David. To me, that is more than just an identity. It's also. A responsibility.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:37:34] A responsibility for what?
Joseph Dabby: [02:37:38] To my bretheren, to my to the other Jews. To be part of them, to be to help in any way I can.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:37:47] Ok, do you consider yourself a refugee or an immigrant?
Joseph Dabby: [02:37:53] I never considered myself a refugee. I'm an immigrant, I emigrated to Israel, I hold an Israeli passport and a Canadian passport. I emigrated to Canada. My cousins tried to convince me to go and live in L.A.. I would have immigrated to the U.S., too, but I decided against it.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:38:16] Ok, where do you consider home?
Joseph Dabby: [02:38:26] Good question, but a tough one in a way, in a way, I consider.
Joseph Dabby: [02:38:33] Part of my life in Baghdad is as part of home. It, as I said, relatively, it was a good life. I also consider Israel as a home, but I have some issues with Israel. That's why I also didn't want to stay there. And here is fine, I mean, I've been living in. Here for what now nearly. 30. 30 plus nearly 40 years, so. After 40 years, I mean, I'm fine, I. Speak English and French. And I read and write four languages, so I read and write English, French, Hebrew and Arabic. And I'm fully. Fluent in French here, although I do get into trouble sometimes because my French is more French than Quebecers, some Quebecers don't understand me when I speak to them in French because it's not said the right way, the way that some Quebecers speak. I've had this problem like about four or five times already in my life
Lisette Shashoua: [02:39:52] So you consider Montreal home.
Joseph Dabby: [02:39:52] The truth is, if I I'm.
Joseph Dabby: [02:39:56] I'm out of a job, so I'm right now looking for a job, and if I search for a job and find one in Toronto, I would not think twice to move to Toronto. [LS: ok but Canada is home] Yeah, but to me, I mean, the reason I would move to Toronto is I my two eldest daughter is now living in Toronto and my oldest daughter has a son who is three years old and twin girls that are nearly eight months. So, yeah, it would have been more fun to be near them and be useful to them also.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:40:35] What identity do you want to pass on to your grandchildren, children and grandchildren?
Joseph Dabby: [02:40:43] It's. It's what I've always done is I've always brought them.
Joseph Dabby: [02:40:51] Updated them on the facts about the I was born in Iraq and all the other stuff. The only thing that I decided in the beginning was to not to teach them Arabic. I did not think Canadian girls knowing a bit of Arabic. And going to some Arab country and speaking, it would be in more danger than not speaking Arabic.
Joseph Dabby: [02:41:18] So besides, if they also know that they are Jewish on top of that, that's actually puts them in more jeopardy. So I decided not to teach them Arabic. Besides, it wouldn't have been easy because of the fact that. Yolly sort of understands a bit of Arabic, but she doesn't speak it, like if my wife was also Arabic, we would have probably been speaking Arabic between us. The girls would have been able to understand it and pick it up. But the mistake that I did is I should have spoken to them in Hebrew, which I did not think about.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:41:53] So you spoke to them in English?
Joseph Dabby: [02:41:56] We spoke with everybody in English and [overlap]
Joseph Dabby: [02:42:02] Well, all three of them are English, French and Hebrew because [overlap] yeah, because they all went to Solomon Shechter here. Talia went through Herzeliyah for high school. Sabrina went through a school that in Cote St. Luc. Can't remember which name it is, [Natalie] is the only one that studied in Montreal West in a regular high school. She's the only one that saves us the not having to pay for the. Fees, the fees for the Jewish schools, for for the high school.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:42:49] What impact did the immigration experience have on your life, immigration? What impact did that have on your life?
Joseph Dabby: [02:43:01] I don't really think it did. I mean. I am what I am, I meant that it did not make me feel worse or better or anything. I mean, don't don't forget I am.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:43:15] But you are safe.
Joseph Dabby: [02:43:17] Yeah, but I mean, I really never felt very unsafe in Iraq either.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:43:22] But what would have happened had you stayed?
Joseph Dabby: [02:43:26] If I would have stayed yeah I could have been not safe, but the time that I was there, I did not feel unsafe. So that makes a difference.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:43:35] Yeah I mean, if you had stayed there, what do you think your life would have been?
Joseph Dabby: [02:43:38] Would have been not nice. I know that. That's why the minute I found a way to get out, I, I did.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:43:44] And obviously. Did you ever go back to Iraq?
Joseph Dabby: [02:43:47] No. I wouldn't.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:43:51] OK, last question. What message would you like to give to anyone who might listen to this interview?
[02:44:00] The bottom line is something that I mentioned before and you also mentioned is the fact that the majority actually all the whole world especially. The the Jews don't know about the fact that we, the Jews of Babylon, were the backbone of the Jewish religion. We kept it alive and well. All the books that I read today are written by our forefathers. So what I need them to know is that we are more than just refugees from Iraq or something. We are for two thousand six hundred years. We actually built that religion the way it is today.
Joseph Dabby: [02:45:00] And. One of the things that they should also know is that up to the 13 hundreds AD. The Jews of Baghdad controlled the religion all over the world.
Joseph Dabby: [02:45:16] It's just something that also drove me crazy for a long time, because how the hell did they manage to do that when there was no mail, no telephones? No, no, no, no, no way of communicating.
Joseph Dabby: [02:45:30] But I know that if somebody in England had a question, a question about halakhah somewhere, they would write a letter, send it to Baghdad and they would get back a answer on what to do and how to do it. Which was weird, how the hell did that happen? It doesn't make sense. I figured it out actually a short while ago. The Jews came to Babylon. After a while, they decided. To spread out, and they proved that they're so able and powerful that they were actually given. In a way, free reign, even though they were slaves. Officially, they were released from slavery by Cyrus the Great when he took over Babylon. But before that, they were doing whatever they wanted. So what happened is the Jews got involved in Caravans.
Joseph Dabby: [02:46:35] Using those caravans that went to Europe, they were moving their books and letters and other stuff back and forth.
Joseph Dabby: [02:46:43] Eventually they made up their own caravans.
Joseph Dabby: [02:46:49] And those caravans went all the way to the Far East, to Shanghai and northern China and all the other stuff, so they the Silk Road, they probably were [LS: the Silk Road]
Joseph Dabby: [02:47:01] And that's why the Europeans hated the Silk Road, because of the fact that they had to buy stuff from Jews. That may have been the other reason behind it. By having by owning these caravans.
Joseph Dabby: [02:47:17] They controlled. Everything from Europe, North Africa, all the way to China. That's how the same books that were written in Babylon today, I read in synagogues in Europe. In North Africa or in China, this is something that really drove me crazy because the first time I left Israel. I flew to Holland. And I have to go and do the year of my father when I was in Holland, so I went to a synagogue there reading the book and it's the same book that I used to read in Baghdad.
Joseph Dabby: [02:47:59] With some minor change. How can that be? How did that book make it from Baghdad. To Holland?
Joseph Dabby: [02:48:12] And this wasn't something that happened yesterday or the day before that happened a thousand years ago.
Joseph Dabby: [02:48:19] And that's the way they did it. So they were using these caravans to move everything, so they were shipping these books out of Iraq. To Europe and all over the world, around thirteen hundred, the whole thing fell apart because that's when the Mongols attacked. And the Mongols, if you know, they destroyed everything and killed everybody, they could, and because of that, the whole structure of the. Middle East, even in Europe, fell apart and it did not recover fast enough. That's why that's when the the Sephardic guys, because these were in Spain, it was Babylonian Jews that went with the Arabs all the way to Spain. Because you know, that they owned they invaded the bottom part of Spain and that was actually [overlap] the Arabs. So a lot of the the cities in the south of Spain are Arabic names because the Arabs took all of that section, so when this fell apart, the Jews in the ex Babylonian Jews in Spain took over. And the rabbis in Europe also started coming up with their own.
Joseph Dabby: [02:49:59] Interpretations. Now, these rabbis didn't know how to read Hebrew well and didn't know how to read Aramaic. So basically, that's how you ended up with a whole bunch of [overlap] new versions of the Jewish religion
Joseph Dabby: [02:50:16] [overlap] yeah. And a lot of concept that we had nothing to do with the Jewish book. There is nothing in the Jewish religion about shaving a woman's head. Some of them do that.
Joseph Dabby: [02:50:32] [overlap] or the payet also [LS: or the black clothes] or wearing the tzitzit all the time. That's also a [overlap] Tzitzit does not require you to be worn all the time. Only if you misinterpreted it, if you read it. But you don't exactly understand the nuances behind it. You would think it is, but it's not.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:51:01] But this black clothes and stuff is definitely not the basis of the religion, although this is this is basically how it happened.
Joseph Dabby: [02:51:09] This is why you have all these new sects, I call them sects. Some of them I don't even call them Jews. They're not. As far as I'm concerned, they're divergents.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:51:20] They don't call us the Jews either. [JD: I know] They think they are the ones,
Joseph Dabby: [02:51:24] As far as I'm concerned, they're divergents.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:51:27] Yeah. Thank you, that was that was very enlightening.
Joseph Dabby: [02:51:33] Actually, for those looking at this. One more point. I'm sorry to delay you another couple of minutes, but. You should all know that. The Jews in Babylon, about a thousand years after Babylon. A lot of stuff that you heard today is stuff that I have learned, yes, in the last 30 years when I started studying and investigating some of this stuff. And these are things that even the seniors and the Iraqi Jews do not know.
Lisette Shashoua: [02:52:12] And I was just made aware of it the last four or five years myself. Thank you, Joe. [JD: Thanks] OK, thanks.