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June 27, 2012

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The Jews of Kurdistan: ‘My Father’s Paradise’

London Talk and Book Signing with award-winning author Ariel Sabar and his father Professor  Yona Sabar, one of the world’s most sought-after experts on Aramaic.

  • Thursday 28th June, 7pm (doors open 6pm)
  • Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AR

There will be an exhibition of outstanding historic images of Kurdistan in the 1940s from the archive of Anthony Kersting, made available by The Courtauld Institute of Art. Together with a display of Kurdish costume and a performance of Kurdish music. Tickets £10 inclusive of booking fee:  www.wegottickets.com/event/158268 Celebrating the Jews of Kurdistan, Yona Sabar will share memories of growing up Jewish in Kurdistan in the 1940s 

His son, journalist Ariel Sabar, will talk about the Paradise Lost and Found: how a Jewish boy from Los Angeles travelled to wartime Iraq in search of roots, identity, his father’s improbable life story and reconciliation. Yona Sabar was born to an illiterate mother in a mud hut in the remote Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Protected by towering mountains, the Jews of Zakho dwelt peacefully among Muslims and Christians for hundreds of years. Rugged lumberjacks and humble peddlers, self-made mystics and gifted storytellers, the members of this Lost Tribe of Israel were so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But, in the late 1940s, the outside world came crashing in. Yona Sabar would be the last boy bar mitzvahed in Zakho. Yona and his family joined the mass exodus of 120,000 Jews from Iraq — one of the largest peacetime airlifts in history. In Israel, Kurdish Jews struggled against poverty and bigotry, watching helplessly as their ancient culture and language faded into oblivion. Against all odds, Yona worked his way through high school in Jerusalem and was admitted to Yale University, where he devoted himself to the rescue of his people’s vanishing traditions. Now an esteemed professor at UCLA, Yona is one of the world’s most sought-after experts on Aramaic. Signed copies of My Father’s Paradise (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, £9.99) will be available at the event “Remarkable…Thrilling…A moving story about the near-death of an ancient language and the tiny flicker of life that remains in it” – The Washington Post For press enquiries and interviews please contact:

  • Sarah Panizzo (Gulan) on 020 7351 6212, sarah@gulan.org.uk
  • Claire Bowles, publicity (review copies) on 01858 565800, claire@clairebowlespr.co.uk
  • The Courtauld Institute of Art, Sue Bond Public Relations on 01359 271085, info@suebond.co.uk
  • Ariel Sabar www.arielsabar.com
  • Yona Sabar www.nelc.ucla.edu/people/faculty/sabar

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