The Middle East has been home to the Jewish People for over 3000 years. The Jews began developing their unique civilization in the Land of Israel around the 11th century, BCE, and they flourished there until they were conquered by the Romans in the first and second centuries of the common era. In 135 CE, the Romans renamed the country “Syria-Palaestina.”
The Jews were twice exiled from their land, which during the course of history has been occupied by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Crusaders, Ottomans and British. The exiled Jews established centers throughout the Middle East and North Africa, beginning in Iraq in 586 BCE. But throughout the millennia, Jews always attempted to return and reestablish communities in their ancient country.
In telling the tale of 20th century Jewry, an important story is often overlooked: the return of the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa to their ancient homeland. There were large, rooted and sometimes thriving Jewish communities in every Arab-Islamic country at the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, during the 1920’s Baghdad was 40 percent Jewish. However, these communities no longer exist.