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The Jewish Diaspora and Fallujah, Iraq

If there are no easy solutions to the conflict in Iraq, neither are there easy truths. While most commentators write of tribal loyalties, internecine conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite, and of a civil society in its infancy, consider this: From 258 CE to 1038 CE Pumbedita, a city in what is now the modern state of Iraq was, together with Sura, the most important center of Jewish scholarship and learning in the entire Jewish Diaspora. Communities throughout the then known world, but especially the Arabic-speaking Jews of Al-Andalus, looked to Pumbedita for guidance and the most authoritative interpretation and meaning of talmudic questions. Pumbedita’s role as the center of Jewish learning, and the theological and practical opinions rendered there, written in Arabic using Hebrew script, lasted as long as Islamic rule in Al-Andalus, more than twice as long as the US has existed, and almost 20 times as long as the modern Iraqi nation. Today Pumbedita will not be found on any map of Iraq. This is not the consequence of its being destroyed when the Mongols overran today’s Iraq, or of its being reduced to a nameless desert pinprick on the map. Pumbedita was renamed. Today it is known as Fallujah.

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