1793: In Saddam Hussein’s Basement


Title page of a volume from a multi-volume Talmud set published in Vienna in 1793 by Yozef Hroshontsḳi and recovered from the flooded basement of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, in 2003.

Tens of thousands of Jewish documents were discovered in the basement by the US Army, shedding light on the 2,500-year history of the Iraqi Jewish community. Most Jews had fled the country in the early 1950’s after the Iraqi government had instituted a series of anti-Semitic laws in response to Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948;  a number of synagogues had also been bombed. By 1951, more than a hundred thousand Jews had left the country.

This volume of the Talmud discusses laws and topics relating to Yom Kippurthe Day of Atonement, the most important Jewish holiday.


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