The Art of Cooking ~ Kubba Shawandar

This dish reminds me of my grandmother in Israel. Whenever I visited my grandmother as a kid this was what I was looking forward to the most.
And my grandmother knew this and always made sure to fill my plate with kubba!

The smell of cooking this dish gives me a great feeling of nostalgia.
Kubba Shawandar looks more difficult to make then it is and I hope you will try it out yourself.
The ingredients are very easily obtained and the flavour is a classic Iraqi Jewish taste.


For the soup:
3 medium sized onions
4 medium sized red beets ( or 2 cans )
1 small can tomato paste
1 lemon
2 dried bay leafs
salt & pepper
paprika powder
olive oil
1 liter of chicken broth

Beef mixture:
lean ground beef
1 onion
fresh parsley
ras el hanout

Kubba dough:

Making the kubba balls:
Start with mixing the beef with minced onion and minced parsley in a bowl.
Add the salt, ras el hanout and turmeric and mix well.
(make a small patty and pan fry it, taste this for salt and seasoning make sure it is not too bland)

In another bowl add 2 cups of semolina with salt and 1 cup of water mix until it is a sticky dough.
Do not over mix it and make sure it stays sticky and does not become a dry dough.

Next let’s make these kubba balls. In your hand take a small ball of dough and press a hole in it with your thumb.
Add the beef mixture into the dent and start folding the rest of the dough around it.
Once the beef has been covered squeeze the ball lightly and roll it around in your hand to form it into a ball shape.
When done place it on a non-stick surface and continue making the rest, do not let them touch each other!!!
(you can be a bit rough with making these balls)

Making the soup:
In a big pot we start with caramelizing diced onions with olive oil.
When the onions become translucent add all the dry ingredients.
(bay leafs, salt, sugar & pepper, paprika powder)
Give a quick mix and when all the dry ingredients have become a single mixture add the bite size diced red beets.
Fry for a couple of minutes on low heat, when it starts to become dry add the tomato paste, chicken stock and lemon juice.
Mix well!

Wait until the soup starts simmering on low heat.
Once the soup starts simmering gently place the kubba balls we made to the soup. These solidify very quickly once they go into the soup.
Add all the balls to the soup. You can make small meatballs with any leftover meat and throw them to the soup as well.
Make sure everything is covered with liquid and simmer for 45 minutes.

Always taste for salt before serving!
Garnish with some fresh parsley.

Kubba Shawandar has a neutral taste and works well with some salad, bread or rice.

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Träume ich von Israel

Mati Shemoelof. Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Träume ich von Israel
frag ich mich, was kann noch werden
ich will bessere Nachrichten in der Zeitung lesen
mein Arabisch aufbessern, mit ihm Frieden schließen

ich will in Gaza meine Gedichte lesen, dann in den Nahostzug steigen
in Haifa halten (‘n paar Kleider und Bücher nehm ich mit)
und zur Überraschungsparty meiner Großmutter fahren
in Bagdad

Denk ich an Israel,
an ihren Beitritt in die Nahostunion,
die, wie die europäische –
Israel, was lachst Du mich aus,
Wirklichkeit zeugt doch für das unsichtbare Ringen der Träume

Ich will dahingleiten, frei in der Luft, die sich zwischen Haifa und Beirut erstreckt
will, wie die Wandervögel, ganz Europa durchwandern, Asien und Afrika,
ohne Paß, ohne Nationalität wissen sie mehr über uns,
als wir je wissen werden

unsere Konflikte und Probleme kennen sie
und kommen doch jedes Jahr aufs Neue zurück
(muß leider gerade lesen sie werden weniger)

Träume über Israel, ganz gewöhnliche,
ich phantasiere über Möglichkeiten,
Dich neu zu dichten.

Mati Shemoelof – Bagdad, Haifa, Berlin. Gedichte. AphorismA Verlag, Berlin, 2019. ISBN 978 3 96575 076 1

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Mati Shemoelof & Joseph Sassoon Semah ~ How to Explain Hare Hunting To A Dead German Artist

Joseph Sassoon Semah, How to Explain Hare Hunting to a Dead German Artist, February 24, 1986. Photography: Olaf Bergmann. Courtesy of Joseph Sassoon Semah

Tohu Magazine, February 6, 2019. Joseph Sassoon Semah, a Baghdad-born artist who now lives and works in Amsterdam, is about to embark on an extensive multi-site project, in Amsterdam, Jerusalem, and Baghdad. Berlin-based poet and author Mati Shemoelof talks with him about his years living as an artist in Israel versus being a Babylonian Jew and an artist in Europe. They discuss Judaism, diaspora, exclusion, and acts of concealment and building.

The artist Joseph Sassoon Semah has never before given an interview to an art publication in Israel. The Israeli art world has not adequately recognized his work. Although he showed in several important institutions in Israel and worked with key curators, it was negligible compared with the scope of his oeuvre, especially following his move from Israel to Europe. What would have happened had he stayed in Israel? Was he stumped by his diasporic state or was he ahead of his time in dealing with the Jewish component of his art? It is not merely an objective issue to be measured by the number of exhibitions, but rather the artist’s subjective sense of his position in the art field. I gather from Semah that he has remained on the outside, beyond the walls of Jerusalem. In Europe, too, and especially in the Netherlands, his work is not widely known yet. This interview stems from my own interest in Semah’s identity (we are both of a Jewish Iraqi descent) and his work, but also as an intra-European process of an artistic, inter-generational analysis attempting to formulate the role of Jewish culture in Europe.

Semah was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1948. His grandfather, Hacham Sassoon Kadoorie, was the chief rabbi of Baghdad’s Jewish community until his passing in 1971, even after they had all emigrated. In 1950, Semah and his family were uprooted from Iraq, and they moved to Israel. He grew up in Tel Aviv. Traumatized by his military service in the 1967 and 1973 wars, he chose exile and has been living in the Netherlands since 1981. The grandfather’s continued residence in Baghdad, along with some 20,000 more Jews, brings to mind Semah’s own position in Amsterdam (his grandfather did not immigrate to Israel, and Semah emigrated from Israel – both had chosen a diasporic existence as a Jewish minority under a Muslim/Christian majority), where he now lives with his partner, Linda Bouws. She runs the institute they co-founded, Metropool – Studio Meritis MaKOM: International Art Projects. My grandmother, Rachel Kazaz, had also been among the displaced Baghdadi Jews. My acquaintance with the pain and the uprooting enabled me to write about the mysterious affair that drove the Jews of Iraq to abandon their property, their culture, and their way of life within just a year; the affair that involved bombing Jewish centers in Baghdad, including the synagogue of Semah’s grandfather.[1]

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Tamar Morad, Dennis Shasha & Robert Shasha ~ Iraq’s Last Jews: Stories Of Daily Life, Upheaval, And Escape From Modern Babylon

Palgrave Studies In Oral History- 2008 – Series Editors’ Foreword
In another book in the Palgrave Studies in Oral History series, Soldiers and Citizens, an Assyrian Christian explains how his group in the Iraqi town of Dora was threatened with death if they didn’t convert to Islam or pay a special tax or abandon their homes and leave within 24 hours. He remarked, “I heard there was talk of doing to the Christians what they did to the Jewish in the 1940s.”1 The year 1941 witnessed the Farhoud, a Nazi-inspired pogrom, which began a series of events that propelled a Jewish exodus from Iraq. Of the approximately 137,000 who resided in Iraq during the early 1940s, 124,000 had fled, most to Israel, by 1952. The relatively few left behind suffered as a result of the Six Day War in 1967 when Iraq restricted their movement, jobs, and opportunity to communicate in and outside of the country. Some suffered imprisonment and torture. Hence, the once vital and vibrant Iraqi Jewish community had all but disappeared from its homeland by the 1970s. Oral histories have widely documented the Holocaust, but the stories recounted in this volume are less well-known and serve to expand our knowledge of Middle Eastern Jews outside of Israel. Oral history is particularly well suited to capture the drama and trials of this historical experience and to humanize the past condition of a community that exists in exile. With American attention focused upon Iraq as a consequence of two recent wars, public curiosity about that nation will benefit from these accounts. Iraq’s Last Jews joins a number of other volumes in this series that consider issues of world-historical significance. Whether it be the contemporary Iraq War or the decades-past Chinese Cultural Revolution, or any number of other topics, the series encourages the employment of oral history to investigate the memories of ordinary and extraordinary people in order to make sense of past and present.
Bruce M. Stave University of Connecticut – Linda Shopes Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Some 2,500 years after the first Jews established roots in Babylon, the once-vibrant and prosperous Jewish community of Iraq has disappeared. A community that numbered close to 140,000 in the late 1940s—and comprised fully one-third of Baghdad’s population—consisted of a mere 20 when U.S. tanks rolled into the Iraqi capital in 2003. Today, fewer than ten Jews remain in Iraq. Yet as late as the 1920s and 1930s, Iraqi Jews felt the heady potential of full equality in a secular society for the first time in their long history of subordination to Muslim rulers. From music to politics to commerce, Jews played a major role in Iraqi society and culture. For centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Babylon was the world’s epicenter of Jewish life and religion—the place where the Babylonian Talmud was written and where rabbis from across the region and Europe came to learn from the most scholarly sages. But the community dissolved in the middle of the 20th century when pro-Nazi forces, Arab nationalism, and the formation of Israel led to violence against and a general sense of insecurity among Iraqi Jews, causing them to flee, mostly over the course of about a year and a half. This book tells the story of that last generation, people who in many cases grew up with strong patriotic feelings but were always prepared for a future beyond Iraq’s borders—just in case. The storytellers of these first-person accounts vary as widely as any group of Jews does, reflecting the breadth and texture of the community: wealthy businessmen and Communists, popular musicians and reformist writers, Iraqi patriots and early Zionists. Many had close friends among the Muslims and Christians of Iraq of whom they speak warmly. They tell the tales of a people with a love for their birth country that persisted even as they were forced to leave their homes. The story of the final decades of the Jewish community in Iraq divides into three periods. First is the period before 1939 when the Jews in Iraq saw themselves as part of the Iraqi national fiber in government, commerce, and the arts. That ended verbally with the rise of Nazi influences and violently with the Farhoud, a pogrom against the Jews, in 1941. Second is the period between then and 1953 when Arab hostility toward the new state of Israel turned most Jews into Zionists and the vast majority of the community left. The final period records an Iraq that drifted towards increasingly autocratic leadership, culminating in the sadistic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, with the Jews often playing the role of scapegoat. Finally, the book closes with several moving retrospectives of the community. These stories are sometimes funny, often tragic, touching, and insightful. Readers will find that the editors, in addition to recording descriptions of daily life, have also uncovered acts of heroism, adventure, and intrigue: from the undercover Israeli agents who helped orchestrate the mass emigration of Iraqi Jews to the young Jewish state at mid-century, to those who argued for the lives of their loved ones in the brutal prisons of Saddam Hussein. What has been compiled here, ultimately, is a book about quiet bravery in times of distress and a celebration of the possibility of peace.

Copyright © Tamar Morad, Dennis Shasha, and Robert Shasha, 2008. All rights reserved. First published in 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the United States—a division of St. Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

The complete book:

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Murtadha Ridha ~ Jewish Cemetery In Baghdad | مقبرة اليهود في بغداد

The Jewish Cemetery in Sader City in Baghdad – Iraq.
Filming and Editing: Murtadha Ridha / Iraq – Baghdad

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Shmuel Trigano ~ The Expulsion Of The Jews From Muslim Countries, 1920-1970: A History Of Ongoing Cruelty And Discrimination

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. November 2010. Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries. The 1940s were a turning point in this tragedy; of those expelled, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 in France and the United States. Today, they and their descendents form the majority of the French Jewish community and a large part of Israel’s population.

In the countries that expelled Jews, a combination of six legal, economic, and political measures aimed at isolating Jews in society was instituted: denationalization; legal discrimination; isolation and sequestration; economic despoilment; socioeconomic discrimination; and pogroms or similar acts.

It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. However, the region’s anti-Semitism would have developed even without the rise of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia.

The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization. The Jewish refugees have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations. However, they became citizens of the countries of refuge, especially Israel and France, while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations.

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The Expulsion of the Jews from Muslim Countries, 1920-1970: A History of Ongoing Cruelty and Discrimination


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