'I've been sentenced to death' - a farewell letter of an Iraqi Jew in 1969

Sami Halali and his family were able to flee Iraq to Israel in 1971. Sami explained that the family hid the letter in their house after they received it in Iraq, but read it only once because of the pain it caused.

By ZACK EVANS,
February 23, 2019 17:50
2 minute read.
Karbala, Iraq

Karbala, Iraq. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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The last letter of an Iraqi Jew executed in Baghdad on charges of spying for Israel was revealed for the first time, 50 years after the fact, according to a report in Yediot Ahronoth.

“I have been tried and sentenced to death,” the 21-year-old Naim Hatchuri Halali wrote to his family from the execution cell. “Father, I beg you to forgive me for not fulfilling my duty. Mother! Fill in the place for me because you possess great wisdom,” he wrote.

In 1969, 14 people were hanged in Baghdad's Tahrir Square after they were found guilty of spying for Israel. One of them was Halali, who wrote the aforementioned letter just days before his death.

In the letter, Halali asked after the health of his family and even tried to reassure them that he was doing well.

"My first question is: how is your health and your condition," he wrote, adding "thank God, I am well. I do not regret anything but the separation from you."

Addressing each family member individually, he wrote to his brother Sami, "you know how much I love you. You're even a part of my soul...I ask that you bless all of my friends in my name and kiss them in my place."

The letter was revealed at an annual event for the families and descendants of Jews executed by the Iraqi regime, held at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda on Jan. 30.

Iraq was once home to one of the world's oldest Jewish community, whose history dates back to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C. In the first half of the 20th century, the city of Baghdad's population was one-third Jewish. After the State of Israel declared independence, the Iraqi regime persecuted its Jewish subjects, leading to a mass exodus of Iraqi Jewry to Israel that continued into the early 1970's.

In that period, members of the Iraqi Jewish community were fired from their jobs, forbidden to register at universities, thrown into prisons, tortured and murdered.

Sami Halali and his family were able to flee Iraq to Israel in 1971. Sami explained that the family hid the letter in their house after they received it in Iraq, but read it only once because of the pain it caused.

"[In the letter, Naim] asked my mother to immigrate to the land of Israel," said Sami, as reported by Yediot Ahronoth.. "Fifty years have passed, and we have grown up, and this letter has a first-rate Zionist value, and we thought it was right to expose it," he added.

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