[00:13:13] Lisette: Welcome dear Sami, Thank you for participating in Sephardi Voices. I would like to ask you your full name and when were you born and where please.
[00:00:13] Sami Sourani: My full name is Sami Sourani, I was born in Baghdad, Iraq April 14, 1934. Uh, my father's name is Gogi, or George. My mother's name is Sheffika. We lived, at that time, when I was born, in my grandfather's big house. It was maybe the last big houses that the Jewish community had in Baghdad. [00:00:43] It was very, very big, two stories. Uh, open, there is no ceiling, the ceiling is open and two, the first level you have the uh, the kitchen and all the uh, things to prepare food and there is also a sort of a basement. In the basement they used to store food for three months, six months in case there is a problem and they cannot go out of the house. [00:01:16] They stayed there and they have the food. Uh, on one side they have they have sort of a small going down place where they keep water. In the old days they did not have uh, water pipe coming to the houses. The water was brought by someone from the river. He carried that in bags made of calf skin. [00:01:43] And then they put it in a big containers of burned clay. And uh, then the water tanks [?] and they put sometimes uh, chemicals, not in the ancient times. In the ancient times they used to put a small turtle. The turtle eats all the flies and the water comes down from the pumice things and there, from the container and they use the water.
[00:02:13] Lisette: Sorry, the clay, the water is in the clay pot..
[00:02:18] Sami Sourani: Yeah, hub [?] yeah.
[00:02:20] Lisette: And the hub is not covered.
[00:02:21] Sami Sourani: They covered it, yeah.
[00:02:23] Lisette: But how come there was flies?
[00:02:25] Sami Sourani: Oh, because from the river. It's water from the river. Also the house has a well but the wells, the water of the wells are not that sanitary, not all the time because they have big sewage container in the middle and they have also trees. Either eucalyptus tree or fig trees both the roots absorb water in big quantities so the sewer is clean. [00:02:56] You know, the water from the soil was clean, that was their way, their system. And the second floor, big rooms in each room one of his sons lived. But only one son lived with him at that time and then my father. On the top we had the cei- the roof where we slept in the summer. [00:03:20] My grandfather was rather a special kind of person. He was not tall, medium sized. He was not fat at all. He died at the age of 120 and he had different kind of life that we cannot lead now at all. He, uh, instead of drinking water, most of the time he squeezed a pomegranate and drink the juice of the pomegranate. [00:03:48] In the morning he used to go very early to the synagogue and come back and food on the table. Um, eggs that have [?]. He took some and sucked them, you know, one after the other and then the butter made right away. The bread baked right away and the cream and everything, you know, fresh.
[00:04:14] Lisette: In that house. Baked in the house?
[00:04:14] Sami Sourani: In the house. Everything in the house, yeah. Because they have a clay oven where they put, where they back the, the bread in the house.
[00:04:25] Lisette: And the butter, how did they...
[00:04:27] Sami Sourani: The butter they put that in a container made of skin, yeah, calf skin and they churn it until the butter becomes, comes up, you know. So his life was like this. On Friday, all the family, all the children, grandchildren get together and we had all sorts of uh, Friday dinner and they bring a huge carp. They cut it and they fry it because I don't know if it was traditional to eat uh, fish on Friday. [00:05:03] So that was his life.
[00:05:05] Lisette: Did you say you ate calf or fish?
[00:05:08] Sami Sourani: No, no, fish. Carp. Carp.
[00:05:12] Lisette: Carp.
[00:05:12] Sami Sourani: Carp fish yeah, yeah. And uh, he, my grandfather had ten kids, five boys and five girls. Not all of them survived but my cousin in Israel find out that he's descendent now of 1000 to 300 and out of those 123 medical doctors and many engineers, chartered accountants, etc. But some of them of not just living in Israel. You can, she said to me, name a continent and you find one of the descendents of our grandfather. [00:05:52] I tried to gather more information but I couldn't. Either the people are too old or passed away and not all of them are interested in their past. Anyhow, we stayed, as far as I remember, I was four years old when my grandfather passed away and they couldn't handle the big house. It was a huge uh, especially during the time of flood. the level of the water came up, the basement was full of water and all food would get spoiled. [00:06:24] So they sold the house, they tear it down and they made out of it a sort of warehouse, business warehouse to, and then it was totally demolished. We moved...
[00:06:35] Lisette: You had servants. How many servants are doing the butter..
[00:06:41] Sami Sourani: Oh, four, five in that house.
[00:06:43] Lisette: Jews?
[00:06:45] Sami Sourani: Uh, mostly Kurdish, yeah.
[00:06:48] Lisette: Kurdish Jews.
[00:06:48] Sami Sourani: Yeah, Kurdish Jews coming from the north. Um, we left, we moved to a new area in uh, Mattawin where we stayed most of the time in that area, even during the Farhoud. And...
[00:07:08] Lisette: Was it on the water?
[00:07:10] Sami Sourani: Close. Close to the water, yeah. Life was simple. Life was easy especially after the Iraq becomes independent kingdom. The king promised the Jews the sun and the moon. They made a very big uh, uh, party for him and he came to the party. It was 1932, he carried, they gave him sefer torah, handwritten, maybe a thousand years old encased in gold. [00:07:40] He carried it in his hand, I kissed it, and he proudly uh, moved from one row of invitees to the other and he made his declaration. And uh, [Arabic?]. That's the "Country is for everybody and everybody has right to worship the god the way he likes." So that was very good impression for people. Especially a generation which grew up after the First World War. [00:08:13] They period of the First World War was terrible because Ottoman government ran away and head of the police started doing all kinds of things to the Jews, persecuting them, especially the bankers. He hanged a number of them. He said, I don't waste a bullet for a Jew. I take them to a minaret, cut their nose, cut their ears and throw them from the minaret down and, where they will die. [00:08:41] And they fall down, they didn't give the body to the families, they carried out that and throw it in the river. So now with the new king, that was great. Not only that but the now government needs public employee. Who adjucated [inaudible] most of them were Jews, were Jewish from the Alliance. [00:09:06] And uh, they uh, they filled all kinds of positions and they were allowed to stay, not to come to work on Saturday which, instead of Friday, which is official day, considering that they are Jews and they respect Saturday instead of Friday. But all that changed in one year. Why? All kinds of things started and the king was influenced by people that are nation- Muslim nationalist. [00:09:40] And one day he called the chief Rabbi to his court. At that time the Chief Rabbi was Hakham Eliahou Dangoor and he said to him, explain to me what is this word Zionism? What does it mean?
[00:09:55] Lisette: What year was that?
[00:09:56] Sami Sourani: 1934 - '35.
[00:09:59] Lisette: The same king.
[00:10:00] Sami Sourani: The same king, yeah. He was still alive. He stayed for six years and died. Uh, because Hakham Dangoor was very smart guy, he knows hoe to give embarrassing question to embarrassing questions. So when he said to him, what is the meaning of "Zionism"? He said to him, your majesty, look, for the past 2500 years, every Jews who prays he says, "Next year, in Jerusalem. But you see how we have moved an inch. We are still in Babylon." So the kind was happy with this answer. [00:10:34] He said, well, as long as it is a song a I don't care. But the rabbi meant, I mean, the Hakham meant it is an eternal song, we never forget. So everyone was his own way of explaining things. Persecution started, all of a sudden they said Jews work for the government, cannot uh, take the Saturday as a day off.
[00:11:03] Lisette: What year was that now?
[00:11:04] Sami Sourani: I think that was '35.
[00:11:08] Lisette: The king Faisal.
[00:11:10] Sami Sourani: the king Faisal.
[00:11:11] Lisette: The first was still there.
[00:11:11] Sami Sourani: [overlap] the first was still there.
[00:11:12] Lisette: He already changed.
[00:11:14] Sami Sourani: Yeah, then he said, Jews...
[00:11:15] Lisette: Did he not make a mass uh, didn't he attack the Syrians at some point?
[00:11:21] Sami Sourani: Yes.
[00:11:22] Lisette: What year was that?'29?
[00:11:27] Sami Sourani: No, '29 he was not taking...but after that he attacked the Syrian and the [inaudible] because the Syrian claimed they were the aboriginal of Iraq and they owned the kingdom. Yeah and so he attacked them and what happened? Even the whole world was very upset for the massacre. [00:11:49] So he sent a lawyer, Youssif El-Kebir [sp?], a Jewish lawyer, to defend the situation or Iraq and he said uh, this is internal problem and nobody else can interfere. Iraq is a sovereign country and we cannot accept your criticism. [00:12:08] And that ended the story, yeah. So Faisal decided Jews are not allowed to study Hebrew at school.
[00:12:16] Lisette: And they're not allowed to [overlap] Saturday off anymore.
[00:12:18] Sami Sourani: Not allowed, yeah. Yeah. So that was quite strange. The, the uh, sefer torah that was given to him, it was put in the Iraqi museum. The Iraqi museum at that time was uh, in fact prepared by Miss. Bell [?]. Hatoun, Miss Bell. She loved that. She loved all kinds of things and she put that in the middle. That sefer torah in the, in 1999, I think after they attacked Iraq it disappeared from the museum. [00:12:52] Nobody knows where it is. Okay? Now...
[00:12:56] Lisette: And it's encased in gold.
[00:12:58] Sami Sourani: Yeah, encased in gold, yeah. Now uh, we come to the year 19 - yeah, 1930....'34 I think. Yeah, 1934...'35. '35 the [inaudible] had a very good public relation ambassador who was ambassador in Iran and Iraq at the same time. He convinced the [inaudible] to change the name from Persia to Iran because Iran, the Iranian are not Semite, they are Aryan and they are the forefather of the Germanic tribes that attacked the Roman Empire. [00:13:40] So he said, "Why you call it Persia? Call it Iran, this is the place of the Aryan people." And so the father of the Shah agreed and they changed the name Iran. On the other hand what happened, the son of King Faisal, King Ghazi was studying in England uh, you know, of course in colleges where all the top people study. [00:14:06] And then he made a sort of tour in Europe with, he went to Germany. The German made all kind of parties for him and they gave him a small toy of a, uh bird, when you wind it it sings. So he thought that was the top of technology. It came back to Baghdad, he encouraged the German to have all kinds of movement, uh, groups, things like that and also agreed, they have the scout boys along the same way of the Germans, scout boys, the Nazi young uh, the youth that went in Germany marching in the street. [00:14:50] And even their song was translated to Arabic. Follow the River Rhine. Which is in German, that was the song of those people. Anyhow, he was too much very close to German. That didn't please the British, okay? Now...
[00:15:09] Lisette: The British, Iraq was a mandate.
[00:15:12] Sami Sourani: Mandate yeah, but they gave a sort of autonomy with the kingdom. They brought the king, the king was not born in Iraq, was born in, in the Arab peninsula. He was totally stranger, even in accent, his Arabic is not similar to the Iraqi accent. And they put him on the top and Iraq, at that time had all kinds of multicultural people, tribes, only each tribe thinks, we are the utmost and the most advanced."[00:15:46] There were uh, five types of Christians. You have the uh, the Assyrian, they think themselves descendents of Asshur therefore they are entitled to all Iraq. And they have different features. Many of them blue eyes, blonde, not like Iraqis. Then you have the Kildani [?], the descendent of Nebuchadnezzar accepted Christianity when they call it the church of the Kilda. Okay? Fine. [00:16:17] Then you have the uh, the uh...eastern orthodox with the, the influence of uh, the Russian uh, church. The other one you have the Protestant which, because of the missionaries assaulted [?] people to become protestants. And the fifth category, which is very strange and interesting, is called the Nestubian Christians. [00:16:49] What is Nestubian Christian? They followed father Nestubos. Father Nestubo was originally Greek and he came with the idea that ok, we accept Jesus as a leader. He cannot be the son of god. And this is against the principle of Christianity, okay? So at the meeting, general meeting of Christians they kicked him out but they continue. [00:17:16] Finally, in the, after the First World War all these groups they find themselves to be minority, alone, they will be finished, they need a backing so the accepted the rule of the pope in Rome. So you have different kind of people. You cannot simply uh, make a sort of a common language between them. If you speak with them Arabic they don't understand you because their local Arabic is different from the Arabic they speak, okay? [00:17:47] So that was the difficult part of it, okay. Now, the king died, king Faisal died...
[00:17:55] Lisette: A natural death?
[00:17:57] Sami Sourani: No, he had a problem with his stomach. So he went to Switzerland for a treatment and he died on the operating table. Okay? Then, we have the son, the son was child. They said until he gets the age of 18 there will be a sort of council managing the country.
[00:18:16] Lisette: The king Faisal the First...
[00:18:19] Sami Sourani: The First.
[00:18:19] Lisette: Now there was Ghazi.
[00:18:20] Sami Sourani: Ghazi, yeah.
[00:18:22] Lisette: Ghazi was how old?
[00:18:24] Sami Sourani: He was 16 when his father died.
[00:18:27] Lisette: Oh.
[00:18:27] Sami Sourani: So they wanted him to be 18, until he becomes a king and then he was, married his, he had to marry his cousin Aliya, and she is also from the desert, okay? But that is the tradition. It ahs to, everything has to be in the family, okay? [00:18:48] Ghazi was like, he loved to uh, drive cars, sport cars in a crazy way and one day he said he was hit by a...uh, electric pole and he died. How it is, nobody knows. At the same time, the Germans made a sort of a [inaudible] that it was a plot, the British killed him.
[00:19:14] Lisette: How old was he when he was killed?
[00:19:17] Sami Sourani: 26.
[00:19:18] Lisette: He became a king already?
[00:19:18] Sami Sourani: Yeah he became a king already and he had a child. His son also. I think he was 24 years old, very young. Yeah, um, there was something that maybe I didn't want to mention it when Ghazi was in England he used to get together with the Iraqi students there. One of the them was my cousin who was studying aeronautic engineering. He was very much impressed by him. He said, when you come to Baghdad, you have to come right away to the court, I want tot talk to you. [00:19:52] So when he came to Baghdad he nominated him to be the technical director of the airport, of the Iraqi airport.
[00:19:59] Lisette: What was his name?
[00:20:00] Sami Sourani: Nadji [sp?].
[00:20:01] Lisette: Nadji what?
[00:20:02] Sami Sourani: Nadji, he called himself Najdi Bahim, his family name is Dahbi but sometimes he used my uh, his mother's family name, Sorani. Okay? Okay. And Nadji was asked to be in charge of checking the aircraft before they flew and one time - day he was suspicious in the airplane that Ghazi was going to fly. Every Friday he wants to take a small airplane, he goes and make aerobatic in the air and come back. [00:20:35] It was suspicious that something wrong and the airplane might explode in the air. So he told him, the airplane has something wrong, cannot go today. Then my cousin came one day to see my father. It was early in the morning, I don't know what they talked about and all of a sudden we heard that Nadji went to England. We didn't know anything about that. [00:21:00] In England he had a very high position and uh, uh, I don't know which ministry, okay? They trusted him, he was wing commander in the - he was a pilot also. He attacked Germany also in the - yeah. He get the, they uh Victoria cross from King George V. [00:21:24] And uh, but he had no children, only has his wife. She went with him. And uh, they stayed until five years ago he died at the age of 98 so all his memorabilia uh, his uh, nephews went to England he took it, the medals, the books, the pictures and went and give it to gift, as a gift to the Babylonian centre. [00:21:52] And one of his nephews was Dudi uh, Duor, Dookie Duor. Do you know Dookie? That was, yeah, he was, I heard he was going to make a sort of documentary about him but I haven't heard anything of that. I don't know. Anyhow...
[00:22:10] Lisette: Now, sorry, now when he told him there is something wrong with the plane, did they find out what was wrong with the plane? Did the plane explode?
[00:22:19] Sami Sourani: No. He didn't go. The plane, instead of putting uh, gas, they mix it with water so for half an hour he can go and after that [inaudible] anything, the plane will explode and fall. [laughs] So it was suspicious at that time and good luck that he left Baghdad, you know? [00:22:41] Now, all of a sudden one day my grandfather, who lived ah, in the Battawin, were still living in downtown. He came and he said to my mother, "Take your kids, take whatever you want then come with me." She said, "What?" He said, "There's going to be a revolution, pro-Germany revolution and we don't know what to expect." So my mother took everything and we went to stay with my grandfather and my grandmother. Uh...[00:23:15] Because our area was full of Jews so they were afraid. He was, my grandfather from my mother's was a sort of a person who is clairvoyant. He can look at things and see, oh, this is what's going to happen so many years from now, so many months from now. So he took us and we stayed with him during the Farhoud. All in a sudden, the revolution took place Bashid Ali [?] became prime minister. The ki - the Queen and the King ran away. [00:23:46] There were rumours that those who made the revolution even attacked the queen, which is something very angry. So she went and asked for refuge with one of the tribes, the biggest tribes in Baghdad, in Iraq. Uh, Shambabouanezza [sp?] that was a very, very big tribe and they are just like a government, second government. [00:24:11] And he said to her, to the queen, "You are, I have the honour to have you. I protect you at any cost." So they were afraid to come and attacked her and take her, or kill her, you know. So she stayed there.
[00:24:26] Lisette: What about the king?
[00:24:28] Sami Sourani: The king with her. [inaudible] was with he but his uncle ran away to Jordan I don't know where. Okay? So the revolution started and every, the Jews did not leave their houses for almost three months. The revolution started and at the same time the Mufti of Jerusalem came to Baghdad inciting the people to kill the Jews and things, and doing things like that.
[00:24:55] Lisette: This was in what year?
[00:24:58] Sami Sourani: That was '40, end of '40. Okay? So uh...one day we heard that the government, the revolutionary government ran away. They took all the money in the treasury and ran away. Okay? Nothing is left so the people on their own they started killing the Jews. And it was the first day of the [stumbling] Shavuot, yeah. [00:25:33] So traditionally, the Jews go beside the river to make a sort of [??]. They throw money or something in the river to say we face a new year and we expect a new year. At the same time, the Abdul Ilah [?] came from, was coming from Jordan and he was on his way. So the people who made riots, what they did, they hit the Jews on the head and they throw them in the river. [00:26:01] So all those who were on the bridge were gone and nobody knows how many of them. Then they start killing houses one by one because a few days before that they marked all the houses of the Jews with a sign that this is a house of the Jews so they attacked them, break their houses, kill the people and took the money. [00:26:23] And they continue and you can hear, at night you can hear the voice of the people asking for mercy, you know, please don't kill us, please don't kill us. It was not far from us and we were afraid. We didn't know what to do. Okay? So we stayed and...
[00:26:39] Lisette: They were taking the money and vandalizing the whole house.
[00:26:42] Sami Sourani: The whole house, vandalizing and killing the people. You know, without mercy. It was, not only the killed them, they cut their body into pieces. And every bus that passed by, they said to the people, to the person, all the Jews has to come down and systematically cut their head, you know, and throw them. [00:27:04] So uh, finally some of them even to the uh, doors of the British commissioner uh, embassy. They went there asking for mercy but the doors were closed. They didn't do anything. Okay?
[00:27:24] Lisette: And there were people inside the embassy.
[00:27:25] Sami Sourani: Of course, of course. All the uh, workers of the embassy and their families were in and they can hear and see that in their eyes. There's no, no secret, you know? That was a very hard situation to accept. Finally the high British Commissioner called uh, the British headquarter in Jordan to send some people to make peace in the situation. [00:27:54] So they reached the Rothbach [?] and they stopped, one brigade, one division and they stopped. Why?
[00:28:01] Lisette: How far was Rothbach from...
[00:28:04] Sami Sourani: About uh, an hour, an hour drive. Why? They wanted that the divi - Jordanian division come first so that when they come and make peace or arrest people that make the riots they can say, well, Arab stopped Arab form killing not the British coming to protect the Jews. [00:28:30] So the Jews came later and uh, they make temporary peace, the, the British came and the British High Commissioner made a sort of party for the, the coming uh, major of the division and we said to him in a sort of a small speech, if you come one day later another thousand Jew would have been killed. [00:29:03] Okay? Which means they know a lot were killed. Well, that was, that was written in a file and kept the department security of the state in foreign affairs in England. they didn't open that until 40 years later because it is secret, okay? So there was one Israeli researcher who went there and read the file and had that in a book, saying that the British high commissioner, those are his words, at least one more, one thousand more would have been killed. [00:29:39] Therefore she said, it is wrong to say that only 180-200 people were killed. Okay? From where is this number? When the uh, Abdhilah-hakim [sp?] the regent he called the Jewish community saying apology, he asked them how many people were killed. I don't know what they told him. He said, let us put it at 180-200 because our name is blemished in the whole world. We are savages to behave like that so we'll leave it. [00:30:14] So they, official number came between 180-200. And they...
[00:30:20] Lisette: But it's not the truth. It was 1000.
[00:30:22] Sami Sourani: Thousands yeah, maybe more than a thousand, yeah. Uh, so they put them in a mass grave and the mass grave was in the central Jewish cemetery in 1958. After the revolution they decided to destroy the Jewish cemetery which is about 600 years old, having thousands of people. [00:30:48] And this uh, grave was one of the, the gra- the size of the grave was almost, I can say, half a block of a building so we cannot say it is 180-200 people buried in a massive grave like that. Okay? So here we are. Then, after the, after everything was ok, stability came back, the trust between the Jews and the Muslim, gone. [00:31:20] It was very hard to trust anybody else although some of the Muslims, especially my father's friend at that time, they came and said, we apologize. I think this is a savage work done by our people. We don't know how to say sorry. They say that frankly to my father. I was young and I was listening to what they say. [00:31:41] And of all the imams and the leaders of the Muslim in Iraq, only one, only one he cried [?] and he took his headgear and throw it on the floor and he said, we have done, we have committed the biggest mistake in the world. And he was the imam of the Shiite. He was uh, Al Sadr, Mohammad Al Sadr. He was ahead [?] because he didn't accept that. [00:32:10] You know, despite the fact that the Shiite were a bit more extremist in their ideas toward the Jews but he couldn't accept that. Okay.
[00:32:20] Lisette: Can you tell me what happened to your house?
[00:32:23] Sami Sourani: Our house vandalized. We were with our grandmother, grandmother so our house was closed. They came, they vandalized the whole house, nothing was left, even the doors, they took the doors. They broke the doors. Nothing is left. Maybe they threw the garbage on the floor. Two, three days later my father took us back and there is no way to stay there, you know? [00:32:50] So we called...
[00:32:52] Lisette: They took the bed...
[00:32:52] Sami Sourani: The beds, the uh, the uh, cutleries, everything. Nothing is left, nothing. The house was empty 100% except for the garbage.
[00:33:01] Lisette: [overlap] And empty shell.
[00:33:03] Sami Sourani: Empty shell. Yeah, the doors of the room were taken away even. The, the windows were taken away, everything, you know? So what can we do? You know, finally we started our life again but in our heart there was a sort of a fear, how we can trust those people? [00:33:25] Okay? At that time I, I was sent to school. My father didn't want me to go to Alliance because it was far away from where we lived and he didn't want me to go alone and even he didn't trust people to take me and my brother to school. He used to take us by himself. So we had a house very close to the elementary school where we stayed. It was a private school that has all kinds of people of all kinds of ethnic groups. [00:33:58] Christian, Muslim, Jews and we lived, as kids we lived together, there was no problem. One of the, one day, one of the student with me, in my class, he was the son of the uh, princess, the, the uh, Aunt of the king, of King Ghazi. And that fellow, his head was not on steady and he didn't well at all in arithmetic. [00:34:28] So what he did, what he used to do, he used to come in the morning, I come early in the morning, I take his copy book solve all the problems of mathematics for him and give it back to him and this way he get a good mark to pass. So we were very good friends, you know. [00:34:45] One day, the principal came and he said, "I want to find out how many Jew sin the class, students. How many Christians. How many Muslim." So when she said how many Jews I stop. In the recess he came to me he said, " I didn't know you are a Jew." I said, "Yes, I am a Jew." He said, "You know, my father, the general he is Chief Office Abu Dhabi said one day I'm going to slaughter all the Jews." I was quite surprised." [00:35:14] A dear friend saying this to me and we are kids so I went home I said my father listen, this is what he said to me. He said, and how you reacted? I said, "I smiled." He said, "You are my boy." We have to know how to deal with those people. So I want you to train yourself to understand them from this age. [00:35:33] Well, we finished elementary school, I had highest mark and I was entitled to go to uh, King Faisal College. King Faisal College was a prestigious school only the top of classes of many schools studied there. And at the expense of the government, they bring teachers from Egypt, England. MY father said no. The school was back after [inaudible] very far away. He said, and it is a boarding school. [00:36:05] He said to me, "I don't want you to stay with those people. Staying the night there? Of course not. You go to Shemashe School, the Jewish school and I want you to grow up with the people." Well, the Shemashe School was a sort of a school built in a Muslim area. Once it was a Jewish area but the Jews let and ti was left as a big school in that area.
[00:36:31] Lisette: Where was it?
[00:36:33] Sami Sourani: It was in the Heder hanah [?]. Heder Hanah, you know where [name of place] further down after [name of place]. Yeah. So the school was built old style. The front dome was huge and thick and in the dome was carved another small dome, ok? And the small window outside the uh, keeper, the doorkeeper used to open the door for us when we come, you know? Especially when there is riots. Well...
[00:37:03] Lisette: What were the riots about?
[00:37:05] Sami Sourani: All kinds of things. Against the agreement between England and, and Iraq. Because England left Iraq and they have to sign agreement to keep the basis, the army basis.
[00:37:18] Lisette: In Hillah.
[00:37:19] Sami Sourani: And, no not in Hillah, Habbaniya, Habbaniya. They didn't want, especially the penetration of communism in Iraq, you know, they used them as a means to an end. They make riots for everything, you know. Uh, well, what can we do? The class was...we have three classes. Each a class, I mean, let us say grade one, three classes branches for grade one. [00:37:48] In each class you find close to maybe 45-50 students and the teacher was giving lectures, they were all ears. We were very dedicated to studies. Everyone wants to study and get good marks, you know. Which is a strange, you know. People came from different backgrounds, different economic classes and they all work very hard. [00:38:17] And the school had certain kind of arrangement, like, we had, once a month, a certified nurse came and she checked all the student, class by class. And everyone, every student who, who had certain problems and he told her, she referred him to one of the Jewish doctor, because Jewish doctors in Baghdad who had their own clinic. [00:38:43] They uh, had one day free of charge, they accept patient free of charge, okay? Regardless of their religion or background. So she used to send then, you know, if he has problem with the eyes, needed eyeglasses and she checked everyone. You know, which is very good. Also, what they had...
[00:39:03] Lisette: Who was the doctor that, who were the doctors?
[00:39:07] Sami Sourani: Many doctors. Not one.
[00:39:08] Lisette: Can you say their names? Can you remember any?
[00:39:11] Sami Sourani: yeah, you have Dr. Hoain [sp?], Dr. Shelon, Dr. uh...my cousin Sourani and some many others. I don't recall their names, you know. Uh, so they went to the doctors and get treated. Not only that but in the Jewish hospital. They Jews had four hospitals, Meamelias [sp?], which was the biggest with 400 uh, uh beds and service was given free. [00:39:42] Then you have special hospital for eye, eye clinic um...
[00:39:49] Lisette: Sorry, when you say Meamelias service free for everybody.
[00:39:52] Sami Sourani: Everybody.
[00:39:53] Lisette: Muslims, Christians [overlap]
[00:39:54] Sami Sourani: Regardless, regardless, yeah. Uh, you have uh...[hospital name] is hos - eye hospital because the problems with the eye of the people there, they have problems with eye all the time because of the sandstorm. They have, if someone get sand in their eye and didn't take care of it it develop all kinds of things, all kinds of diseases and you find many people with one eye or blind, okay? [00:40:27] There was another uh, hospital, private that was in Saidoun [sp?] hospital, I don't know if you heard of it. Another one I don't recall exactly. Okay? So uh, everything was fine, everything was uh, back to normal and when the British were there um, they had uh, some divisions of the army going back through Iraq, going to Egypt because of [inaudible] was advancing north. [00:41:05] And among those, those divisions there were some Jewish soldiers and...
[00:41:11] Lisette: Jewish soldiers where? With the British?
[00:41:13] Sami Sourani: [overlap] with the British, yeah, with British coming either from Poland, Russia, something like that. So uh, the community invited them in uh, Passover or Rosh Hashanah to do the Seder. And they came in touch with young people, young Jews and they heard these stories how we suffered in the Farhoud and they said to them, "Are you crazy? You don't know how to defend yourself? You have to learn how to defend yourself."[00:41:41] So they took a groups and they trained them. Because when they say in Baghdad they took them to all kinds of places. They trained the judo, uh, all kinds of fend-fight. they trained them, uh, smuggled some guns, handguns and give it to them. And this is how the Zionist movement, underground started. Part teaching Hebrew, part teaching how to fight, you know? Because we have no other choice. What happened if someone come to you a, with a handgun or with a knife and want to kill you? How you defend yourself?[00:42:21] The accepted their destiny, they killed and the die, you know? And the riots was all the time, it wasn't that easy. It wasn't 100% safe. You cannot walk in the street. There was one case, a Jewish woman, pregnant walking in the street in a good area with her five years daughter. [00:42:41] And someone came on a bike and threw on her sulphuric acid. He burned her, he burned her daughter and burned the, the foetus in her, you know.
[00:42:52] Lisette: She died.
[00:42:53] Sami Sourani: She died, of course. They brought them to justice. the judge said, "Well, he was a little boy, unmatured and he wanted to try to find out." We cannot treat him like an adult and eh gave him some symbolic punishment and left. And the, the woman and three people went, died, okay. [00:43:20] There were all kinds of things like that. We had a friend, you know, in 1948, when they started uh, when, no no, it's okay, when they started making uh, arrests of the Jews and things like that, we had a friend, they [inaudible] their father. Their father was stayed in thee prison, they didn't know where. One day, they received a letter, come take your father from this prison. [00:43:50] So the two, two of his sons, one 15 the other 16, took clothes and shoes and going to go to see their father, take their father. And policeman gave them two bags of minced meat and the head. He said, "This is your father. Take it." I said, they didn't know what to say. They were panicked. [00:44:11] He said, called them, you sons of a bitch, if you don't take this we'll send it to the zoo to feed the animals.
[00:44:17] Lisette: Oh.
[00:44:17] Sami Sourani: So they took the remains of the father, went home to arrange the funeral, to, to bury him. But this has a sort of an impact on the children. One of the children, the youngest, he started feeling bad. He started wanting to be isolated, not to meet people. Finally they went to Israel 1950, they sent him to the Kibbutz and they noticed the same thing, they could not involve the boy at all, with anything. [00:44:50] One day, eh didn't come to breakfast so the group leader I want to go and see what happened. He went into this room, he was dead. You know? He was dead. So there are many stories like that.
[00:45:07] Lisette: He just died? Natural death?
[00:45:09] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[00:45:09] Lisette: He didn't kill himself.
[00:45:10] Sami Sourani: No he didn't kill himself but uh, being all the time depressed, depressed it affect the heart, it affect everything. Okay? So he died. He was a very good friend of ours.
[00:45:21] Lisette: How old was he when he died?
[00:45:24] Sami Sourani: He was 18 or 17.
[00:45:25] Lisette: And he died at that age.
[00:45:26] Sami Sourani: Died at that age, yeah. Yeah. Well, anyhow, that was the situation. There was no way to run away from Baghdad. We were stuck in our home. We didn't know what to do. We had, we are lucky, we had a sort of a window uh, facing the street and when we're afraid to go and all the food is finished my grandfather used to open the window. [00:45:54] If he see someone he said, "This is some money, can you please go to the bakery and get us two loafs and take the change?" Some of them they did it. They didn't want to take the change, they didn't want to get any tip. And some of them took your money and ran away. So, so we are in this situation. We didn't know where to go, you know. And all the telephones were also out of the houses. [00:46:22] All the uh...
[00:46:25] Lisette: Did they cut the phone?
[00:46:26] Sami Sourani: They cut the phone, even at that time. [overlap]
[00:46:27] Lisette: What year was that?
[00:46:27] Sami Sourani: 1947. Even '47, yeah. If you bribe your way maybe. My father couldn't go to his uh, farm to see what is happening. They told him you have to go to the police to get a pass to go to your...he said, "It is my place. It is my home." They said, "No you are not allowed." Okay? So his partner used to come to Baghdad sometimes, could not go, we had Indiana Bacouba, that was my father had two big orchards supplying the [?] with all kinds of fresh fruit, good fruit, you know? [00:47:05] He was not allowed to go anyhow, we didn't know uh, if you get a letter from anyone and you are Jew, they hold it, they read it and then they call you to the investigation office, what do you mention by this? What do you mention by that? My uncle get a telegram from England for buying a cloths and things like that, they said to him, "This is the price for 1000 yard." So they called him, they said, "What is that? Is that weapon?" He said no, you can see the company is uh, manufacturer of clothes and they send me cloths. [00:47:45] Until he bribed he couldn't get out of that. You know? They wanted to send him to jail. He cannot prove this is maybe uh, tanks or weapon and this is using symbols. Okay? So we're in bad situation.
[00:48:01] Lisette: so they used to censor the letters.
[00:48:03] Sami Sourani: Censor all the letters, yeah. And we have no...
[00:48:08] Lisette: What year is that?
[00:48:09] Sami Sourani: '47, yeah. '47 - '48 yeah. You cannot go in the street near an embassy, foreign embassy because they watch you and take you right away to the investigation office. No, not one single uh, embassy report that to the world. But there was a reporter from an Italian uh, tv or radio station in Italy. [00:48:35] He was in Baghdad, he couldn't sent any report because it has to go through the army to check what he is writing so he went to Cyprus and then from Cyprus he send the report. And the BBC that evening said well watch, listening to the BBC, he said we are copying this information for this Italian reporter who went out from Baghdad then said he couldn’t send this report because he will be arrested. [00:49:05] The Jews are persecuted, the hanging was every day and the persecution is uh, out of any civilized kind of content [?]. Why - the British high commissioner his office is here and in front of his office people were hanged. He didn't see that in his eyes? He didn't report that to his country? No. Nobody. Okay? Nobody.
[00:49:29] Lisette: How many Jews were hanged?
[00:49:31] Sami Sourani: Well...
[00:49:32] Lisette: In '47.
[00:49:33] Sami Sourani: Maybe around 15, 12-15. This is in addition to others okay? In addition to Addas.
[00:49:44] Lisette: Was Addas the first?
[00:49:45] Sami Sourani: No, before him they accused number of people of communism, okay? One of them is brother of Mr. Delal. He was teacher of English at the school. His brother was genius. He was a communist and uh, they hanged him. Okay? Because he was communist.
[00:50:08] Lisette: What was his name?
[00:50:09] Sami Sourani: I don't...
[00:50:10] Lisette: Delal.
[00:50:10] Sami Sourani: Delal is family name is Delal. His brother name my teacher, Aboudi Delal, okay? Uh, they didn't let anybody to come near the body of - they took the body to the prison and from the prison [inaudible] took the bodies for burial until he family came, you know?[00:50:36] It was, very, very strange situation. From all the countries, no country said, "We'll give you a place. Come to our country." Except Spain. General Franco made a declaration at that time. He said, "Though Jews of Iraq were persecuted, originally Sephardi Jews, I am ready to give them citizenship, just let them go."[00:51:01] But who dares to go to the Spanish embassy in Baghdad? Who dares to go to get a passport from the...
[00:51:10] Lisette: Yeah.
[00:51:10] Sami Sourani: ...nobody. We are not allowed to have a passport either okay6 Now what to do? They said there were a sort of a secret negotiation and the prime minister at that time was uh, uh, what is his name? Nuri As-Said, they bribed him with 200 million pounds sterling.
[00:51:31] Lisette: Who did?
[00:51:32] Sami Sourani: The Jews of England and uh, the Jewish congress, all of them.
[00:51:37] Lisette: Two hundred million?
[00:51:39] Sami Sourani: [overlap] Two hundred million.
[00:51:39] Lisette: [overlap] In 1950.
[00:51:40] Sami Sourani: 19 - yeah imagine. So they passed a law, the Jews can leave with their suitcase and leave all their assets and then they froze the assets. Okay? And we started, we started our life. I remember we went to the airport, my father decided to stay later. Maybe he can get some of his money. [00:52:05] And in the airport they treated us very badly, you know?
[00:52:11] Lisette: How old were you?
[00:52:13] Sami Sourani: I was about 15.
[00:52:14] Lisette: And your brother?
[00:52:15] Sami Sourani: My, younger brother was three years younger than me. We arranged a false document for him, the Jewish movement, the uh, Zionist arranged for us document for him and he went as a son of a different family. You know, Ambar here? His sister uh, uh...took my brother with her.
[00:52:40] Lisette: Why? Why not with you?
[00:52:43] Sami Sourani: Because my father was going to stay in Baghdad so we wanted to play in it in such a way as they cannot trace anything. Okay? And the...
[00:52:52] Lisette: [inaudible] Yeah, okay. Before that, did you...
[00:52:57] Sami Sourani: I joined the Tnoah [?].
[00:52:58] Lisette: What did you study?
[00:52:59] Sami Sourani: I studied Hebrew.
[00:53:01] Lisette: And what is the Tnoah?
[00:53:03] Sami Sourani: The Tnoah is sort of a cells [?] every four, five people sell with a guide who teach them Hebrew. But there were others who teach them how to fight. Who have just, for my age, just uh, studying Hebrew. At the same time, you know, my cousin who went after the Farhoud to Israel, he was trained there in the Israeli Heggenah, they send him back to Baghdad to make all the arrangement with Ben Pumat [?] to send the Jews from Baghdad.
[00:53:40] Lisette: What was his name?
[00:53:40] Sami Sourani: Eh Jamil Sourani.
[00:53:42] Lisette: Ah, okay.
[00:53:44] Sami Sourani: You heard about him?
[00:53:46] Lisette: No, but because it's Sourani, of course it's your cousin.
[00:53:49] Sami Sourani: Yeah, anyhow, at that time the banks are not allowed to take the Jewish money and send it out of the country but secretly, if you have a friend, things like that, the rich people send their money, okay, through the banks. What is left the middle class, they have hundred dollars, hundred pound, fifty pound, who's going to send it to them? Nobody will do that. [00:54:18] So the Tnoah made some arrangement to take their money, give them a certain number when they go to Israel, they go to the office of the government, give the number and they give them their money. So I was involved in that. By the age of 14 I learned how to smuggle money. They bringing money in small deno- denomination and then someone take it and make it bills of hundred pounds okay? [00:54:51] I was taught how to make a, a secret hiding in the floor and put them there and cover it, nobody can know. Then someone come, knock on the door and give a certain name and they said, "My friend is waiting for you in the taxi outside." And he goes. Then he give me the code, I know how much money to prepare. [00:55:15] 50 000, 10 000, all depends. I have...
[00:55:19] Lisette: Pounds?
[00:55:21] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[00:55:22] Lisette: Not [overlap] Iraqi dinars. I wrap it and put it in a bag, put food over the bag and go the taxi take me to downtown. And they told me that those smugglers, all of them Iranian, okay? If you go to their office there are two doors. If you find they come from one door, police, things like that, go from the other door. And we'll wait for you on both and pick you up, okay? [00:55:50] So I took that, several times, I went, I go to the uh, to the smuggler, talk to him, he's a businessman, saying hello, very nicely. He count the number of dinar. Then he call Teheran and he said to them certain code and they know, they transfer it to the tnoah representative in Teheran and from there to Israel, okay? [00:56:17] And I go home. And that took place, took about three, months all those uh, Jewish guys with little money, they brought their money and we send it out, okay? Well, I felt it was very dangerous of course but I felt it is something to help, you know, small people, poor people, why not? Okay. Okay. [00:56:44] Now time come for me and for my youngest brother was nine months old and my mother.
[00:56:53] Lisette: Oh so you were three boys.
[00:56:55] Sami Sourani: Three boys, yeah. My mother uh, took us and we went to Messodah Shintob [sp?] that's the place where they took us to the airport. From there we went to the airport.
[00:57:06] Lisette: Messodah Shintob was a synagogue.
[00:57:07] Sami Sourani: Synagogue and a school as well. Because most of the school has a synagogue on the side. Okay? Like, Hishahamoun [sp?], that's a uh, it is a school and a synagogue on the side. And they find the nicest story about the school. I send it to the Shahamoun family and they were very happy about it. Yeah. [00:57:30] Uh, so we went to the airport. I took with me books. And the, they said, open the bags, open the bags. I had about 40 books.
[00:57:42] Lisette: You were escaping with 40 books?
[00:57:44] Sami Sourani: 40 books.
[00:57:45] Lisette: And did you have money?
[00:57:46] Sami Sourani: No, no money because they don't allow us to have money. Okay6 So I said, what are you going to do with these books? I said, I like to read. Say, okay, take it out. We took it and uh, but they stole some food that momma prepared for us because no food given on the airport, airplane. Nothing, no food, no drinks. [00:58:08] And uh, we took our bags and we went. I took, I went to the...
[00:58:15] Lisette: What did you carry with you? Except the 40 books. What else did you take?
[00:58:19] Sami Sourani: Some clothes, that's it. And one pair of shoes extra. That's all.
[00:58:24] Lisette: And money?
[00:58:25] Sami Sourani: Money they allowed 15 pounds for each person.
[00:58:30] Lisette: Means 45 dollars.
[00:58:31] Sami Sourani: Yeah, 45.
[00:58:31] Lisette: To go immigrate out of the country 45 dollars.
[00:58:36] Sami Sourani: And no, no, bracelets, nothing made of gold. All the gold has to stay in Baghdad, okay? So I went to the airplane, the airplane started and I looked form the window and I saw the whole Baghdad, you know, I saw the minaret that was plated with gold, you know, in certain areas, I saw everything. I felt, you know so...I don't know it was strange feeling. [00:59:05] But the feeling was that I'm going to be free. That's the main thing. and when I took the stairs, I look at my father was still sitting, you know, in the airport waiting for the airplane to take off. So we went to Israel, we arrived there. We arrived, first to Cyprus. We stayed in an army bunker, British army bunker in Cyprus and they came and gave us uh, a piece - a sandwich per person and a cup of uh, carob tea. Carob team you know? Uh, there was no tea at that time because in Israel there was no tea at the time so they took carob from the trees, boil it. It has some sweet taste and that's what we used. [00:59:55] Well, but we find this is really something, you know, after, we left in the morning at nine o'clock and they airplane has to go to Cyprus. It took, I don't know, four, five hours, you know.
[01:00:10] Lisette: Twin jet?
[01:00:10] Sami Sourani: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
[01:00:12] Lisette: How many people in each plane?
[01:00:14] Sami Sourani: About 85-90 not more.
[01:00:16] Lisette: And it was one plane a day.
[01:00:18] Sami Sourani: In my time it was two a day. Then they make it six a day because Nuri As-Said told them you have a time limit by uh, March 1951 I want everybody out.
[01:00:34] Lisette: And there were a 130 000
[01:00:36] Sami Sourani: 120 000 left this way.
[01:00:39] Lisette: Yeah, so they had to wait their turn. Some had to wait a year while their money was frozen.
[00:58:36] Sami Sourani: And no, no, bracelets, nothing made of gold. All the gold has to stay in Baghdad, okay? So I went to the airplane, the airplane started and I looked form the window and I saw the whole Baghdad, you know, I saw the minaret that was plated with gold, you know, in certain areas, I saw everything. I felt, you know so...I don't know it was strange feeling. [00:59:05] But the feeling was that I'm going to be free. That's the main thing. and when I took [01:01:25] Lisette: And it was winter and summer.
[01:01:28] Sami Sourani: It was close to winter.
[01:01:29] Lisette: [inaudible]
[01:01:30] Sami Sourani: Right, right, yeah. Then...
[01:01:32] Lisette: so when it rains, does it rain on you?
[01:01:35] Sami Sourani: Of course. Of course it rains. And because my youngest brother was nine months old they were kind enough to give us a small lantern, you know, so that at night we can have some light in the, in the...
[01:01:50] Lisette: Not heat, light.
[01:01:51] Sami Sourani: Light. Yeah, light. Yeah.
[01:01:55] Lisette: How long were you in the...tent?
[01:01:58] Sami Sourani: In the tent we stayed about a week. And then my uncle came and pick us to his place. So he had a small space in Petahadikvah [sp?] and we went there to join him. And uh, we thought it's going to be short but it took almost eight months. So my younger brother stayed in the kibbutz. [01:02:28] And then...
[01:02:29] Lisette: The nine...month old?
[01:02:31] Sami Sourani: No, no, he was 13 years old. My youngest brother, okay?
[01:02:36] Lisette: Your youngest was nine months...
[01:02:38] Sami Sourani: Yeah. Younger was three years younger than, okay? Then after that, my grandmother moved to an apartment in Ramat Gan and we moved, we stayed with her. I went to Jerusalem to study, it was very, very, very hard time.
[01:02:57] Lisette: Can you tell me about when you were studying and it was very cold?
[01:03:00] Sami Sourani: Well, in fact, I didn't want even to remember those days because we had uh, a sort of an old army barrack from the first world war. It was renovated by the university. The walls were just cardboard, thick cardboard and you can see that even the worms come from underneath the doors and were free, running in the room.
[01:03:35] Lisette: What's coming in?
[01:03:37] Sami Sourani: Worms.
[01:03:38] Lisette: Worms.
[01:03:39] Sami Sourani: Yeah, yeah. Cockroaches, worms coming, yeah. And well, there were no books. In order to study we have to go to the library. We say to the librarian, I want to be from this hour to this hour. I want this book. [01:03:54] So when you go that hour they give you that book, you study until the end they come and pick - take i from you and say there is someone else. [01:04:04] Paper, hardly any paper to write on so even one of, of the teachers said, I'm giving you homework. If you can go to the market, look in the garbage, if you find wrapping paper that on one side you can write, I accept it. Take it and write your homework on that garbage, wrapping paper.
[01:04:26] Lisette: And you did that?
[01:04:27] Sami Sourani: Of course! What do we have? There was one store selling all kinds of pens and pencils, they had one copybook in the vitrine, in the window. One day it was open I went, I said, can I buy this one? They said to me, "Are you crazy? This is not for sale. This is just to decorate the window. I cannot sell it. I have no other." [laughs] Can you imagine that?
[01:04:56] Lisette: So from a world of abundance...
[01:04:58] Sami Sourani: Yeah, to come to almost nothing and uh...the food was very scarce, you know. They, it was rationed by the government. If you have a child at home you give you one cup of milk a day, that's for my youngest brother and they give you two eggs a week for the baby. [01:05:22] And two ounces of meat, that's a week.
[01:05:27] Lisette: A week.
[01:05:27] Sami Sourani: Yeah, if there was meat. Sometimes fish, sometimes chicken, things like that. And people stand in lines for hours just to get one eggplant or just one onion, things like that. So there was no food, simply no food and no work. [01:05:48] No food and no work. Because at that time the government was not that stable. The administration was very, very poor. During the mandate only Muslim and Christian were in the administration, very few Jews, maybe you can count them by the finger.
[01:06:08] Lisette: When was the mandate? What year?
[01:06:11] Sami Sourani: Until 1947 when the British said, "We are leaving the country." So of the Muslims and the Christian who filled position, the government ran away. And those who stayed didn't want to pa- to help the Jews. So they have to pick up any person to fill in positions and most those, especially immigrants, they don't speak one word of Hebrew. [01:06:38] They don't know how to write anything in Hebrew. They don't know how to answer, to read the guidelines in Hebrew. They don't know. It was a strange situation. It was very poor administration, okay? So the Hebrew university it was very, very hard. One day, finally I said I do any job, you know? When I said, well, let me find a full-time job to support my parents. [01:07:06] Because neither my mother nor my father, who arrived later has any job, you know? So I find full time job. I study during the day, the boss allowed me, if I have a session in the morning to go an hour, come back but to work extra hours in the evening that day or another day.
[01:07:26] Lisette: What were you doing?
[01:07:28] Sami Sourani: I studied economics at the university. It was very hard subject because there they teach it in a different way, different from other countries. It's full of mathematics and statistics, yeah, it's not just theory, okay? Then um, my brother, my bro- younger brother was very, very good in math.
[01:07:52] Lisette: Sorry, what job did you do?
[01:07:55] Sami Sourani: I worked for the government uh, in Jerusalem. That was after I worked in Tel Aviv for the philatelic service for about a yeah, okay? They, at that time my boss was a German guy. One day he said to me," Look, you are young and you think very well. When I give you a job, you don't do it just in a mechanical way. You think before you do it in a better way. [01:08:23] So I would say to you, working in this office is not yours. You better go and study." I said, I have no money. He said, whenever you have two, three days come and work here, I keep the work for you. I said fine. I went but after six months in Jerusalem I get a job. [01:08:51] Well, uh...how about my brother? We have no money to go to high school. What we did, we studied at home and we did external examinations, okay? He passed, I passed, okay, so we can use that for university. Then he wanted to study engineering. Engineering has to have full time. You cannot study an hour and go to work. It is full time. There is laboratory, there is everything. [01:09:24] Well, he had to do another entrance examination; he gets very high marks in the entrance. The accepted him as a mechanical engineer student. The first year they give him partial grant to study. The second year, yeah the second year we had no money. I was the only one working. The jobs were not paying that much. My mother couldn't find any job, you know. My father, sometimes, if he's lucky they give him two days a week to work in constructions and that was. He arrived in, from Baghdad penniless. [01:10:06] Even the, the uh, handbag that he had, they took it from him, they fil- took all the clothes, they fill it with garbage and he, they sent him to Cyprus. And he was lucky -
[01:10:19] Lisette: Who is that? Who did that?
[01:10:20] Sami Sourani: The government. Yeah, yeah, at the airport, yeah.
[01:10:22] Lisette: But tell me, your dad stayed behind to get some money.
[01:10:26] Sami Sourani: He couldn't get. What happened, his partner has a son.
[01:10:30] Lisette: The partner was Muslim?
[01:10:31] Sami Sourani: Muslim, yeah. He was very good with him all the time but he has a son that he went to Egypt to study. He couldn't achieve anything, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He come back to Baghdad he said to his father, "This Jew, we can take all his land. Just go and say he is Zionist and the government will treat him well in the present and will take all the land from him." [01:10:56] And so they did. And my father was in and out of the prison for five years.
[01:11:01] Lisette: While you were in...
[01:11:02] Sami Sourani: While we're in Israel.
[01:11:04] Lisette: Did you know he was in prison?
[01:11:06] Sami Sourani: Yeah, we know but we didn't know he was tortured that much. You know? They hit him on the back in a way, I think they put some acid on his back. For the rest of his life he couldn't lean on his back. He couldn't sleep on his back because of the pain. Okay? So...
[01:11:28] Lisette: So he was still trying to work in construction [overlap]
[01:11:31] Sami Sourani: Yeah, in spite of everything. Yeah. And...
[01:11:34] Lisette: So tell me about your dad. He waited and waited. He only had clothes.
[01:11:39] Sami Sourani: Well, when they arrest him they, he has to write that he gives up all his assets before they agreed, and this with a bribe, to put him in an airport and send him to Beirut, from Beirut to Cyprus, from Cyprus to Israel.
[01:11:55] Lisette: Five years later.
[01:11:56] Sami Sourani: Five years later.
[01:11:57] Lisette: So he didn't come to Israel 'till.
[01:12:00] Sami Sourani: 1955. Yeah.
[01:12:02] Lisette: And you left in '50.
-[01:12:03] Sami Sourani: '50, yeah, okay. So my brother was doing quite well. Then we reach a stage we have no money okay? We couldn't get any loan from the bank. The banks were not allowed to give loans. They give you maximum 500 dollars but you have return it in three months. So what can we do with it? With this amount of money? Nothing. Mama was upset, she cried. I said, Mama, why you are crying? [01:12:35] I said, "Look, you taught us all the time to be honest and to be good and look what we have. We lost everything." She said, "No, don't lose faith. I'm going to sell my uh, gold band of my marriage and get the money for your brother to go and study. I don't let him lose a year." So she did. Nobody wanted to buy that from her. She came back crying so my brother told her, "Mama, don't cry." I can lose one year, I do any kind of jobs and save the money and go. [01:13:11] Well, I have to go to Haifa to tell the uh, the theenol [?] I am not coming this year so they erase me and don't keep a place for me in the laboratory, okay?"
[01:13:23] Lisette: Still very honest.
[01:13:26] Sami Sourani: Yeah. So he went to Haifa. He came back, I was in the terrace. I saw him running with a piece of paper. What is it? Nobody knows. He came, he said, "guess what happened? I went to the secretary to tell him I cannot study, I have no money. He said, don't tell me that. Look what happened." The day before yesterday we have a group of friend of the theenol coming from South Africa. [01:13:58] And one of them was looking in the lab and he saw your pictures looking in the microscope and he said, "Who is this boy?" We told him from Iraq and his family have financial problems. He said, "How much money he needs?" We told him 250, he took his check book and give you 250.
[01:14:20] Lisette: Wow.
[01:14:22] Sami Sourani: Imagine. They didn't give him the name of the person. They said prepare a sort of letter thank him and we add the address. They didn't want anyone to know. So we, he came and he said, "Mama, this is the story." She said to me, "See? I told you there is god." God is not a person but he creates a situation that helps you. So have faith in god.
[01:14:51] Lisette: Beautiful. Now I want you to tell us the story when you were studying in the [inaudible].
[01:14:57] Sami Sourani: Here? Ah, in Jerusalem. Well...
[01:15:03] Lisette: I'm sorry, it’s a sad one.
[01:15:06] Sami Sourani: It is very sad.
[01:15:07] Lisette: But I think people should know it.
[01:15:10] Sami Sourani: Well, I am saying this, I don't have any hard feeling for anybody how abused his position. Um, it was Sunday and at that time I didn't have a job. It was extremely cold and windy. I sat down in the room, I was alone, my friends went. I covered myself with a blanket and was sitting and studying and all of a sudden someone knocked on the door. [01:15:37] Before saying anything the door was open, it was the superintendent with a few uh, very well dressed women. I said, what happened? One of them said, "I'm from Odessa." Or I don't know where. When she saw me like that she cried.
[01:15:53] Lisette: She was American.
[01:15:55] Sami Sourani: American. She came and kissed me. She said, I don't want our boys to suffer like that. I'm going to uh, the US, I'm going to send money to build a hostel for uh, for the students.
[01:16:10] Lisette: You were studying.
[01:16:11] Sami Sourani: I was studying, yeah.
[01:16:12] Lisette: You were studying with your head covered...
[01:16:15] Sami Sourani: And a blanket yeah, okay? I didn't know what, from where she came from either. Two days later I went to pay the monthly rent for the, for the place. We are four in a room by the way, you know, everyone in a corner, yeah. So I said to me oh, you made my day. I said, how come? He said, "That woman, she was going to send a lot of money and we will build, we already have the plans and we can start digging soon. [01:16:47] Any by uh, you know, uh, by next year the place will be ready for students. " So I said to him, do I have a chance to at least, my last year, to be in a good place sleeping without frozen with the wind? He said, you must be crazy. This is for American boys who come to study here. [01:17:15] They are not used to the hard life of you people. You people are like cockroaches who grew up in a sewage pipe. You will continue living in a sewage pipe.
[01:17:26] Lisette: When he said "you people" what did he mean?
[01:17:29] Sami Sourani: Native people, you know, immigrant and things like that.
[01:17:34] Lisette: Native people but came from Arab land. Right?
[01:17:38] Sami Sourani: That's what he meant.
[01:17:38] Lisette: And he said, you came here....
[01:17:40] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[01:17:41] Lisette: You came here as labourers.
[01:17:44] Sami Sourani: Yeah. So, for me it is a shock, you know? I don't know at that time, I said i my father had money he would have sent me to England to study and nobody would have said to me cockroaches. You know? So I went, I walked, I walked without any uh, any purpose. Then King George street in Jerusalem, I don't know, there were all kinds of benches, I sat down on the bench looking, looking and said, well that will not help me. [01:18:14] I have to go back and study and fight and find my way. So it was very hard time. You go to...
[01:18:23] Lisette: And the following year the school was built and you were not moved. [01:18:27] Sami Sourani: No, of course not. They had all kinds of students coming from western Europe, England, France uh, Holland, American. Yeah. And they came for a year or two and leave. There were no, I tell you, there were not that interested. They came just for, maybe a visit or something like that. And go back. They were not interested to stay. Some of them yes, stayed and contributed a lot and worked for the government. [01:18:58] But, the vast majority were not interested at all. Some of them they were maybe, I heard, drug addict. Their parents send them to get rid of them, yeah. And the whole hostel where I was you don't find one bottle of wine. But there, every week the, the cleaner had to carry bags of, of bottles of wine. They drink to their heart's content. They did all kinds of fancy things, you know. [01:19:32] Yeah, and we were serious. Finally I finished. I finished, thank god, you know. I find a good job with the government. I work for five years, even before I completed my BA I was admitted to the government, well, why? Because at that time they find they need some people who know how to write Hebrew. [01:19:54] To write letters, instructions, things like that. So they had a competition. They said, we'll take 30 people of all those who uh, you know, applied and we'll train them. And really they trained us for two months uh, treating us very well, you know. I finished, I was one of the 30 that get the job and uh, I worked and then after a while...
[01:20:23] Lisette: You mean you were the one form 30 people. They chose you?
[01:20:26] Sami Sourani: They had 300 applicants. From the 300 applicants they pick up 30.
[01:20:32] Lisette: Oh you were one of them.
[01:20:33] Sami Sourani: One of the 30.
[01:20:34] Lisette: Wow.
[01:20:35] Sami Sourani: Yeah, so after that, you know uh, it was also hard to settle. My brother finished [??] yes, he get a good job, I get a goo job but all the money goes to taxis. You cannot do anything, you cannot support uh, parents and to get married this is out of the question. [01:20:58] You cannot buy a house because the government they don't allow backs to give mortgage for people who buy from private companies, from private contractors. No way. They give mortgage for those people who stayed in tents for four, five years and are ready to go in a resident, built residence, yes the bank give them uh, mortgage. But for us to buy from a private contractor, no way. [01:21:31] You cannot rent an apartment at that time.
[01:21:35] Lisette: And you had to pay cash if you're buying a house.
[01:21:37] Sami Sourani: Exactly, cash. Cash...
[01:21:40] Lisette: For a house.
[01:21:41] Sami Sourani: Yeah, where we get the cash? That's the whole problem so my brother said to me, look, we love Israel, we are Jews, we love our tradition but where that going to take us? If we have no money enough to settle, what are we going to do? So Canada opened its doors. He applied and in two weeks he get the visa and he left. [01:22:09] He arrived to Montreal and he send me a letter. He said, think to come because there are opportunities here. Don’t waste your time on feeling of nationalism or things like that. Nobody appreciate that after all. Okay? So we came to Canada. I worked for one year uh, for a company doing survey, advertisements, things like that. It was a nice job but it is not a job with career. [01:22:40] They get a contract, yes, you have a job. No contract, you are supposed to go home. That was not a sort of a career job. Then applied and applied and won a competition with the federal government in Ottawa, okay?
[01:22:55] Lisette: Competition of what?
[01:22:57] Sami Sourani: It was a competition yeah. Many people applied and they select one or two for...
[01:23:03] Lisette: Competition of what?
[01:23:04] Sami Sourani: To get a job. Yeah. So I was called for uh, uh...interview. The interview took about almost an hour. They were interested in one of the, a project I was working in Israel, something complicated, combining statistics with economics, with mathematics. It was something new. Israel has all kinds of fancy ideas, even at that time. [01:23:34] You will be surprised things that are there that are not not known even today in Canada, okay? So it took them, they told me uh, the, the job requires clearance for secret because I'm going to be dealing with secret stuff. We'll put you under surveillance with your own will. You have to sign that you agree to be - your telephone might be tapped. You mail might be opened and you have to agree to that. [01:24:04] I said, agree, why not? Okay? So I signed and it took them six months to have all kinds of vis - investigation about me. In Israel they sent the uh, consul, the Canadian consul to ask the neighbours what we did, what we lived, if we are good people. Things like that. All kinds of questions, you know? [01:24:30] Finally I get a job, I get a letter. It was at the eve of Rosh Hashannah. I came from that work, from where I was working in Ville St-Laurent in Montreal and my mother said, .You have bunch of books." I said, let me see the, I mean, bunch of letters. I said to her, I want to see the letters. She said, "No, you better eat first. Because, you know, most of them will tell you we don’t accept you so why you get upset and sit down and eat. Eat and then get upset." [laughs] [01:25:04] I opened one of the letters from the government.
[01:25:06] Lisette: After you ate.
[01:25:07] Sami Sourani: After I ate. They said, you are accepted. Give us a time, call us when you want to come to start. Well, that was great. Okay? I...
[01:25:17] Lisette: Where was your dad now?
[01:25:19] Sami Sourani: In Montreal.
[01:25:21] Lisette: Your mom and dad came. Who brought them? Your brother or you?
[01:25:25] Sami Sourani: My brother arranged the visa. Okay? But I had to have my own visa alone because it's not underage. My youngest brother was underage. He was 11-10 years old, you know, when he came. Uh, so...I had to go to Ottawa, and live in Ottawa so my mother said, you are in Ottawa, you have a brother in the states and the youngest here, Sunday he will and I will stay alone? [01:25:58] I said, no mama, one day you'll come to Ottawa as well. So in Ottawa I found myself really alone. You, we have to start at 8 o'clock in the morning, at five o'clock we have to leave because all the offices were locked, okay?[01:26:17] I walk down the street at five o'clock, six o'clock in the afternoon. Ottawa half the streets were empty, everyone went to his place. It was a very quiet city. Rideau had only slums, the buildings at that time in '62, '63, they were maybe slums of villages. They were not uh, they don't have any kind of uh, face of a Ottawa, I mean capital country, okay? [01:26:46] So what I do? I took all kinds of books, things like that and started to study. Every evening about the situation, the system of the government, the accounting of the government, how they play with the numbers, all kinds of things. And I had one, the first assignment, my boss was very happy. He said look, I'll give you [inaudible] because we are buying stuff for all departments. I'll give you [???] you go to get any statistics from them. [01:27:16] Only, any department without any question. I said, that's fine. So what I did with the information, I used and build up economic models, you know like, if this department has this kind of policy who wants to buy this kind of thing I know right away how jobs are generated, okay? And this information I kept, I kept, I kept, it was very helpful when we had the negotiations of NAFTA. [01:27:43] The system I developed in the negotiation become the ground system in the United Nations for trade negotiations, they use it because instead of using money I give you so much money, you give me so much money, no. If I give you this, so much money I'm going to lose so much jobs. If you give me so much money, I'm going to get so much jobs so if I get more jobs than you, okay, I do the deal. [01:28:16] And why jobs, not money? Because money, with inflation the price is up and down. Uh, it has no value in time, you know? I get all this information. I developed also catalogues about what the government to buy. You want computer, you want furniture, you want, you know, in each province, how much the federal government buys. [01:28:40] And also the federal, the provincial government, what do they buy? I studied all the system of accounting. Then the crown corporation, they are, you know, they get direction from the government they have to follow the same system. And then the hospitals because they get the grants and then universities, they get grants from the government. All these I developed a sort of a catalogue that tells you, you want to find computers? How much the government buy in this province. [01:29:12] How much the provincial government, how much the Crown corporation, how much the uh, hospitals, how much universities. All this you have. And this is a sort of very good thing for businessmen. That helps them to plan. You know, where to go, where to buy and not only that. I developed a system to help small companies, okay? The government buys all kinds of things, the same like the rest. So I told them, we have a sort of a system where a simple person can access it in his field. [01:29:47] If he wants to find furniture, he can zero in that area, he knows how many competition you issue for furniture and you can uh, compete and get his share, you know? That was something I worked very hard of, at it. I studied days and night. The systems, the accounting because it's different accounting for the government is different from accounting for business. It's all different. [01:30:17] So I, I made a sort of formula using all this. I can make a prediction of all kind of activities, you know? So, and my uh, thesis at the university it was about evaluation of defence, expenditure in Canada from 1950 to 1965-'63.
[01:30:42] Lisette: The thesis you did here.
[01:30:42] Sami Sourani: I did here.
[01:30:43] Lisette: So you continued studying.
[01:30:45] Sami Sourani: Yeah. Yeah.
[01:30:48] Lisette: Like a doctorate.
[01:30:49] Sami Sourani: Yeah but my wife didn't take me to continue my PHD. She said you have children and you spend too much time uh, away. I can't, I can't do that. So I gave up, you know. But I attract the attention of the military college in Kingston and they send some people to ask me how I did it, how I used the information, how to arrange it. [01:31:12] And they want me to lecture there but the department, my department said no way. We can't let you go. And then after NAFTA negotiations Mexico wanted to offer me a job. Holland suggested something. France even the United States but my office said no way. You stay here. And I had a few years to finish full pension so why to go? I stayed. Yeah. And the governor general, as I told you, gave me, you a medal for these efforts.
[01:31:47] Lisette: Wonderful. Wonderful. Your studying paid off. You know, we never got around to - you have three brothers. You have a mom, a dad and your and you have how many children?
[01:32:01] Sami Sourani: Me?
[01:32:01] Lisette: Yes.
[01:32:02] Sami Sourani: Me I have two daughters. Yeah.
[01:32:05] Lisette: Two daughters. Laurie...
[01:32:07] Sami Sourani: Laurie and Lisa. Lisa in Ottawa.
[01:32:09] Lisette: She still lives in Ottawa. She has children?
[01:32:11] Sami Sourani: Three boys. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So my brother who studied engineering...
[01:32:18] Lisette: And his name is?
[01:32:19] Sami Sourani: Sid, or Sadeh. Okay? So he get a job in Toronto and he decided to specialize in nuclear stuff. He get very good march, marks. After a point companies used to call us and say "We have a job to offer him. Let him call. Let him do this." From the States they say, "If he say yes the ticket will be in the airport. Let him just come for interview."[01:32:50] But he didn't want to go to the states. Finally, he get a very good in the states, in the laboratory near Seattle where the first atomic bomb was developed. He get very, very good job and he was loved by people and he has all kinds of fancy ideas. He is a person with imagination. Okay? He retired and they asked him to come for uh, one contract. [01:33:16] He was doing uh, tests in the laboratory and he got uh, nuclear poisoning.
[01:33:25] Lisette: Oh!
[01:33:26] Sami Sourani: And for that there is no cure. Radioactive poisoning, there is no cure for that so all of a sudden his wife called us and she said, "He's in hospital. Come."
[01:33:36] Lisette: How old was he?
[01:33:37] Sami Sourani: He was three years younger than me. Okay?
[01:33:40] Lisette: I mean, what year was that?
[01:33:42] Sami Sourani: I was about 71 at that time, 72, yeah. So my youngest brother and I went to see him. He was, of course, in uh, government hospital and we were shocked to see him. Because he was induced with induced coma. No morphine can uh, help him to get rid of the pain. Okay? And you find around all kinds of instruments and computers taking measure of anything. [01:34:13] The way he breathes, the way the blood goes in his, everything. Finally the...chief doctor called us, my brother and I and said, look, there is no cure. He is just suffering. We're giving food though his mouth, you know, by, you know through his uh...intravenous but there is no cure. We just released the coma for a little just to let him talk to you. [01:34:45] But his pain was awful. So we went to see him to talk to him and then they put him again in coma. So what do we do in this case? They said, the doctor said...
[01:34:56] Lisette: What did he say when he talked to you?
[01:34:59] Sami Sourani: He said hi and then, that's it. Okay? He went to coma again. So, what we do? Can we tell him to take all the life support? I said, give us a day to think. My brother and I went thinking, thinking, said why to let him suffer?
[01:35:19] Lisette: What about his wife?
[01:35:20] Sami Sourani: His wife was staying with him 24 hours a day and the thing is, there are some people who worked with him, they took time off with their wives to come stay with him so that she can go home for two, three hours. You know? They were very, very nice people. Okay?
[01:35:38] Lisette: and he has children.
[01:35:39] Sami Sourani: But no children, No children at all. You know. So we said, okay, take the support. I said, there is a chance that he can stay alive after that. They said, well, we'll send him home with all the instruments, the special bed and things like that and we'll give you a hotline for anything you call and the doctor will be in a few hours with him. [01:36:08] Okay. So my brother and I went to his home, to his house and arranged everything for, you know, the equipment to come. And we went to the hotel. The hotel not far from the hospital. In the morning we sat down to have breakfast all of a sudden his wife phoned. She said, "Come right away, his system is stopping." So we run, without anything, run to the hospital and it was over. [01:36:42] His heart stopped, his system shut down and that's it. Okay? So it was very hard. We were in an area where we're all strangers and whenever you walk in that town you find signs, don't come here, radioactive. Don't come here, radioactive. The lake, don't come near the lake, a sign: radioactive. Okay?
[01:37:09] Lisette: Where was that?
[01:37:10] Sami Sourani: It was uh, uh...after Seattle in four hours. It's a very, very nice area with all kinds of lakes and trees and things like that, you know. It was called Richland. It has about 200 000 people, mostly scientists working in the laboratories there, okay? Well, we want to...then a woman came, she said she represent the uh, the hospital and I told her, "Look, we are taking him home. Who is going to give him at least intravenous?" Not food from the mouth? [01:37:54] She said, we'll stop that. I said, "Why?" She said, "We let people die in dignity at home." So that was the last thing we heard and then we're going to take him but his heart stopped. And then we did arrangement for burial and everything and come back.
[01:38:20] Lisette: Sorry. Phew. And your youngest brother?
[01:38:24] Sami Sourani: He's in Toronto. He studied computer science at McGill University. He had a company. He did well. They have branches in Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto but he retired two years ago.
[01:38:38] Lisette: At age...
[01:38:40] Sami Sourani: Uh...well, he is now about 66.
[01:38:50] Lisette: Okay now tell me when your parents came here to Montreal. How was your dad? Your dad suffered a lot. And your mom. How old were they?
[01:39:02] Sami Sourani: My mother was about 45 years old, she can still work and she did some work in making drapes, you know?
[01:39:12] Lisette: In Montreal.
[01:39:12] Sami Sourani: In Montreal. My father it was almost impossible but I tell you something. He preferred to come. Why? Because in Israel, you know, all the friends that knew him and knew that once upon a time he was rich, they'll try to find out if he has money and sometimes they said some words which is very, very annoying, you know and that hurts his feeling, you know?
[01:39:44] Lisette: Like what?
[01:39:46] Sami Sourani: What are you going to do with your money? How - where you buried your money? Things like that, you know? It hurts, you know. It hurts so he has nowhere to go. Uh, he managed to go like, you know, some cultural centre, he goes, there are some old people, he sit down and talk. He speaks French very well, he speaks English very well because he studied at Alliance. He speaks Turkish, Persian, Iranian, Hindu because he lived in India for 15 years. [01:40:25] Yeah, and uh, yeah because in the First World War his parents didn't want him to serve in the Ottoman army so here his parents send him to Basra, from Basra to India. And he stayed in India. After the war my uncle came back but he stayed there. He loved India.
[01:40:44] Lisette: Where in India?
[01:40:45] Sami Sourani: Bombay, Bombay. Yeah, but he also went uh, travelling for business. He went to Singapore, he went to Ceylon, he went to Japan, he went to China and then you know...
[01:40:58] Lisette: So he, was he merchant with tea? What was it?
[01:41:01] Sami Sourani: Yeah he sent uh, my grandfather has a business importing uh, building material. On top of that he had orchards and land, you know, that he leased to people, that my father inherited, okay? After that, the brothers, among them were not in good peaceful condition so everything went. [01:41:26] My father stayed alone doing doing the orchards and the, the lands and that was the end of our business life, yeah. Because he lost everything.
[01:41:41] Lisette: And the brothers left Iraq?
[01:41:42] Sami Sourani: Some of them died. One of them left Iraq. Was very old and then died. That's it. One in the Farhoud died.
[01:41:52] Lisette: Oy.
[01:41:51] Sami Sourani: Yeah, yeah. The father of Jamil Sourani. Yeah, you know, his wife was the daughter of [name]. I don't know if you heard about it. He was very rich and eccentric so...have, my uncle died and she...
[01:42:14] Lisette: Wasn't the sister in Geneva also?
[01:42:19] Sami Sourani: He has but uh, there were no contacts among them. Yeah Rachel Marathayawi [?] uh...
[01:42:26] Lisette: Sofer, Sofer she married...
[01:42:28] Sami Sourani: No, no, not Sofer. Hayawi [inaudible] working with [name] yes, she was. But this is...
[01:42:39] Lisette: There was one married to Sofer. I thought she was...
[01:42:42] Sami Sourani: I don't know. But this one was very old, the oldest I think. Yeah. So she said I'm not staying here. My husband he didn’t leave money. I cannot work.
[01:42:53] Lisette: [inaudible]
[01:42:55] Sami Sourani: Bodat.
[01:42:55] Lisette: Huh.
[01:42:56] Sami Sourani: I go to Palestine and uh, I go to a kibbutz and take care of my kids. So she went to Palestine and she had uh, a son who was about two years older than me, became wing commander in the Israeli air force.
[01:43:12] Lisette: What's his name?
[01:43:14] Sami Sourani: Uh, his real name was Jamil but his brother took Jamil when he came with false passport to Baghdad.
[01:43:22] Lisette: Yeah, yeah.
[01:43:23] Sami Sourani: I don't recall other name.
[01:43:26] Lisette: Last name was what?
[01:43:27] Sami Sourani: Sourani, of course. Yeah, he has a daughter, she was four years old, she grew up in the kibbutz, she learned to be parachutist and when the world exhibition of parachutist in Moscow in 1954 she won the second medal for jumping free from airplane.
[01:43:48] Lisette: Ah.
[01:43:49] Sami Sourani: And even the newspaper wrote about her. They said from Baghdad she came on foot from Moscow she jumped from the airplane.
[01:43:58] Lisette: Wow. Isn't that neat? Did she really go on foot?
[01:44:02] Sami Sourani: Yeah, because they went...
[01:44:03] Lisette: They walked on foot?
[01:44:04] Sami Sourani: Yeah from Syria. They went to Syria, from Syria to Palestine they have to walk on foot.
[01:44:09] Lisette: How long does it take?
[01:44:11] Sami Sourani: A day and a half, two days.
[01:44:12] Lisette: That's it? How close...
[01:44:14] Sami Sourani: Yeah, very close.
[01:44:16] Lisette: Okay so the mother, when her husband died in the Farhoud, when he was killed...
[01:44:20] Sami Sourani: He was not killed. He uh, get a sort of uh...
[01:44:26] Lisette: Heart attack?
[01:44:27] Sami Sourani: Yeah something like that. Yeah.
[01:44:30] Lisette: From what happened.
[01:44:30] Sami Sourani: From what happened, yeah.
[01:44:31] Lisette: So she left in '41.
[01:44:33] Sami Sourani: '41 yeah, she left.
[01:44:35] Lisette: So the daughter in '54 she was not 18 years old when she, when she...
[01:44:40] Sami Sourani: Yeah she jumped from the parachute. Yeah. She married. She had a son. They said he was uh, genius. He studied medicine then he give up medicine, he decided to go to Wietzman institute to study the thing which is called now uh, people talking about it mind over body.
[01:45:01] Lisette: Yes.
[01:45:02] Sami Sourani: When you use your mind to work on your body so you can tell you body what to do and how to do behave. Then in 1982 in the war with Lebanon he was with his group of Army and Israeli airplanes though they are enemy.
[01:45:20] Lisette: [gasps]
[01:45:21] Sami Sourani: So she killed them and he died. He was 38 years old, very, very, very young, very energetic.
[01:45:30] Lisette: Friendly fire.
[01:45:31] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[01:45:36] Lisette: Okay let's see what we missed.
[01:45:49] Lisette: I will take you back a little bit uh back to Baghdad. How many uncles and aunts did you have? You said uh...
[01:45:59] Sami Sourani: From my father's side um, alive there were three aunts and four and four uncles. From my mother's side one uncle and three aunts.
[01:46:11] Lisette: And the names of your mom and dad?
[01:46:14] Sami Sourani: I wrote it down in the...
[01:46:15] Lisette: Yeah, but what are their names? You can tell us.
[01:46:18] Sami Sourani: Ah, my father's name was Gorgeo, or George. My father - my mother's name Shefirah [?].
[01:46:27] Lisette: That's the name she kept all along?
[01:46:28] Sami Sourani: Yeah. And there was a little history for this name if you want to hear. Um, in the First World War when the Ottoman government ran away and they started treating the Jews very badly my grandfather was afraid they were coming to take him also. [01:46:48] So his wife, my grandmother who was pregnant with my mother. So he used to sit down and pray and read the psalms okay? And she lit candles for the prophets to help us out of this problem. Then all in a sudden after, I don't know, a few weeks the heard that the British army already captured Baghdad and they heard all kinds of noises outside. [01:47:18] A few days later my mother was born so he decided to call her Shefirah, which means mercy.
[01:47:26] Lisette: Yes.
[01:47:26] Sami Sourani: Said god gave him mercy and saved his life.
[01:47:29] Lisette: That's beautiful. Tell me, during the Farhoud, also your mother was uh, lighting candles.
[01:47:37] Sami Sourani: Yeah, my grandmother, yeah, used to yeah, light candles for the prophets. This one for Moshe, this one for uh, uh Jahaziel and this one for Ezra. Those are the, the, you know, the prophets that most of the Iraqi women lit candles for.
[01:47:56] Lisette: And this is during the Farhoud.
[01:47:57] Sami Sourani: During the days of the Farhoud.
[01:47:58] Lisette: And your father was reading the psalms?
[01:48:00] Sami Sourani: My grandfather. Yeah.
[01:48:02] Lisette: Your grandfather was reading the psalms.
[01:48:04] Sami Sourani: My father and my uncle they went and put all the furniture on the door so they, they tried to clos - break the door. They cannot go on because of the furniture.
[01:48:16] Lisette: But that was their grandfather's house. They did not come to your [overlap]
[01:48:19] Sami Sourani: No they didn't come.
[01:48:19] Lisette: They went to your parent's house.
[01:48:21] Sami Sourani: Yeah, my parent's house. Yeah.
[01:48:21] Lisette: So you lived with your grandparents till how old were you?
[01:48:26] Sami Sourani: Oh well, it was the time of the Farhoud. After that we went back to our...
[01:48:34] Lisette: Yes, but you were living with your grandparents when you first were born or never?
[01:48:39] Sami Sourani: No, I was uh, with my grandparents because my parents lived in downtown and my grandparents lived near the school that I went to so this is why.
[01:48:51] Lisette: Oh I see. Okay. okay. Okay so you were the only one who lived with your grandparents?
[01:48:56] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[01:48:56] Lisette: Okay. Can you describe the Shabbat at home? The family traditions, going to the synagogue? That religious part of Judaism in your house.
[01:49:07] Sami Sourani: Yeah we were a traditional family. Not extremely religious. And uh, Shabbat, of course, my grandmother, or my mother used to light the candles and pray. And then the Shabbat dinner as usual. Without too much fanfare except for uh, drinking the wine and Kiddush and hamozti and then we start with the dinner. [01:49:33] But it was quite nice traditional way to have the family together. On Sunday, Saturday I mean, we went to the synagogue, it was not far from us.
[01:49:44] Lisette: Which one?
[01:49:45] Sami Sourani: Zadahoud [sp?]. And uh, there uh, I supposed to have my bar mitzvah. After finishing reading my pararaph, it was different form what is going on here. We just read one paragraph and that's it. And someone from the street threw a fire bomb on the synagogue so the furniture all wood uh, caught fire so my grandfather took me and we run away home.
[01:50:13] Lisette: This was your bar mitzvah.
[01:50:15] Sami Sourani: Yeah. [laughs]
[01:50:16] Lisette: What year was that?
[01:50:18] Sami Sourani: Well...'47? Yeah, '47, '46 yeah.
[01:50:25] Lisette: Was that the one that made all the Jews leave? Was that one of the ones that made all the Jews leave Iraq?
[01:50:31] Sami Sourani: No because these kind of things were every now and then. You hear on this synagogue they throw Molotov bamb - bomb. And that they uh, uh...catch someone and beat him. There was nothing, you know, smooth. It was always like that. Especially in the area where Jews and Muslim lived uh, in the neighbourhood. [01:50:55] There was no ghetto in Baghdad so although there was about 50 synagogue or 49 whatever everything was conducted by volunteer. It was not, the structure that you find here: A rabbi, a cantor, things, nothing like that. There was no rabbi. A person volunteer to make organize everything. No cantor, only some people who like to do that. And that's it and everything was simple and down to earth. [01:51:26] No membership, no donations, nothing like that. [01:51:30] Lisette: Yeah, I remembered. Nobody paid anything.
[01:51:32] Sami Sourani: Yeah, yeah, and one thing I Was quite surprised when I arrived at Israel. In Baghdad a rabbi don't have sideburns. He is not allowed to wear black stuff. He has always to wear either a blue or grey or brown, but not black because he is a symbol of leadership and the leader has to know how to make people feel comfortable not with the colour black. [01:52:02] And that was quite surprising and his wife was just like any ordinary woman. Some of them covered their heads, some of them not.
[01:52:15] Lisette: Yes, yes. Well this is a Babylonian thing. It's not...the black was a new movement.
[01:52:23] Sami Sourani: Yeah, and it's not acceptable. Yeah.
[01:52:28] Lisette: Uh, okay so tell me about the tbit, the food that you ate.
[01:52:35] Sami Sourani: Yeah the food...
[01:52:35] Lisette: Who made it? You said you had to, at your grandfather's you had your own...
[01:52:41] Sami Sourani: Yeah at father's grandfather they always eat on Friday uh fish. On Saturday, after he comes back from prayer they have the dinner with the tbit. The tbit it's a sort of a formula dated thousand of years ago. They used to make it even in the old, old days. And chicken stuffed with rice and rice around it and they put in on a low fire and it takes the whole night to be, to be ready to eat. [01:53:17] And even in the early days before the Arabs captured Baghdad, okay, the Jews were known for this kind of food, tbit, okay? Now That tbit was also a curse on the Jews. Why? Because on Saturday they used to put it on the roof and the Arab soldiers that were going uh, during the night they saw the pot of food and they smell very nice and they took it and ran away. So [laughs]...
[01:53:50] Lisette: What year was that?
[01:53:52] Sami Sourani: that was 600 and something. Yeah, the leader of the Jews was Shikas Halk [sp?], you know. He received the title share form the Arabs because he was a good doctor and finally treasurer and he made a lot of good things for the population. So he was uh, elected to be a treasurer of the country. So they went to Shika's house and told him, "Look, this is what happened and we cannot eat. We're staving on Saturday." [01:54:22] So he went to the Muslim [Hebrew name].
[01:54:28] Lisette: What year was that?
[01:54:30] Sami Sourani: They captured Baghdad in 618 so it's about 20 or 30 years after that. So they went to him and they said, "Look, this is the situation." So Shikas Halk went to Ali and said to him, this is the situation, how we can avoid it? He said, okay, I make a fatwa, a Muslim cannot eat food of Jews.
[01:54:55] Lisette: Oh.
[01:54:56] Sami Sourani: Okay, so from that time they didn't touch food of Jews. Now, Alimeht [sp?] was assassinated, [name] died and came the imam. They said, why we are not allowed to eat Jewish food? It is tasty. It smell good. So they think and think, oh, because Jews are dirty. So from that time we had this title dirty Jews. You know, you are not allowed to be close to a Jew. don't touch a Jew. If it is raining don't, a Jew cannot walk down the street. [01:55:25] You know, the uh, the wall of Jewish houses to be lower than a Muslim house if they live in the same neighbourhood. On the door, a Jew had to put the sign of devil and...
[01:55:40] Lisette: Sign of devil? What's the sign?
[01:55:42] Sami Sourani: I don't know, it's sort of, you know, sign of devil. And uh, headgear has to be yellow. And they have also the belt yellow and the woman has to wear one sandal yellow, one sandal brown.
[01:56:01] Lisette: So they know she's Jewish.
[01:56:02] Sami Sourani: Know she's Jewish, yeah. And it developed more and more in other Arab countries and each Imam added something worse and worse.
[01:56:12] Lisette: And how about the horse? You were not allowed to...
[01:56:14] Sami Sourani: Yeah, not allowed to ride a horse because horse shows a symbol of dignity so they have to go on mule, mule or donkeys.
[01:56:27] Lisette: This is in Iraq too?
[01:56:28] Sami Sourani: Yeah, in Iraq too.
[01:56:29] Lisette: When we grew was it still there?
[01:56:31] Sami Sourani: No, no. It watered down within the years, yeah.
[01:56:39] Lisette: Okay. Okay uh, any special memories of Passover or uh, well your bar mitzvah you ran away. Celebrations, weddings, funerals? Any of there?
[01:56:54] Sami Sourani: Yeah well...
[01:56:54] Lisette: Holy sites after.
[01:56:56] Sami Sourani: Yeah, weddings were just very simple. They go to the synagogue and after that a few go to the house of the groom to eat supper. And that's it. It wasn't, you know, sometimes they bring musicians [inaudible] okay? And sometimes they don't but they keep it low and secret that was all the way through because they are afraid to uh, show off. It is dangerous.
[01:57:26] Lisette: [overlap] ...attention.
[01:57:26] Sami Sourani: Yeah. Funerals uh, well, there was one a group in the Jewish community called Habah Hadisha [sp?]. She took care of the burial and everything and uh cemetery was free because it was donated four hundred years ago by the uh, the kind of, uh, Ottoman, Ottoman, you know, to that Jewish woman. Probably you heard the story.
[01:57:58] Lisette: You can tell us the story.
[01:58:01] Sami Sourani: Okay, I'll tell the story. So and uh, nobody paid a lot. Everyone according to what he can pay, for the Habah Hadisha, for the burial. Like if he has no money, doesn't need to pay. If he has money, it's up to him. When, during the, those files that brought to Washington from the Jewish community of Iraq I took the file of Heba Haidsha and go over it, translated a lot of things to them. [01:58:34] And uh, payment ranges from zero, on average two dol- pounds. The very rich paid 15, only one paid 80. Why? Because his wife wanted to have sort of a fence around his grave. That's the only one. But the rest...
[01:58:54] Lisette: Who was that?
[01:58:57] Sami Sourani: He was not Iraqi; he was Max, Dr. Max Grobah. He was not in your period. He died before.
[01:59:05] Lisette: I heard of him.
[01:59:06] Sami Sourani: Heard of him, yeah. Excellent doctor. Okay?
[01:59:09] Lisette: Grobah, was her German?
[01:59:10] Sami Sourani: Yeah, he's German.
[01:59:11] Lisette: He came from Germany?
[01:59:12] Sami Sourani: He came from Germany, he settled in Iraq for many years before the, you know, before Hitler came to power. Yeah and uh, that's, you know, that's what his wife wanted. But when the government of Iraq decided to destroy the whole cemetery, of course, this one goes with it.
[01:59:36] Lisette: Okay uh, now how about the holy sites. Tell me about the holy sites in Iraq. And before you get to that tell me about the synagogues. How many synagogues were there?
[01:59:47] Sami Sourani: Fifty synagogues. Not all of them operational. Each school had beside it synagogue for anyone who wants to pray. Many people come to pray to these synagogues. When I was at Shamshe school we had a synagogue beside the school and people go and uh, you know, and pray. And also it has a -
[02:00:06] Lisette: Where was the Shamash school?
[02:00:07] Sami Sourani: Heider Hana. After when you go uh...to [name of street] it is after [name of other street]. You know? You know where is [name of place]. It's in that area.
[02:00:20] Lisette: Okay.
[02:00:22] Sami Sourani: Okay? Yeah.
[02:00:22] Lisette: Too bad we didn't know about it.
[02:00:26] Sami Sourani: And they say it's now government warehouse. They dump all kinds of things the government doesn't want. Yeah, okay, 49 of 50 synagogues that's, the structure, they have no rabbi, it's for, run by volunteers and everyone who, for any reason, wanted make a sort of a synagogue for the name of his family, he can donate a house. [02:00:51] And by the same token he also donated like, uh, one house or one store for to be a fund, the rent of that given to the synagogue for modifications or things like that. So most of the synagogues was self-financed. They didn't need any money from uh, the Jewish community. Okay? The Jewish community, even when we left, of all the days memorial they had taxes on meat. [02:01:21] For every, 100% if the pound of meat is a dollar, two dollars they sell it, one dollar goes to the community. You know? And that was for certain periods of time that was very hard because it was expensive, making things expensive. And that made some of the Jews revolt and try to uh, change it but they didn't succeed at all.
[02:01:47] Lisette: So it stayed until when?
[02:01:49] Sami Sourani: Until we left. Until we left.
[02:01:51] Lisette: '51.
[02:01:51] Sami Sourani: '51. Yeah, okay, now the, some of the uh, some of thee synagogues were not operational like the one of Ghazam, not operational because it was built in an area where uh, a bit dangerous so they stopped using it. You have the...uh, synagogue of Haisha Hamoun [sp?] the girl who dies on her wedding night. [02:02:20] And her father was very rich, he said the house that he gave her, he make it a school and a synagogue. Okay? And there was...
[02:02:29] Lisette: She died from the wedding night with her husband.
[02:02:32] Sami Sourani: Nobody know the reason. It's secret, okay? Nobody knows. So there was a volunteer in that synagogue who take care of the prayers and everything like that so when we came to Israel he was so dedicated he took her, there was a sefer torah on her name, another one on her grandmother in that synagogue. [02:02:56] So he took both and went to the authorities to get a licence to take them with him to Israel and he took the two to Israel and they are in the Sephardi synagogue in Gvataiem [??].
[02:03:08] Lisette: Fantastic.
[02:03:08] Sami Sourani: Yeah, I wrote...
[02:03:10] Lisette: [overlap]
[02:03:11] Sami Sourani: Yeah, Haisha Hamoun, I send that information to the family. They were very happy and things like that yeah.
[02:03:18] Lisette: Wow. Okay. So tell me more. Tell me about slatlikbiri [?].
[02:03:23] Sami Sourani: Slatlikbiri that was the biggest synagogue in Baghdad. It was built before the Arab came to, to capture Babylon. It was taken from Babylon when Jews get to Babylon they decided to make a synagogue by the initiative of Yehezkiel.
[02:03:45] Lisette: The first synagogue [overlap]
[02:03:46] Sami Sourani: The first synagogue ever okay? So uh, the uh, king Yahuyakim, who was brought as a prisoner of war carried on his back a bag with uh, uh some soil from Jerusalem. He wanted that to be put on his grave but Yehezkiel convinced him to take half of it to put it in the foundation of the synagogue. [02:04:13] And so they built this synagogue and call it Kihila kadousha [sp?] the holy place. So people when they come they feel it is not a club it is something holy. It gives something to their feeling. That synagogue stayed....
[02:04:27] Lisette: Yehezkiel is Ezekiel.
[02:04:29] Sami Sourani: Ezekiel, yeah, yeah. So that synagogue stayed until after the Greek came, when Alexander the Great, the great came, captured Babylon and then after him he died the Persians came back and captured Babylon. They treated the Jews not friendly. They said to them, you collaborated with the enemy so secretly, they took that synagogue, dismantled it and took it to Babylon, to Baghdad where they built it again. And that was the place.
[02:05:01] Lisette: With the earth.
[02:05:02] Sami Sourani: With the earth. Yeah, Jerusalem earth. In one of the, the, that synagogue the wall may be three, four feet wide and in one of the walls you find in uh, stone, the stone it says like this: I am leaving this stone in memory of the people of my town. There were thousands of them, nobody was left alive. And I put in this in memory of them. Of them, I am the only one survived. [02:05:34] During the Abbasid empire there were two million Jews in Babylon. Not 200 000, two million. Because the Abbasid empire had 20 million people. IT was a land full of uh, uh fresh crops, of uh, treasures, you know. So the population uh, enlarge but Hulagu came. After Hulagu the great epidemic came so...
[02:06:00] Lisette: So Hulagu the Berber.
[02:06:02] Sami Sourani: Yeah...
[02:06:03] Lisette: Berber? The Mongolian.
[02:06:04] Sami Sourani: The Mongolian, destroyed everything so what is left? Most of them died. Baghdad was empty and uh, what is left? That was what is left. so you have like, you know, Fallujah was a Jewish area full of farms with beautiful crops. Slemeni...
[02:06:24] Lisette: Fallujah had the uh.. the berry, the white berry.
[02:06:28] Sami Sourani: Fallujah can uh, white...
[02:06:32] Lisette: Berries. Tuki?
[02:06:32] Sami Sourani: Yeah, belberry, belberry. Yeah. Yeah that, it was full of Jews but gone. Gone.
[02:06:45] Lisette: They all left in '51?
[02:06:47] Sami Sourani: Yeah but before that, from 2 million they were reduced to 250 000, all died. Uh, uh, Temoblanc [?] the grandson of Hulaku came last time and he killed in one period, 300 000 Jews. 300 000 slaughtered them just like that.
[02:07:04] Lisette: Who is the grandson of Hulagu?
[02:07:07] Sami Sourani: Temoblanc his name was Temoblanc [?] before the turk took over. Yeah, he came and uh, he killed as much as he could. So the only thing that saved..
[02:07:17] Lisette: Why only the Jews did he kill? Or he killed everybody else?
[02:07:19] Sami Sourani: There were concentrated in a certain place and they wanted to defend their land, their country so they finished them. And the only thing that same them was the Kolebha [?]. The Kohera came and people were dying by the thousand, okay? And one of the historians, Arab historians said, "Today we call ourselves lucky. Only 2000 people died." [laughs]
[02:07:48] Lisette: That particular day.
[02:07:49] Sami Sourani: That particular day only 200 died. He said the Tigress river changes colour. Either it is red from the people that were killed and thrown in there or black form the ink of the books that Hulagu decided to throw in the river.
[02:08:09] Lisette: And it was Jewish books?
[02:08:10] Sami Sourani: Some of them, yes. Some of them yes. It was, you remember [name of] hotel?
[02:08:15] Lisette: Yes.
[02:08:15] Sami Sourani: Beside Sabemabis [?] there was a place that was made uh, custom house. And that custom house was a university and [Hebrew?]. There were many Jews who taught there okay, philosophy, astronomy...
[02:08:32] Lisette: Wasn't that the first university...
[02:08:34] Sami Sourani: Yeah, in the world, in the world, in the world yeah.
[02:08:35] Lisette: What year was it built?
[02:08:39] Sami Sourani: Uh, about 800. When uh, El-Mahmoun was halif. He was very nice, he was very learned, he loved the Jews. He asked a rabbi to teach him Hebrew. We invited some rabbis to talk Hebrew with him to teach him the Talmud. He said this is something extraordinary. [02:09:00] So at that time the country flourished so every student who did a good job during the year was given as a gift a piece of paper. On that piece of paper he writes his ideas. the idea, the piece of paper was done like a [??] and put in the library of the university. So when this guy came he said, why? What is education? Throw everything in the river. So they threw everything in -
[02:09:28] Lisette: Hulagu [?]
[02:09:28] Sami Sourani: Hulagu, yeah.
[02:09:30] Lisette: But Hulagu also liked the...
[02:09:32] Sami Sourani: The Jews.
[02:09:33] Lisette: The Jews.
[02:09:33] Sami Sourani: [overlap] He liked the Jews. He liked the - why? Because he was sick and when he was sick they told him, there is only one doctor that can help you. He is a Jew in Mosul. He is a person from Mosul. He is the Morhibetalah. And then they call, okay you give him the titles, [Hebrew]. They brought him he felt very good so he made him prime minister. [02:09:57] And that was at the same time blessing and a curse.
[02:10:03] Lisette: Because?
[02:10:03] Sami Sourani: Because he appointed so many Jews in key positions.
[02:10:10] Lisette: They, the doctor.
[02:10:11] Sami Sourani: The - yeah, he became prime minister and he appointed the government of Mosul a Jew. So the Muslim said, how we accept all those from Jew? So they made a sort of underground activity called [name of group] the word it means assassin. Assassin came from hashishiun. Means a person who take drugs and killed for a religious purpose, okay? [02:10:41] So what they do, they trained them and they would go out, they give them dope all the time dope and they show him the uh, the shape of the person they want to kill. And then they sell them as a slave to that person and they told them be very, very honest. Work hard, help, to everything. But when the right time comes, put this, the knife in his neck.
[02:11:03] Lisette: When, when they tell him.
[02:11:05] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[02:11:05] Lisette: When they tell him.
[02:11:06] Sami Sourani: Tell them, yeah. Kill, put the- yeah. And so this uh, spread over and believe it or not, this kind of movement continued even when the crusaders came, which means 400 years and it died when France, after the First World War captured Syria because the head of the Hashishiu lived on a mountain and scall- and he called himself Shehejebel. [02:11:34] And recruit people...
[02:11:36] Lisette: Shehejebel means the Sesh of the mountain.
[02:11:38] Sami Sourani: Yeah, the chief of the mountain, okay? And they work in dark, they don't so that no one knows who is the other. And they recruit a new one he has to do assignment to go and rob and things like that at night in the dark. And after a year, if he is uh, action were satisfied they have to give him a certificate for graduation. [02:12:01] How, they stood all those people and Shehejebel came beside everyone, hold his beard and spit in his face. That is his certificate for graduation. [laughs]
[02:12:14] Lisette: What year was that?
[02:12:15] Sami Sourani: Uh, that was even 1917-1918.
[02:12:21] Lisette: Still.
[02:12:22] Sami Sourani: Still so the French came and said, "What is that?" They said well I'm afraid Shehejebel he comes and takes all the money from us. They said, wait, he brought a division of Senegalese uh, soldier. He said, go and kill anyone so they finish all the Shehejebel and his entourage and that was the end of them.
[02:12:44] Lisette: [inaudible]
[02:12:45] Sami Sourani: Yeah, imagine how many years, how many year? And the jihadist are doing the same thing now. It's the same idea.
[02:12:54] Lisette: Absolutely, yeah. wow. Okay so, so the uh, Muslims killed this guy and then they came up with a law? In Mosul?
[02:13:07] Sami Sourani: No, they killed also the Prime minister, the Jewish prime minister. In Mosul they captured Mosul, they kicked out the uh, governors and officials and they made a law, Jews should not have a cemetery. They have to bury their dead in their, in their basement or around their house. [02:13:28] And is should be a ghetto to be closed at night. And this situation stayed until Iraq becomes independent in 1932. Um, my father took us for a trip and went to Mosul.
[02:13:42] Lisette: This is Mosul, yeah.
[02:13:44] Sami Sourani: And mama was quite surprised. She said to him, " I will not spend the night even with your best friends. I am not going to let my kids sleep on a grave." The graves were all around the houses and into the basement.
[02:14:02] Lisette: Do you remember them?
[02:14:03] Sami Sourani: I remember that very well.
[02:14:05] Lisette: How many graves each house had?
[02:14:08] Sami Sourani: All the graves they buried someone in you, in there. That's a lot, a lot just turn your face and you find a grapes, graves around the houses. Yeah, we been to the - by there it was very, very nice person two rabbis Hakham Yehia and Hakham Moshe. They were excellent people, you just liked to them. Smart and you liked to understand what they say because they uh, the accent of the Jews in [phone rings] Mosul is different from the accent of the Jews in Montreal.
[02:14:47] Sami Sourani: About Mosul, yeah, the first uh...The first school, Alliance school built in Mosul was uh, 19...
[02:14:59] Lisette: '18.
[02:15:00] Sami Sourani: No, not in - Baghdad '18 but in Mosul and Amarah [?] and uh, Sulaymaniya was in 1932. '34.
[02:15:11] Lisette: Wow.
[02:15:11] Sami Sourani: Yeah, and uh, my father took us to visit the school so one class, the seat, they have no furniture at the time. They sat down cross-legged on the floor and they had a cardboard, paper on the cardboard with a, uh, laundry clip holding the paper and sit down and write what the teacher, you know, says. [02:15:35] Then there is a class they have to do their homework. Also they have no uh, desk, they go on their belly, they, on the floor and they write down, okay? But, you know, you will be surprised how those people liked to study. You know, especially something new: English, French, history, this is all new for them. [02:15:56] And even for the Baghdadi Jews well Alliance was started uh, the first 20 years it was opposed by all of them because they said, "Well, what are we going to do. We have a pants and be like European? We don't want that." But slowly, slowly the accept it.
[02:16:15] Lisette: Who? The men or...
[02:16:16] Sami Sourani: The men yeah, the men. So the first...
[02:16:18] Lisette: That was in '18 - when was [overlap]
[02:16:21] Sami Sourani: 1867.
[02:16:22] Lisette: 1867.
[02:16:23] Sami Sourani: Yeah, and you know one thing I want to mention is that uh, uh...Lebanon, Syria, North Africa were under the French. The French took care of the minorities, helped the Jews, give them rights, and help them in any way, we were educated, things like that. [02:16:47] We were under the British; we were used as a pawn for politics. Whenever there is a problem, go hit the Jews. Whenever there is some political upheaval, go hit the Jews. You know? And so there is a big difference. France contributed a lot, a lot to uh, to the advancement of Jews in the Middle East and no one can ever deny that. [02:17:13] So the first class uh, graduated I think 1967, something like that. Among them [name] and you know, Naim Zelha the uncle of Sebah Behor [sp?] an uh his grandfather, you know? And at that time they said, we go to Istanbul to study, okay6 So they went to Istanbul to study only Naim Zelha and [name] and come back lawyers, okay? [02:17:46] Others [name], went to India, from India to England and studied and, you know what he did, he became the first minister of finance. Then you had another one who was with my father when they ran away from Baghdad. Uh he decided to stay, not in India, but in Singapore. He studied law and he was the first prime minister of Singapore when Singapore took uh, uh, independence.
[02:18:20] Lisette: What was his name?
[02:18:21] Sami Sourani: Marshall, Meshalm.
[02:18:25] Lisette: [overlap] remember his first name?
[02:18:26] Sami Sourani: George.
[02:18:27] Lisette: George. Till when was he a prime minister?
[02:18:31] Sami Sourani: Uh...
[02:18:31] Lisette: What year?
[02:18:32] Sami Sourani: What year? ...I think when Golda Meir was prime minister, '54 something about this. Six years he was prime minister. Then he was appointed uh, high commissioner of Singapore in Spain and he died at the age of 98.
[02:18:51] Lisette: Wow. In Spain?
[02:18:52] Sami Sourani: No, he returned to Singapore.
[02:18:55] Lisette: And he has a family?
[02:18:56] Sami Sourani: Oh yeah, there is a big Iraqi-Jewish community in Singapore. Yeah, Baba went there. Unfortunately Baba decided to come back.
[02:19:04] Lisette: Two synagogues uh...
[02:19:08] Sami Sourani: Yeah. [overlap] The same in Japan, in Kyoto there is a Iraqi synagogue in Kyoto, yeah.
[02:19:15] Lisette: Hm, I wasn't aware of that. Uh, and in Burma?
[02:19:21] Sami Sourani: Burma also, Hong Kong. Hong Kong those were the Kiduri. India, the Sassoon [sp?] and in Burma was a family that disappeared uh, Abdallah. Uh their great-great-great-grandfather was from Spain. He was appointed uh, Wali of Baghdad and I think, in these time uh, Baghdad prospered and they said it was very safe and we are doing a lot of business and people loved him. [02:19:58] So the khalif, the Ottoman khalif has informer. They go to spy on every government and go and tell him. So they went to the khalif, those spies and told him this Jewish guy want to separate and make a Jewish country of Babylon. So right away, he told him come to Istanbul. So the guy went to Istanbul, the first day he made a party for him. The second morning he was hanged. So his family ran away. Some of them stayed in Basra, some of them went to Burma. In Burma one of his great grandsons became very, very rich. [02:20:40] He was called, he was even told in the newspaper of Hong Kong the, the king of rubber. All the rubber plantations, he owned. And he knows to make business, how to export, because they use it for tires, okay? Then Japan came in the war and thy were about to capture Burma. He, the British took his wife and children, took them to India, he stayed to the last minute and the Japanese came. [02:21:11] Right away, they make a court marshal for him. And they said, all your warehouses are empty, where are they? He said sold. They said, "What sold? Are you cheating? Or you gave it to the British?" So they condemned him to death and he was killed right away. I don't know what happened to his, to his family.
[02:21:32] Lisette: What was his name again?
[02:21:32] Sami Sourani: Abdallah. Abdallah, the family of Abdallah.
[02:21:35] Lisette: Oh the one who built the synagogue in Burma you told me.
[02:21:38] Sami Sourani: Yeah, yeah. Abdallah.
[02:21:41] Lisette: Wasn’t' Rabbi Dangoor also in it for a while, in Burma?
[02:21:45] Sami Sourani: He went yeah, because they visit, they go, even uh, uh Youssif Haim went to Bombay and he stayed for two, three months and come back.
[02:21:55] Lisette: How long did it take them to go to Bombay? To go to Burma?
[02:21:57] Sami Sourani: Well, according to my father you take the caravan from Baghdad to Basra, that's about a week okay. From Basra another caravan to [place name]. [02:22:12] Lisette: From Iran.
[02:22:13] Sami Sourani: Yeah, you take a sailboat and take you to Bombay in seven days.
[02:22:19] Lisette: So the whole thing takes about two weeks?
[02:22:21] Sami Sourani: About two weeks.
[02:22:22] Lisette: To get to Bombay.
[02:22:23] Sami Sourani: To get there from -
[02:22:24] Lisette: [overlap] To Burma?
[02:22:25] Sami Sourani: To Burma, it's you cross the, the channel between Bombay and Burma. Not that far. Yeah.
[02:22:31] Lisette: How long is not that far? Two days? One day?
[02:22:35] Sami Sourani: Maybe one day, two days. Yeah.
[02:22:37] Lisette: Wow.
[02:22:40] Sami Sourani: But you wonder, how those people no knowledge of language, strangers and how they built up themselves so nicely in those foreign countries and become so rich.
[02:22:56] Lisette: Amazing. Well the Hodoris did the ferry in Hong Kong.
[02:23:03] Sami Sourani: Yeah, not only that but also the subway and the uh, hydro company all belongs to them. And on top of that they have huge buildings in Shanghai and they have the Museum of classic art of China. It's all their own money, all these things carved in uh, uh in uh...elephant bones, you know. It's all theirs.
[02:23:33] Lisette: And the Peninsula hotel.
[02:23:34] Sami Sourani: Yeah [overlap] yeah, yeah.
[02:23:38] Lisette: And the Sassoon’s were...
[02:23:41] Sami Sourani: The Sassoon ran away from Baghdad. Why? Because the Khalif of the Ottoman empire, every time he heard that there is someone rich, okay, he said, call him accuse him of something, kill him and take him money. This is how he build up his treasury. Okay? So the khalif of - the govern- the [inaudible] of Baghdad, at that time was a friend of the Sassoon. [02:24:07] The father of Sassoon was called [name] a very prominent Jew. So he called him, he said, I get a telegram from the khalif to arrest you. Now take your family and run away. It's the middle of the night, go. Don't stay. So he took his wife and his children and go to Basra, from Basra to Bombay. In Bombay he wanted to start his business, to make a sort o small bank. What happened at that time, there was war, and the British government had war, I don't know with whom, during Victoria. [02:24:46] So they said, we are gathering- getting...
[02:24:49] Lisette: What year was that?
[02:24:49] Sami Sourani: I don't recall.
[02:24:52] Lisette: Before [overlap]
[02:24:53] Sami Sourani: 1842, something like that, okay? Yeah, so they asked donation from people, Sassoon took his money in bags and went tot he governor general of India. He said, you people saved my life, all the [??] I made in these ten years, take it as a donation.
[02:25:13] Lisette: Wow.
[02:25:13] Sami Sourani: So the governor said, what is this? We wrote a telegram to England so the Queen said, "Give Sassoon the title, Lord and give him monopole to export opium to China." [laughs] And this is how the Sassoon went sky high. Imagine, in China, just like food they take opium at that time. So imagine millions of people getting opium. [laughs]
[02:25:46] Lisette: Wow. Opium was legal then.
[02:25:47] Sami Sourani: Yeah, of course. Of course, yeah.
[02:25:50] Lisette: When did it become illegal?
[02:25:53] Sami Sourani: Oh the communists. The communists yeah. Of course, Mao Zedong and company they said it is destroying the population.
[02:26:03] Lisette: So what year was that?
[02:26:06] Sami Sourani: Oh 19, after the Second World War.
[02:26:10] Lisette: There was a book written Flower in the Blood or something like that. It was about the Sassoon.
[02:26:16] Sami Sourani: Sassoon family.
[02:26:18] Lisette: It was about opium.
[02:26:19] Sami Sourani: Well, no not about opium because, yeah, tea. They export tea, all the middle east get tea from them. All the Middle East get uh, chram [?], you know this kind of a cloth they use in...all of them get it. And then they became uh, uh...agents of General Electric and things like that, all equipment. Westinghouse was sent through the Sassoon’s.
[02:26:49] Lisette: Wow.
[02:26:50] Sami Sourani: And the Sassoon, there is a museum in Bombay uh, with his garment, the one that he came in Baghdad from it and is a sort of statue wearing it and they come there for two weeks to come and see how this man did. He built hospitals, he built schools with the money. He didn't keep it just for himself. [02:27:17] You know, and in the spoken language in Bombay, when you say someone Sassoon, this is luck. The word Sassoon means luck in Hindu.
[02:27:31] Lisette: Yeah, he had a synagogue there.
[02:27:33] Sami Sourani: Synagogue yeah, in Pune, his place was in Pune. And factories, all kinds of factories and all the Iraqi Jews who came to Bombay get a job overnight in his, in his companies, his factories.
[02:27:52] Lisette: My uncle died in the synagogue in Pune. Yeah, so things go around. any special traditions kept in your family? In Baghdad? Certain traditions of uh, I'm going back uh, I'm putting something new, food, clothing, anything special?
[02:28:19] Sami Sourani: Well, food uh, it's known. They bake [Hebrew] you know that the stuffed dates and uh, I...and we did uh, matzo at home. It was not bought from anywhere. It was, they purchased the grain, clean it, taking all the stones from it, take it to a place where it was grinded and made flour. [02:28:51] And at home they make the, the matzo. It was a round one like a matzo [Hebrew].
[02:29:00] Lisette: I forgot to ask you about the holy sites in Iraq.
[02:29:05] Sami Sourani: The holy sites?
[02:29:05] Lisette: The holy sites, that you have visited.
[02:29:07] Sami Sourani: Yeah, just one things about the baking. They have a tradition when the bake something, the first pita they took, or the first whatever, the cut half of it and put it near the door. Why? Um, waiting for Eliahu to come. And this was a tradition that was among all Jews since that woman get the blessing from the khalif of the Ottoman empire. [02:29:38] When he came to see her and he donated the land for cemetery so they said she give him half her pita so it becomes tradition, all the Jews who bake, half the pita they put it near the door. Maybe Eliahu will come. Another...
[02:29:55] Lisette: So what's the story of Eliahu?
[02:29:57] Sami Sourani: Well Eliahu is a symbol of hope. Okay? They say everyone that uh, uh, think about Eliahu, Eliahu might help him. So this poor woman, she was Jewish, had six child, sons, she was living in a slum near the uh border of Baghdad. And at that time Baghdad was under the uh, Persian rule and they treated them very badly. [02:30:27] So a delegation of Baghdadi Jews went to uh, to Istanbul to see the khalif, Murad Rabba [?] and they told him, We'll help you. Come and capture Baghdad and get rid of the Persian. So Murad came and he stopped few miles from Baghdad, then he uh, pretend to be a dervish. Dervish. He put rags on him and we went to Baghdad at night. [02:30:56] And he looked from the window, there was no glasses, no window, just opening and a woman baking. So he knocked on the door and he said, "I'm a dervish." If he is a dervish he is peaceful person, he just to pray. "I am hungry. Can you give me something to eat?" So she said to him, "I have six sons and I have a pita for me and one pita for each one of them. I am ready to share with you half my pita." So he took the pita. He said to her see, god is going to reward you many time, remember. And he went to his soldiers and he said, "tomorrow morning we have to attack Baghdad and we capture it and this is the symbol that god is with us. It's half the pita from a Jewish woman." [02:31:46] The second day, in the morning, he attacked Baghdad. Baghdad was captured. The Persian ran away. And right away he called about this women to come to his court. So this woman uh, soldier coming to her house, or her shack to take her to the new government, it means death, okay? So she went and cried all the way. She thought that she was condemned to death. [02:32:11] And she looked at people, people tuned their face because they were afraid of her. They were afraid they would be accused for something. She said, "At least take care of my children." Okay? So she went. Instead there was music for her and he himself stand. He said to her, "Do you remember me?" He said - she said, no how can I know? I am poor woman and you are a governor [?]. How I can, how I know you? He said, "I am the dervish who came last night to your house and you gave me half a pita. I want to reward you. Here are two bags of gold and silver." [02:32:45] He said, she said, "Thank you." And he order good clothes for her children. Then he said, "Now you make a wish." She said, "What is a wish?" He said, "Something that you want to do for yourself you cannot afford it." He said, "I don't want it for myself, but for my community. We don't have a cemetery. Could you please give us a piece of land that everyon- person who dies can be buried there?" [02:33:09] He said, fine, gave her a big piece of land. And that piece of land became the main cemetery until we left when Nuri Said decided to raze it down.
[02:33:24] Lisette: Yeah.
[02:33:24] Sami Sourani: So the people...
[02:33:25] Lisette: What year was that?
[02:33:29] Sami Sourani: 1642.
[02:33:29] Lisette: So it was there from like, 400 years.
[02:33:32] Sami Sourani: 400 years. Right. And then, the people, especially the Jews, said, oh she's my cousin and then they all become her cousin because she is rich. [laughs] And the call, uh, the place Parazada in uh, uh Persian a grace from god. So within time people didn't pronounce it properly. They say Parrizat [?] so there is a family of descendents Parizat in Baghdad. [laughs]
[02:34:04] Lisette: So para...
[02:34:08] Sami Sourani: Para, money. Azada, gift from god.
[02:34:11] Lisette: Ah ok, is that Persian?
[02:34:13] Sami Sourani: Persian yeah. Para, Persian.
[02:34:16] Lisette: Ok, now the holy sites.
[02:34:17] Sami Sourani: Yeah, the holy sites. Okay, holy sites uh, in Baghdad itself you have two. One is [name of site], the person who was head of the Jewish community in Baghdad as well as treasurer of the Muslim community. And...
[02:34:36] Lisette: With Aliyah...
[02:34:37] Sami Sourani: With Aliyah Butaaba [?]. People worshiped him because he was a great doctor. He, everyone who come, get help and in our time they had a sort of yeshiva in the same place and some people who feel a bit like, sick, they went there and there were people [inaudible] [02:35:02] You go there, they put their head, hand on their head and they pray a little and sometimes they give you a piece of uh, black ribbon to put in on your shoulder of the, hand and go home and you will be uh, fine. It is a kind of uh, medication. You know, you pray for someone, his mind is start thinking that really something is coming from heaven. And that stayed until we left Baghdad, okay? [02:35:33] So now what happened to his, his place is almost...
[02:35:38] Lisette: Grave.
[02:35:38] Sami Sourani: Yeah grave. It's falling apart. But there was a Muslim in that area who put a chain around the building and he said, "I take care of it, of it." He took care of me, he healed me and I don't want anyone to touch this place. And he take care, cleaning, going around it and uh, when uh, a Jewish person went to Baghdad to visit the place and he saw the person he said, "This is just like a prophet for me. He saved my life, I will not let it down. I will take care of it as long as I live." That's one place. [overlap]
[02:36:13] Lisette: What year was that?
[02:36:17] Sami Sourani: 2003.
[02:36:18] Lisette: But now it's become a mosque no?
[02:36:21] Sami Sourani: No, it is falling apart. If they go it will fall on them.
[02:36:26] Lisette: Oh my god.
[02:36:27] Sami Sourani: Yeah, I took the picture, yeah.
[02:36:29] Lisette: Yes?
[02:36:31] Sami Sourani: I have the picture yeah. One day if you want I can give...
[02:36:33] Lisette: I would love to see it.
[02:36:34] Sami Sourani: Okay. And uh...
[02:36:36] Lisette: This is a picture that you could have shown me.
[02:36:39] Sami Sourani: Anyhow. The other holy place is in Awamiya. There was uh, uh, Yehoshua Anambi. Yehoshua came with...
[02:36:51] Lisette: Joshua.
[02:36:52] Sami Sourani: Joshua he came with the Babylonian uh, prisoners, he is descended of the prophet Samuel. He is a cohen, so they built a museum, a mausoleum around his grave and all the big rabbis were buried there. The Muslim came and said, "It is ours." So they call it, now it is a mosque. The mosque of Jo- the prophet Joshua Cohen. [laughs] It is theirs.
[02:37:24] Lisette: Okay, and we have how many other Jewish sites?
[02:37:28] Sami Sourani: In Hilla you have Job but his grave also falling apart and nobody take care of it. You have Yeheskel not far away. You have Ezra.
[02:37:39] Lisette: [overlap] Ezekiel.
[02:37:39] Sami Sourani: Ezekiel. You have Ezra also.
[02:37:41] Lisette: Ezra the scribe.
[02:37:43] Sami Sourani: Yeah, these are the two. In Kirkuk you have Daniel and his three disciples.
[02:37:48] Lisette: Daniel.
[02:37:49] Sami Sourani: Daniel, yeah. Then, in the north you have uh, Jonah, they destroyed his grave.
[02:37:54] Lisette: Yonah is Jonah.
[02:37:56] Sami Sourani: Jonah [inaudible] Jonah. You have also Nahub [sp?] also they destroyed his grave.
[02:38:00] Lisette: ISIS.
[02:38:02] Sami Sourani: ISIS yeah. And also Seth, the son Noah, also they destroyed his grave. And who else?...that's, that's what I remember.
[02:38:14] Lisette: Yeah. That's wonderful. Okay. Uh...We said you went to Israel then you came here with your parents. How did you come from Israel? You came by boat?
[02:38:43] Sami Sourani: No, no, by plane.
[02:38:45] Lisette: By plane. What year did you come to Canada?
[02:38:47] Sami Sourani: '63. 1963. Yeah.
[02:39:01] Lisette: So when you came here it was you and your brothers who were working. Your mom was also working here?
[02:39:06] Sami Sourani: Sometimes. Sometimes she worked.
[02:39:08] Lisette: [overlap]
[02:39:09] Sami Sourani: No he couldn't do anything. He was not young anymore and not healthy.
[02:39:28] Lisette: Okay are you a member of a synagogue now?
[02:39:30] Sami Sourani: Yeah, that's uh, Spanish and Portuguese.
[02:39:34] Lisette: How did you mix in Ottawa when you were in Ottawa. Who did you mix with? How did your family adjust to it?
[02:39:44] Sami Sourani: In fact, I was too busy with the work. My wife joined the Hadassah and they have a club and joined them. She had a friend there and sometimes we had uh, a, one day every two weeks we get together and we do a sort of a supper, ethnic supper. One day, like, you know, Iraqi-Jewish supper the other, Greek supper, the other Italian supper. [02:40:12] And you know, it was nice. Quiet city, quiet people. At the beginning you know, it wasn't easy to go and mix with the resident of Ottawa. It was not easy.
[02:40:28] Lisette: So were your friends uh, non Jewish and Jewish?
[02:40:32] Sami Sourani: Mh-hm. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[02:40:33] Lisette: It was a mix.
[02:40:34] Sami Sourani: It was a mix. Yeah.
[02:40:37] Lisette: And uh, did any organization or specific people help you settle in Canada? Or in Ottawa?
[02:40:44] Sami Sourani: Nobody. We depend only on ourselves.
[02:40:48] Lisette: Okay. Now, uh do you preserve your Sephardi or Mizrahi heritage? Do you consider yourself Mizrahi?
[02:40:57] Sami Sourani: Yeah, sort of. [laughs]
[02:41:00] Lisette: Okay, the most important part of your uh, Sephardic background, Mizrahi background.
[02:41:08] Sami Sourani: Well uh, the way our family used to get together. Because that created sort of contacts, communications with the cousins, with the relatives, you know? That was the best time. Especially on Shabbat dinner, you know? That was the best time.
[02:41:28] Lisette: Where was that?
[02:41:28] Sami Sourani: In Baghdad. Not in Israel it was, you know. And not here.
[02:41:32] Lisette: And not here. Uh, okay how would you describe yourself in terms of your identity? Canadian, Israeli? What?
[02:41:43] Sami Sourani: Well most of my life I spent it in Canada. Not anywhere else. Of course I don't want even to remember Iraq. Believe it or not. Yeah. Israel yeah, I love Israel, we grew up there. We had hard time but we overcome all the hardship.
[02:41:59] Lisette: What do you consider yourself? [overlap] Canadian?
[02:42:00] Sami Sourani: Canadian. Yeah.
[02:42:04] Lisette: Do you consider yourself, do you see yourself as a refugee or an immigrant?
[02:42:08] Sami Sourani: No, not at all.
[02:42:10] Lisette: But weren't you a refugee when you [overlap]
[02:42:12] Sami Sourani: I was a refugee yeah, but mind you, when we went to Israel, the United Nations did not want to give us the title refugee. If they give us the title refugee they have to pay for every refugee, certain amount of money. So they called us displaced people. Displaced, which means a person in the same area take him from here, sitting here and we are not entitled to any help from the United Nations.
[02:42:40] Lisette: And neither were you entitled, neither did you ask for help when you came to Canada.
[02:42:44] Sami Sourani: No.
[02:42:46] Lisette: Where do you consider home?
[02:42:49] Sami Sourani: Here. Canada.
[02:42:53] Lisette: What identity do you want to pass to your children? Grandchildren?
[02:42:59] Sami Sourani: Well, I think they better identify themselves with the Canadian society. That's the best thing. In the past we cannot leave the past. It is gone.
[02:43:13] Lisette: What languages do you speak to them?
[02:43:14] Sami Sourani: Oh English. My children, English.
[02:43:19] Lisette: What impact did this migration, refugee migration experience have on your life?
[02:43:25] Sami Sourani: Well, at the beginning it was a shock. There is no question about it. But you learn how to overcome all these difficulties. Every beginning is hard. There is no question about it.
[02:43:38] Lisette: In Israel and in Canada? [overlap]
[02:43:39] Sami Sourani: Yeah, somehow it was easier here. Because the work pportunities are not left, you know, getting nothing, doing nothing.
[02:43:51] Lisette: Okay now, the last question. What message would you like to give to anyone who would listen to this interview?
[02:43:59] Sami Sourani: Well, to think about family, to think about community, to think about peace. Not to do anything against the law of any country or any community because if you want to live in peace, that's the way. If you want to have a good life, that's the way.
[02:44:18] Lisette: Did you want to say anything about the impact of Babylonian Jews?
[02:44:25] Sami Sourani: How, long, how much time you give me?
[02:44:26] Lisette: No, no just do it, like, short. Lets give it five minutes.
[02:44:31] Sami Sourani: Uh, the Diaspora of Babylon was the first Diaspora in the world. IT, uh, and it is the longest one. It is started 800, no 586 BC and ended up in 1951, '50-'51. Those people came to a different environment. They were refugees, they were prisoners, they were people that are craftsmen, handymen because those are the people that Nebuchadnezzar picked up when he brought them to Babylon. [02:45:11] They did a lot in Babylon in many ways. We learned also from the Babylonian uh...one, uh, Muslim Iraqi historian said. The Jews of Babylon brought with them they music. The music was not known before the coming of the Jews. All archaeological digging did not show any uh, instrument before the Jews. [02:45:37] They come and they mix the music with their prayers so that it goes to the, the person feel relaxed and understand what he is saying. We learned, we learned, that's what they learned. We learned from them many things about astronomy, uh, the Jews learned that from the Babylonians. They were very advanced. [02:46:00] They learned that the uh, the circle has 360 degrees, they learned about dividing the year into months. The months that we use today in Hebrew, they are not Hebrew, they are Babylonian. Like you know, the month of Ab, Abu in Babylonian Abo but the Jews cut the "o".
[02:46:23] Lisette: August.
[02:46:24] Sami Sourani: August yeah. August, Abo. One month it is different. It is Siwan uh, Habshta in the Babylonian but the Jews call it Siwan [?] and so on and so on. Then, the Babylonian did not have a sort of a family. The concept of family, married people did not exist. A man has a number of wives and once a year if he wants to get rid of some of them, they auction them. [02:46:58] And whoever pay [laughs] for, for them her get the money and get other woman, you know, to work in his field. That was, there was no concept of marriage at all. This is why they fall apart, you know. Because a family is the basis of any society. [02:47:17] Then the laws. The first people, the first law in the world came from Babylon. It said eye against eye uh, tooth against tooth. This came from Babylon. It is also included in the bible as one of the ancient laws they had okay?
[02:47:33] Lisette: Was it the Jews who did it or the Babylonians?
[02:47:35] Sami Sourani: No the Babylonians did it. And there was, they discovered also the picture of the king Hammurabi standing with a tablet in his hand and this is carved. Eye against eye, tooth against tooth. You know? So it's Babylonian. Uh, well earned from them, in fact, not from them but from the Persian how to write down everything on calfskin, okay? [02:48:03] That was the Persian; they have their religion, zorosta. Zorosta has very similarity to Judaism. There are few things different okay? So we learned that because they write their bible on parchment, okay? I mean, on calfskin. And so we started writing the bible on calfskin. Okay? Then, our major contribution was making community through the synagogue, they make the people feeling they have, they are not alone. They are living together. [02:48:36] They can help each other. And at that time, Ezekiel succeeded. Why? There was no money. So a farmer who has good crop and his neighbour had bad crop, of course, the one with good crop will give his neighbour food to eat. If he keep the food the food will get bad and rotted. [02:48:55] So this way he created a sort of a friendship among people. Money didn't exist. Okay? There was also, one thing the Jews introduced, a system of financial institutions. Like that financial institution takes care of all kinds of agreements between people. There were tablets that were discovered in 18-something by a British expedition in Babylon. [02:49:22] Ah, they went to Babylon to dig and they saw, there was storm, a rainstorm. They saw a tent, they went, there was a farmer living. They said, can we stay until the, the storm is over? He said, yes. They noticed he has a sort of steps. Those steps are pieces of burned clay. They looked at one of, one of them, there was something carved. They said to him, "What is that?"[02:49:54] He said, "Oh, those were buried in a, a hill and when the rain was uh, heavy it melt and I took, I use them, stepping stones that helps." They said, how much you are going to sell them to us? Ah one penny per [laughs]...They took it to England, they decipher two. In my time two were deciphered. [02:50:16] One of them was a family that wanted to adopt a child so they have to put few pieces of gold in that institute so that when they have the child adopted they raise him as their child and not sell him after that to be a slave. Okay? There was another tablet, a person who bought for his wife a bracelet with uh, stones. So they put the money in that institution and the if the bracelet were done properly and then they give the money and the bracelet to the person. [02:50:53] That's the only two things I had. And that bank, or institution continued for 400 years.
[02:50:59] Lisette: That was the first bank...
[02:51:01] Sami Sourani: First bank in the world. First financial institution.
[02:51:03] Lisette: By a Jewish...
[02:51:04] Sami Sourani: By Jewish, yeah, his name Jacob Morashu and son, yeah. And the name of the bank Iktibi [sp?], I don't know what is it. Okay?
[02:51:14] Lisette: And the laws? The Jewish laws?
[02:51:16] Sami Sourani: Well the thing is this, Ezekiel made a synagogue okay? He created the prayer, the prayer has very, very important meaning that even today you ask a rabbi what is it, he doesn't give you a good answer, he doesn’t know. It has a very, very deep meaning and the prayer is the for, the person himself, for his personality not for anybody else. [02:51:41] He picked up good paragraphs from the bible and put it together so they can pray and then people add to it within time. Then, came Ezra. Ezra said the bible is known by heart by the Kohanim, okay? If the Kohanim, when they were in the holy land they were protected. Now they are not protected. If there is war and they will be killed and everything will be forgotten. [02:52:08] So he sat down write the five books of Moses on regular, of calfskin, okay? Beside the, the [inaudible] there is a pace, a place, a mikveh, a place where he can wash, why? Because when they write with his ink they smudge their hand. They don't want the ink to smudge the pages so every time his had get smudges he goes down, he wash and come back. [02:52:38] And this becomes a tradition and the pencil was not hold like that, it was hold like that so that his hand will not be on the calfskin and smudge it. And this also becomes a tradition.
[02:52:52] Lisette: Till now.
[02:52:52] Sami Sourani: Till now, that's right. Yeah. They write the Torah without any space between words, no space sentences and no paragraphs so the person has to learn to know haw to read just like that, you know, without any uh, division between those. Why? Because they want to save on calfskin, okay? That's the main reason. Then, thousand years after that, someone spent 25 years of his life to make the words, spaces and paragraphs and then, then nikoud. [02:53:29] When the punctuation, nikoud came it changes a lot of things. Why? Because you have the same word can be written in two ways, with the punctuation, two meanings. It's written the same way but with the punctuation it has different meaning. Okay? And that created a sort of discussion among people over the years. Okay? It's not the time to talk, to give examples. [02:53:56] Then the created the yeshiva schools. Three yeshivas in Babylon. Why? Because they said we need future leaders. Okay? it is true, we can have a, a rabbi now but that rabbi has limit, time limit for his life. What about next generation? So they created the yeshiva. And they, they introduced a system of learning which is used now in the best institution in the world. You don't learn something by heart, you read a sentence and ask a question. [02:54:28] Asking questions and have the answer and this way the person brain will be developed. Like, if you say, if I walking downtown it is, the air is full of smoke. If I go outside, walk in a park, the air is fresh. Why? You try to find the reason. And many questions asked and then here you have a science was created. That fresh air when you have greenery, when you have the sun, you know. It helps more than place where you have smoke and hurts, you know, yeah. [02:55:02] Then, in the area of medicine, they had a lot of things. I don't want to talk now because it's too long. Okay? So those are the main uh, the main things and then the Talmud. The Talmud was the best contribution to the world, not just to Judaism but to the law of the world. Because mixed [?] people think Talmud, just in a few words, has, it is cases. A problem that if a family of a person has, he go to the rabbis to have an answer. So they start discussing among them. [02:55:36] One of the cases has a conclusion, just like a court case, you know, you have the problem, you have a conclusion, you have the decision. Some cases there is no uh, conclusion and no decision. And one ask himself, why? What is the point? And there is the logic. Any decision in based on two factors. One factors are the facts in front of you and this never change. Facts never change. [02:56:04] Then you have explanation to factors. The explanation changes from one generation to another, from one community to another. Things that were good in the past are bad now. Because the new generation feel they are different and they cannot keep pace with the change of time. So they give the person a sort of flexibility. They judge has to flexible in his thinking and passing judgement. And that's a great contribution.
[02:56:34] Lisette: Yes. And what other [inaudible]
[02:56:40] Sami Sourani: That's to remind yourself of the uh, when you start a prayer, okay, you have something, something that hold you to feel a sort of uh, confident in what you are doing. so the main purpose of prayer is to give you confidence. And the prayer you can divide it through three portions. You have a lot of stories in the past. Of course, past is dead. You cannot do anything with it. [02:57:08] The future, nobody knows what is the future, okay? But from the past we learn lessons so we learn, we see, we take the past as lessons that we learn many things from it. The present is a gift, why? Because at the present you can do whatever you want. To have a good hope for the future, good expectations. [02:57:31] So the, the...one part is past, is dead, one part mystery, the other part is the present is a gift and you prepare yourself for expectation, for hope because nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow but you, you prepare yourself you can expect the best. That's the main purpose of the prayer and nothing else.
[02:57:55] Lisette: And the Jewish laws were all done in...
[02:57:59] Sami Sourani: Uh, it's all experience. Things that uh, part of it in the bible and my [??] explained that very nicely and amplified on that. Some of it in the Talmud and...
[02:58:14] Lisette: But the Jewish laws were created where?
[02:58:18] Sami Sourani: Everywhere. Create in Babylon, in Jerusalem, in Eastern Europe, everywhere and in France especially when the people ran away from Spain, you know, and settled part of them in Spain. Part of them in England. So all of them, you know, were involved in this and they wrote and explained.
[02:58:39] Lisette: What about the tefelin. Where was that?
[02:58:42] Sami Sourani: Well, uh, about a year ago there was a doctor in China and that doctor, without knowing anything about Judaism, he said to put something around your head in the morning it refresh activity of the brain. Nobody knows that. Okay? And finally he sadi - and finally he was told the Jews do that. He said, "This is why they are clever." [laughs] Yeah, so that was a sort of a tradition, you know? It started, I don't know, maybe in Babylon, maybe after that, a little after that.
[02:59:21] Lisette: The sesit was...
[02:59:23] Sami Sourani: The sesit [sp?] was in Babylon. Why? First of all, it has to be white. And why they have strips, strips mostly black, why? Because Ezekiel said, told there is no 100% purity. We have to accept life with certain uh, portion of problem, with certain portion of defects. That was the idea behind it.
[02:59:46] Lisette: Okay. And how about marriage and burial rites. Who started that?
[02:59:52] Sami Sourani: Yeah, marriage uh, it's very simple because the bible say, you know, man and woman can decide to be together and that's it. Then came the tradition to strengthen that the y took by the marriage contract and they put - in a marriage contract, it's in Aramaic, if you read it, most of the responsibility is on the man, not on the wife. [03:00:15] The husband is responsible for everything toward his wife. Okay? Then this is why they want to introduce the prayer about praising women every Friday night. And why? I will explain to you later. Okay? Then the ketubah came and then the burial.
[03:00:35] Lisette: When? Who did the tekubah?
[03:00:38] Sami Sourani: It was also the period of Ezekiel and Ezra.
[03:00:41] Lisette: In Babylon.
[03:00:42] Sami Sourani: In Babylon, right.
[03:00:44] Lisette: And the simple burail.
[03:00:44] Sami Sourani: Simple burial, when it comes, first the burial was, you find a cave and they carve something in the cave and put the body and after a year or two they open it, take the bones and put it in a small box made of marble. And that cost a lot of money and not - people could afford that. So one rabbi in Babylon said simple burial. See what is written in the bible? It is written from dust to dust. [03:01:14] So why you make all kinds of things about it? A person should be buried in his simple everyday clothes. And that becomes the law. At the same time, that did not reach the holy land in time. It reach only later, years later. In 1955, I think, there were the archaeological digging in uh, the mount Carmel. [03:01:38] And they find a monument written in both Aramaic and in Greek. It says, this is the grave of the daughter of Rabbi Gamaliel, he was very famous, who died a week before her own marriage. So in order to open the grave. There is an agreement in the government of Israel with the Hasidic people. Rabbi has to come and to make simple prayer before they remove the stone. [03:02:05] Tey came, they made the prayer, the removed the stone and what they find? Of course, no bones, ntohing. After 1500 years nothing is there, but they found containers of cosmetics because she dies before her mariage they thought she needs costmetic when she go...[laughs]. They were quite furious because this is not acceptable to have this kind of thing in the grave. [03:02:31] In Judaism it is absolutely unacceptable. Then they find out that she was buried before they get the instructions from Babylon that's bury-burying has to be very simple.
[03:02:45] Lisette: Beautiful.
[03:02:47] Sami Sourani: And also, one rabbi was very famous, he introduced the avoiding uh, temporary marriage. Now the Shia is doing it in Iran. A person can marry a girl for a week, two days and then give her money and bye bye Charlie. He doens't care about her.
[03:03:09] Lisette: If she has a child.
[03:03:10] Sami Sourani: Doesn't care. He give her money, okay? This rabbi said, this is a big mistake so around him they said approve [?]. It is a mistake. He said what happens if a man goes with two woman? The two become pregnant. One give birth to a boy, the other to a girl and the boy and the girl they don't know they have one father. [03:03:32] And they grow up, they get together and they get married. This is a marriage between brother and sister. And it is not allowed by the bible. So they agreed and they abolished this kind.
[03:03:43] Lisette: This was in Babylon as [overlap]
[03:03:43] Sami Sourani: In Babylon also. Yeah.
[03:03:45] Lisette: So all the uh, major rules of Judaism...
[03:03:50] Sami Sourani: Yeah, came from Babylon. And then you remember on uh, Saturday prayer, we pray for the government of the country.
[03:04:02] Lisette: Yes.
[03:04:02] Sami Sourani: When was that? That was introduced by this rabbi in Babylon when the Persian captured Babylon from the Greek and they said the Jews were collaborators. He said, well, we love you, we don't have anything against you. See? We are introducing this prayer in our, in our prayer every Saturday and every beautiful events in uh Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. [03:04:30] We pray for the country that hosts us and we pray for the leader of the country to have a good heart to rule. So that was accepted since the year 333 BCE.
[03:04:45] Lisette: And up to now...
[03:04:45] Sami Sourani: Up till now we use it.
[03:04:47] Lisette: In Canada...
[03:04:47] Sami Sourani: Canada, everywhere in the world.
[03:04:49] Lisette: In London.
[03:04:50] Sami Sourani: Everywhere in the world.
[03:04:51] Lisette: You pray for the country. Thank you very much. Anything else you'd like to say?
[03:04:58] Sami Sourani: Well I wanted to say just a few things in Arabic. Just, you know, describing something about the Farhoud and the, but I don't know if you have time? Five minutes?
[03:05:18] Lisette: Do as much as you can.
[03:05:21] Sami Sourani: When I was little I was quite impressed by a certain uh, Lebanese poem. He had something - something few letters that describe our situation. He said, [Arabic]. He said, in my youth, I saw my youth have some pain and some happiness but when I look back there more pain than happiness. That was exactly the situation. [03:05:53] We had pain and happiness in Iraq. And this was even sounded in the uh, songs of uh, the Kuwaiti brother. They uh, touch the cord of the uh, hood but in fact they touch the, the cords of the hearts of the Jews because they describe the situation of Iraq. Okay? [Arabic] How we can live if we forget Babel. It is part of our past. [Arabic] [03:06:53] The meadows of Babylon were our cradle. In childhood we drank the waters of the Euphrates and we were waned by the sweet water of the Euphrates. Oh, we yanked [?] the Tigress and we were uh, were waned by the water of the Euphrates. But that sweet water started to be very sour. [03:07:17] Time was against us, our friends against us and our enemies hate us. We become just like between hell and heaven. We have nowhere to go. [Arabic] How we can forget the miseries of the Farhoud? [Arabic] [03:07:36] Who was in his 90's he stood at his door praying to be the last sacrifice for the community. [Arabic] [03:08:08] They killed him they cut his head. His head fell down but his lips were still saying [deep salaam?]. Yeah. [Arabic] [03:08:32] How we can forget this woman, this mother who held her baby in her hands? They came and took him by force from her and [inaudible] and in front of her eyes they cut his limbs, his hands and uh, and feet to take the bracelet, the golden bracelet. His hand did not have a chance to touch the dirt of life. [Arabic] [03:09:08] That evening we stood in the, on the roof of our houses and we cried asking god to give us [??]. There was no echo to our cries but wind touches our faces and the starts smiled in our eye. That was not a solution for a broken heart. [Arabic] [03:09:58] The famous Jewish signer, when she said in Iraqi Arabic, [Arabic]. What destiny has carved on our forehead before we were born, our eyes are likely to see in our lifetime. And my grandfather said, well, this is life. We have night and we have day. One day we eat [Hebrew] one day we eat [Hebrew]. One day we eat onion, one day we eat honey. And they are both a gift from god and we have to accept it. So we live in hope. [Arabic] [03:10:43] Our hopes are the source of all pain. We hope for tomorrow but tomorrow brings another problem and we are lost in our hope. That was the situation. If I want to describe that situation after the Farhoud.
[03:10:58] Lisette: Beautiful. Who wrote this?
[03:11:02] Sami Sourani: [points to himself]
[03:11:01] Lisette: You wrote this?!? Have you written it down?
[03:11:06] Sami Sourani: Yeah.
[03:11:08] Lisette: I have to have a copy. My god, thank you thank you. Thank you very much for participating in