Iraq to hold indirect talks with Israel on alleged Torah smuggling
Sep 21, 2010, 13:14 GMT
Baghdad – Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism said Tuesday it would hold talks with Israel through a third party – in the absence of diplomatic relations – to verify whether an ancient Torah scroll was smuggled out of Iraq to the Jewish state.
Iraqi Minister of Tourism Said Qahtan Jubouri told local media that the ministry
is following up on allegations that the rare 18th century copy of the Torah was then sent to the Jewish Archives in the United States for refurbishing before reaching Israel.
Jubouri said evidence that the scroll was smuggled out had yet to be found. But others within the ministry point to Israeli media reports claiming last month that the scroll is in that country as proof that it was indeed transferred illegally.
The US and Israel have agreed to investigate the allegations, Jubouri said.
Reports about the stolen Torah first surfaced in 2003, when the National Museum of Iraq and other establishments were looted during the US-led invasion.
Iraqi authorities have requested that the US return Jewish-Iraqi artifacts taken prior to and after the invasion. The country was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Middle East, but many left Iraq in the 1950s and 1960s to settle in Israel.