The author, an Iraqi-born Jew (currently Speaker of the Knesset in Israel), played a major role in arranging the early '50s airlift that brought 125,000 Iraqi immigrants to Israel, at the same time ending the exile of the oldest Jewish community in the world. Hillel recounts the many tight spots and close calls he experienced as an undercover Israeli agent working to strike a deal with Iraq and open the way for the exodus, and how by luck and fancy footwork he was repeatedly able to extricate himself. (At one point, posing as a British business executive, he's invited to the house of the Iraqi prime minister and finds himself confronted by a relative he hasn't seen in years who he fears may inadvertently give him away.) The book includes little-known material about the persecution of Iraqi Jews in a country where, as Hillel puts it, ``the death of a Jew was a cause for exultation.'' Photos. (November)
The Zionist effort to smuggle Iraqi Jews out of that country and into Palestine, later Israel (1947-52) is the subject of this harrowing tale. The author, a native of Baghdad and an Israeli diplomat, was an active participant in the Jewish underground. He also gives a great deal of insight on the role of Jews in Iraqi society and their social position in modern times. The often mysterious dealings of the underground, combined with the humanitarian aspect of the operation, make this story riveting. A much different perspective on Iraqi Jews is given in Abbas Shiblak's The Lure of Zion: the case of the Iraqi Jews (London: Al Saqi Bks., 1986). Recommended to a wide audience. Sanford R. Silverburg, Catawba Coll., Salisbury, N.C.