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[casi-analysis] U.S. Celebrates Jewish Chanukah at Saddam's Palace

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A bit old article, but it should make the reasons for
invading Iraq clearer....



U.S. Celebrates Jewish Chanukah at Saddam's Palace
By Julia Goldman, The Jewish Week

On her last flight from New York to Baghdad, Carole
Basri’s carry-on weighed nearly 40 pounds. Forged of
cast iron, her special cargo arrived via Kuwait
in a C-130 transport plane, well in advance of its
scheduled mission: To serve as the Chanukah menorah at
Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in Saddam
Hussein’s former palace.

“The plane before us — rockets were shot at it,”
Basri, a New York-based lawyer doing legal work for
the authority, said.

Basri had brought the lamp at the request of Frank E.
Wismer III, head chaplain at the palace, who wanted it
for Chanukah celebrations beginning this week, just
days after U.S. troops captured the former Iraqi
dictator in his underground hideout. “The first place
we set it up was Saddam’s throne room,” Basri said.

“Hanukiah with Pomegranates, ” which stands 14 inches
high and has candleholders in the form of the ripe,
seeded fruit, was made for the occasion by Oded
Halahmy, a Baghdad-born sculptor who works in Soho and
Old Jaffa.

“The symbolism of something made by an Iraqi Jew in
the royal palace that Saddam made his palace — that’s
very significant,” said Basri, whose great-grandfather
was Baghdad’s chief rabbi.

Col. Wismer made his own symbolic connection. In a
letter to Halahmy, he wrote that personnel working at
the palace “are experiencing something akin to what
the Jews must have experienced when the Maccabees
recaptured Jerusalem and put an end to the pagan
worship that had desecrated the temple.”

“This year,” Wismer wrote, “Chanukah will not only be
a remembrance of our salvation history, but the
celebration of our shared experience here in

Halahmy, whose family immigrated to Israel in 1951,
remembers Baghdad as a “garden of Eden.” He is
currently working on a book of photographs to
document Jewish holy sites — many in towns now
familiar to Americans, like Mosul and Kirkuk. “This is
something not to do with politics,” Halahmy said,
“but more to do with understanding other cultures.”

The sculptor has been invited to join in cultural
activities planned for Baghdad. And when the situation
settles in his birthplace, Halahmy hopes to open a
Jewish information center there. Meanwhile, through
the Oded Halahmy Foundation, he organizes musical and
literary events featuring Arab-speaking
artists and publishes books, including “Iraqi Poetry
Today,” now in its second printing (Zephyr Press).

Halahmy won’t be in Baghdad for Chanukah. Instead,
he’ll light candles on other of his artworks at public
celebrations in New York and Tel Aviv. (See Arts Guide
on page 50 for details.)

“The candelabrum is a symbol of peace and hope for the
Jewish people,” Halahmy told The Jewish Week. “I wish
the same thing for the Iraqi people.”

Ñ 2000 - 2002 The Jewish Week, Inc. All rights


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