Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guest Posting By A Yid In Iraq - A Jewish Soldier In Baghdad

First off, I would like to thank A Simple Jew for letting my post my story on his blog. I have never posted anything like this before and I just wanted to have the opportunity tell the Jewish community that there are Jewish soldiers that they can be proud of serving in the military that are trying to make a positive difference.

I am a Yid deployed to Baghdad, Iraq assigned to a Military Transition Team training Iraqis to be more proficient in war time tasks and enable them to be more sufficient so that the American military can eventually leave. This is a new concept for the Army.

There are a total of sixteen of us on the team we all have different military occupational specialties and backgrounds. I work in the operations cell, working hand in hand with the Iraqi chief and his staff on operations. I also battle track all significant acts that happen in the Baghdad area. I request air assets and work as a liaison with other units in the Baghdad area and some various other tasks.

We are on a Iraqi outpost in a secluded area where food and logistical support has to be either flown in or trucked in. Additionally, there are four thousand Iraqi soldiers here. The kicker is that I am the only Jew on the team in the middle of this and I am observant. It is very difficult to keep kosher here as well as trying to keep Shabbos and other holidays.

When I first came to Iraq, I requested kosher MRE’s (meals ready to eat) but they were not delivered on time. It just so happened that there was a rabbi at the forward operating base that I was assigned to and he gave me two cases of meals to hold me over.

Initially I was not fond of starting my new assignment working with the Iraqis. I was a bit nervous due to all of my family and friends' warnings not to reveal my Jewish identity to Iraqis. You can turn on CNN at any time of the day and you will see what happens here in Baghdad, however it is more dangerous than what the television reports because a lot of the contact or combat operations are not reported on.

One day, I was in the tactical operations center reading my Chumash (I also keep my head covered but I wear a military style baseball cap to cover my yarmulke) and one of the interpreters asked what I was reading. I told him a book about Moses. Before you know it, we get into a conversation about Israel and Abraham and I made it known that I am Jewish. He warned me do not let this get out.

I replied by telling him that it couldn't not get any worse with the mortar and IED attacks and he laughed in response. I then explained to him that essentially there were more similarities than differences between us. While he prays five times a day and faces east, I pray three times daily and face east. While he does not eat pork, I also do not eat pork. We both come from Avraham (or Ibrahim) who was from Ur (located in present day Iraq). We started talking more about our history and we compared stories and the many similarities. By the time we were finished talking, there were about ten soldiers around me asking questions on everything. I showed them my yarmulke and explained why I wear it.

Today many of the Iraqi soldiers have a great deal of respect for me. For those who don't, at the least know that I am religious and not like the other team members so they look at me differently. The majority of the Iraqi soldiers have never come into contact with a Jew before but know that at one time there were forty thousand Jews here in Iraq and also that the Ben Ish Chai came from Baghdad.

Aside from the Iraqi soldiers, my team members are respectful of my beliefs. While I have experienced anti-Semitism before in the U.S. Army, unlike other Jewish soldiers I proudly reveal my Jewishness and do not fear of being ridiculed or treated differently.


At March 16, 2008 at 9:38:00 AM EDT, Blogger Gandalin said...

Thank you for a great post.

This observation is really something:

"The majority of the Iraqi soldiers have never come into contact with a Jew before but know that at one time there were forty thousand Jews here in Iraq and also that the Ben Ish Chai came from Baghdad."

Got that?

"The majority of Iraqi soldiers know . . . that the Ben Ish Chai came from Baghdad."

I would be willing to wager my winnings from the next pigeon race that the majority of American Jews would not even recognize the name of the Ben Ish Chai.

Yet the majority of Iraqi soldiers, young men in a country from which the Jews fled 50 years ago (too young to remember when Baghdad was a Jewish/Kurdish city), young men who were subjected to the anti-Semitic propaganda of Saddam Hussein and many others for decades, they know of the Ben Ish Chai!

At March 16, 2008 at 12:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger Cosmic X said...

"While he prays five times a day and faces east, I pray three times daily and face east."

Shouldn't a Jew in Iraq should face west in the direction of the land of Israel?

At March 16, 2008 at 12:42:00 PM EDT, Blogger Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Wow. What an interesting perspective. I know there are Jews in the military, of course, but I can't imagine what it is like to be an observant Jew, nor what would inspire a Jew to enter the U.S. military (if observant). That may seem short-sighted of me, but I would love to see more posts from this individual!


At March 16, 2008 at 2:20:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just attended a funeral for a jewish soldier killed in Iraq by an IED. He was buried here in Chicago. yasher Koach to you and your sacrifice. If you could email me at, I would be happy to contact with you directly. both to get/give chizuk and in the past we have sent care packages (all kosher, we are shomer shabbos) to any jewish soldier we knew of. Two of my shule members are orthodox xhaplains . One is currently in Iraq and the other is being deployed to Afghanistan any day now.

Again, hatzlocha and stay safe.

shaya goldmeier

At March 17, 2008 at 1:04:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your service!!! may HaShem bless you and protect you, your fellow soldiers and your family. may you return home safely.




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