New Iraqi Law Jeopardizes Yad L’Achim Outreach Efforts with Jews ThereJune 01, 2022
Iraq’s parliament just passed a law making it illegal to normalize relations with Israel – which it dubs “the Zionist entity.” The law is part of an effort by Shi’ite clerics aligned with Iran to shut down any possibility of peace talks with the Jewish state.
The law also has ramifications for individuals, as it bars any contact between citizens of Iraq and those of Israel, whether through text messages, telephone calls, letters, or any other means.
Among those likely to be seriously harmed are Jews in Iraq who have begun making their way back to Judaism with the help of Yad L’Achim’s “Roots Department.” This department reaches out to Iraqi Jews with Torah learning in Arabic, utilizing many different strategies and means of communication.
In the wake of the new law, these Jews are afraid to continue contact with an organization based in Israel.
A report submitted this week to Yad L’Achim’s administration by the head of the Roots Department states: “The situation there gets more serious from day to day, and there is real fear. The law forbids them to remain in touch with us in any fashion, and the fear of violating it is already being felt in the field. Several of those who learn with me – D. M. Sh. – said they are afraid to continue the connection and that I shouldn’t get in touch with them to learn and shouldn’t send daily shiurim and divrei Torah.”
In the face of concern that Yad L’Achim might not be able to continue activities that are keeping the embers of Torah learning alive and helping Iraqi Jews complete their journey back to Judaism, Yad L’Achim is mulling ways to continue the connection via a third country.
“After returning these lost Jews to Am Yisrael, we will do everything to stay in touch with them, without, chalilah, putting them in danger of being hurt or taken captive for violating the law,” Yad L’Achim said in a statement. “We will do everything to ensure that these precious Jews are not lost to the Jewish people, once again.”
A Yad L’Achim activist learns via Zoom with a Jew in Iraq.