12 June 2008

Iraq: Lost and found

It's never too late.

This Ynetnews story covers Hannah Menashe who was 21 when she was kidnapped from her Baghdad family before they immigrated to Israel. Now 76, she is finally making aliyah and rejoining her family.

Fifty-five years after she was abducted from her family's home in Baghdad by her Muslim neighbor and forced to renounce her Judaism, Hannah Menashe managed to flee Iraq and find her way to one of Israel’s European embassies. Her long, exhausting journey is finally coming to an end these days, as she will soon be reunited with he family in Israel, who thought her murdered all these years.

Hannah’s fascinating story begins in the 1950s, when her Baghdad-native family – parents and seven siblings – decided to immigrate to Israel. Hannah, already married to a Jewish Iraqi, was also planning to make aliyah, when fate struck: A Muslim neighbor, who was aware of the family’s plans to immigrate, kidnapped the striking Hannah to keep her by his side. Her siblings only have a vague recollection of that horrible day. They went looking for Hannah, they say, but the earth had swallowed her.

Decades passed, the siblings made aliyah and the family expanded, all the while keeping their bitter secret to themselves. Shortly after arriving in Israel, Hannah’s mother died at 37, her heart broken by losing her child.

However, six months ago, the family received a surprising phone call from Ravit Topol of the Ministry of Interior who wanted to confirm a story.

Hannah's husband died a year ago and she escaped Baghdad, reached Europe and located an Israeli embassy.

“I am Jewish, I want to go to Israel,” she said in fluent Arabic and with great excitement. The embassy found it hard to believe her story; but when she named her relatives in Israel, the embassy officials realized the truly incredible nature of the story unfolding before their very eyes and quickly contacted the Ministry of Interior’s population administration.

Read more here.

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