My Father's Paradise

My Father's Paradise

A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq

eBook - 2011
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In a remote and dusty corner of the world, forgotten for nearly three thousand years, lived an ancient community of Kurdish Jews so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic—the language of Jesus. Mostly illiterate, they were self-made mystics and gifted storytellers, humble peddlers and rugged loggers who dwelt in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in the mountains of northern Iraq. To these descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, Yona Sabar was born.In the 1950s, after the founding of the state of Israel, Yona and his family emigrated there with the mass exodus of 120,000 Jews from Iraq—one of the world's largest and least-known diasporas. Almost overnight, the Kurdish Jews' exotic culture and language were doomed to extinction. Yona, who became an esteemed professor at UCLA, dedicated his career to preserving his people's traditions. But to his first-generation American son Ariel, Yona was a reminder of a strange immigrant heritage on which he had turned his back—until he had a son of his own.My Father's Paradise is Ariel Sabar's quest to reconcile present and past. As father and son travel together to today's postwar Iraq to find what's left of Yona's birthplace, Ariel brings to life the ancient town of Zakho, telling his family's story and discovering his own role in this sweeping saga. What he finds in the Sephardic Jews' millennia-long survival in Islamic lands is an improbable story of tolerance and hope.Populated by Kurdish chieftains, trailblazing linguists, Arab nomads, devout believers—marvelous characters all— this intimate yet powerful book uncovers the vanished history of a place that is now at the very center of the world's attention.Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise is the Winner of the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography.
Publisher: 2011
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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savtadina
Mar 07, 2019

I know the uncle of the author, who is also a university professor but in Israel and not in the U.S. so I was pulled to read the book and learn about the family's background. I was riveted to the book for four days and had a hard time putting it down.

The author wrote the book to get closer to his father, a man he had had a hard time relating to. By doing so, he learned about his Kurdish Jewish heritage and how his father spent the first twelve years in his life, in a small town in Northern Iraq, with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Kurds, how the family was uprooted when they moved to Israel and how they were treated in the early 1950s there, and how the new generation worked extremely hard and succeeded in getting a good education.

This is in no way a work of fiction, but a story of a family, of a culture, how the culture and the language was recorded for the family and Jewish history, and of the relationship of the son to his father and his culture.

I strongly recommend that people with a Jewish heritage read this book and learn about this special Mizrachi Jewish culture and their adaptation to Israel.,

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mclarjh
Jun 22, 2015

Interesting subject, part memoir, part fiction, journalistic writing.

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DorisWaggoner
Jun 04, 2013

As a history nut, I had never heard of this group of "lost" Jews, and found the account fascinating and well-written. Sabar's characters and their relationships live so clearly that I sometimes found myself in tears. As a journalist, he knows how to personalize larger issues. I'm the grandchild of immigrants, in an era when the mere word sets of firecrackers, the book is also even more timely than when it was written. He'd have gotten 5 stars from me if the end hadn't felt like a bit of a fizzle compared to the rest, and if the proofreading had been better.

BrigidScott Jan 17, 2012

I don't often pick up nonfiction, but this was fairly interesting.

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