Award winning journalist Ariel Sabar has just published a new book called "My Father's Paradise - A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq".
In some ways Ariel and his father Yona's story is thousands of miles away - geographically and culturally -from my own. And yet, as 91.7 KAXE hosts the StoryCorps crew in Northern Minnesota I am reminded how much our stories matter. The stories of our mothers and fathers inform and in some cases, define who we are. We live here, in the young country of the United States, knowing very little of the immigrant stories of our ancestors.
Ariel Sabar's father, Yona, was born in a mud hut in a tiny village in the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq. Nestled in the mountains, this community of Zahko had been there for nearly 3,000 years. The people spoke Aramic - the language of Jesus - a language that has nearly died out. In the early 1950's Yona and 120,000 other Iraqi Jews were resettled in the newly established Israel. Life there was tenuous - cramped and filled with bigotry and poverty. Eventually Ariel's father made his way through night school in Jerusalem and on to Yale University. Today he is an expert in Aramic and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Jews of Kurdistan.
To outsiders this story is important and fascinating. But when it is your father's story, well, it's just something your sometimes embarrassing family tells you. At least that how it was to journalist Ariel Sabar. Until he had a son. "My Father's Paradise - A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq" is the father-son tale of retracing a family and a country's history.
Sabar offers something rare and precious – a tale of hope and continuity that can be passed on for generations. . . . Readers can only be grateful to him for unearthing the history of a family, a people and a very different image of Iraq. " – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)