I love to wear my grandmother’s bangle because it identifies me as Iraqi. People stop me to ask, “Are you Iraqi? My mother, my grandmother had a bangle exactly like that.” And they join me in remembering where we come from.  

I always wanted to write my bangle’s story, and finally I wrote the story about a girl called Shoham. She is named after my aunt, who had to leave Baghdad with her family. In my story, Shoham loves her bangle. It jingles when she bakes date cookies (ba’aba tamar) with her beloved Nana in Baghdad. It glitters when she picks figs, and in the evenings, she sits on the roof and swaps her bangle from wrist to wrist to help her remember things.   

I grew up in Sydney, Australia surrounded by my Iraqi Jewish family, eating Iraqi Jewish food and listening to Judeo-Arabic songs and conversations. I didn’t appreciate my grandparents’ Iraq. As I began writing, I began delving into the Babylonian Jewish history that I had never thought much of as I tried to find my place in Sydney’s predominantly European Jewish community.   

The more I wrote, the more I remembered the beautiful Baghdad of my grandparents, who trace their history to the Babylonian exile from Jerusalem over 2,500 years ago. In their Baghdad, Jews lived in peace with their Muslim and Christian neighbors. By World War I, Jews made up a third of Baghdad and were a vibrant part of society.   

My grandparents described life in Iraq as living in the Garden of Eden, where they picnicked on islands in the Tigris River, where they  visited the tomb of Ezekiel the Prophet in Al-Kiffil on Shavuot, where an English captain sounded his ship’s horn in tribute when passing the tomb of Ezra the Scribe in Al Uzzair. It was where my grandmother grew up, where men would sip black tea and play tawli (backgammon) at coffeeshops, and women swapped khubz, Iraqi bread, with their Muslim neighbors.    

Unfortunately, things changed and they had to leave. When my grandparents left with their five children, along with 120,000 Iraqi Jews in Operation Ezra & Nehemiah to Israel, they were only allowed to take one suitcase and fifty dinars. My aunt was not as lucky as Shoham in my story. When Iraqi officials saw the ring on her hand, she had to hand it over.   

In my story, I wanted Shoham to keep her bangle. I wanted her to continue wearing it like I wear mine; to give her the strength to rebuild a new life in a new land, to remind her of the beautiful Baghdad that once was, and the rich tapestry of Babylonian Jewish culture from which she came.