FLIGHT FROM BABYLON: Iraq, Iran, Israel, America by

FLIGHT FROM BABYLON: Iraq, Iran, Israel, America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Babylon refers to Baghdad, and also to the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews, in this gripping, golden-tongued tale of an American ophthalmologist's exotic childhood as a Jew in Muslim Iraq and his adult escape to Israel. Heksell Haim Ma-Sha-Allah Haddad's memories of Baghdad in the 1930's are a masterpiece of ethnological observation: while vividly depicting the color and passion of day-to-day life in a middle-class Jewish household, he captures the mad mix of ancient (snorting camels, chanting mua'dhin) and modern (blaring car horns) in one of the world's oldest cities. Haddad's joyous boyhood turned to dust when Nazi propaganda marched into the Middle East, inciting Islamic terror squads to oppress the Jewish minority. Turning Zionist at the age of 12 upon reading Herzl, the author learned gun, knife, and unarmed combat as a member of the Shuts, the Jewish underground. Simultaneously, he studied the art of healing, entering medical school after receiving the highest grades in the nation on the baccalaureate exam. The status of Iraqi Jews worsened following the creation of Israel, and Haddad played his part in helping Jewish refugees flee across the desert. Finally, he quit Iraq to serve as a doctor in a refugee camp in Teheran, and in 1950 arrived in Israel--where in stirring language he recalls his dismay at encountering pervasive prejudice against African and Asian immigrants, so reminiscent of the Islamic prejudice against Jews. A personal memoir, then, but with the compelling characters, complex plot and high adventure of a true thriller--and a powerful moral message to boot.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1986
Publisher: McGraw-Hill