Rachel was cooking ‘Kicheri’ an Iraqi dish of rice and lentils. She was cooking but her mind was elsewhere. She was worried about her 2 sons Ezra and Simantov that smuggled themselves out of Iraq just 3 days before. They joined a small group of professional smugglers to get them out and Rachel already missed them. She actually felt that something bad was happening to them…
Yihya her husband came back home and Rachel asked how the market was that day. But Yihya didn’t answer. His face was in his hands, full of grief. “Yihya, what happened to Ezra and Simantov”? She asked. Yihya only nodded in silence and Rachel knew that the group of smugglers trying to escape Iraq was caught and imprisoned in the horrible Iraqi prison.
Rachel sat down and cried quietly. She could see the image of her sons floating before her eyes. “Why did I send them by themselves”? She tortured herself with the question. Another voice inside her answered “you did all that you could for them. They couldn’t stay in Iraq any more. The teasing and taunting of their teachers and friends became unbearable and what happened now was a decree from heaven.”
Rachel knew the second voice was the truth but she still could not control her tears. From that day onwards, Rachel and Yihya sprang into action. There was no time to waste. Every day the boys stayed in prison they had less of a chance to get out. Yihya and Rachel were prepared to anything to get them out.
Yihya burst into the house and called out: “Rachel there’s a way to get Ezra and Simantov out of prison and we can join them to go to Israel!!!” How? Rachel asked excitedly. Ezra explained: “A new law just was passed today in Iraqi parliament called the “loyalty law”. And emissaries from Israel already came to Iraq to help anyone who wants to come to Israel.” “So what? I don’t get it! What is this law?” Rachel asked puzzled.
Ezra explained: “The law is that if you declare you do not want to be an Iraqi citizen then that means you are not loyal to Iraq and that means you have 20 days to pack your belongings. Because after you sign that you don’t want to be an Iraqi citizen they will throw you out after 20 days. This also applies to those who were caught trying to escape like our sons Ezra and Simantov! Not only can we leave we have to leave! We can free Ezra and Simantov and be on our way to Israel!!”
And that’s exactly what happened. Yihya and Rachel were able to sign and free their sons. Together with many hundreds of Jewish Iraqi families they went to the Iraqi border where Israeli planes spirited them to Israel to begin their new lives in the Holy Land.
In 1950 the 2nd of Iyar 5710 the Ezra-Nehemiah campaign took place helping 120,000 Iraqi Jews leave Iraq and come to Israel. Before this campaign life for Iraqi Jews was unbearable. Nobody could leave or come. Living conditions were difficult and the anti-Semitism grew great after Israel became a state and Iraq lost the 1948 War of Independence against Israel they resented the Iraqi Jews. Many Iraqi Jews tried illegally to escape. Israel saw the dire straits of the Iraqi Jews and tried to help. After long negotiations with Iraq they succeeded and were able to implement the Ezra-Nehemiah campaign and get 120,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel legally and safely.
Now we don’t need to fight to get to Israel. She is waiting for us!