Chapter 3: The Mizrahim: Anglicized Orientals with Transnational Networks and ‘Ethics Capital’
Léo-Paul Dana* INTRODUCTION In 597 bc, 10 000 inhabitants of Jerusalem – then capital of the Kingdom of Judaea – were taken to Babylonia by the Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar. Following a siege, the Judaean capital was defeated by the Babylonians in 586 bc. Godspeed wrote: Nebuchadnezzar bestirred himself and advanced in strong force as far as Riblah on the middle Orontes. Thence he sent out a division against Judah, that overran the country and besieged the three strongholds which held out, Azekah, Lachish, and Jerusalem . . . The defence of Jerusalem was particularly desperate; only after a siege of one and a half years was it taken (586 bc). The usual punishments were inflicted. The king was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar’s own hand; his sons and counsellors were slain, the citizens deported, the city was demolished, and the booty carried away. (1902, p. 280) Weche elaborated, ‘Nebuchadnezzar had also mercilessly ransacked Canaan and expelled the Israelites from their land’ (2000, p. 623). Exiled to the region of Mesopotamia (from the Greek ‘between the rivers’ and referring to the land between the Euphrates River and the Tigris River) the Judaeans were ‘segregated in Babylonia and left practically to themselves, preserved their national spirit’ (Godspeed, 1902, p, 285). In time, the Babylonian Empire ceased to exist and the region of Mesopotamia was occupied by various foreign empires, including the Ottoman Empire. In 1865, the Alliance Israélite Universelle established what is reputed to have been the best school in Baghdad. Graduates were usually fluent in several...
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