The Jews of Iraq believed in the harmful power of the evil eye and in the existence of demons and spirits, who were held responsible for ailments, disasters, diseases and hardships. To protect themselves from these forces, they used a variety of amulets made from different materials. In addition, the books of amulets and segulot (protective rituals) as well as prescriptions were used to heal diseases and ailments. The exhibition displays a unique collection of amulets, books and photographs.
At the heart of the museum, the courtyard of a traditional Jewish home in Baghdad has been recreated. This courtyard, built at the centre of the home, was open to the sky and surrounded by rooms. From the courtyard, one may enter the summer living room (tarar) and the kitchen. It was used for the family’s activities and as a primary source of light and air.
Music had a prominent place in the lives of Iraqi Jews. Alongside the traditional genre of shbahot (praises), chalri and dakakat, jews were pioneers of new musical styles. On display, are traditional musical instruments alongside instruments imported from the West. Photographs and documents facilitate tracking these changes and learning about the contribution of Jewish musicians on the development of Arabic music in Iraq.
The Shnashil, a small sitting room that protruded from the house, was located on the top floor of the traditional Jewish home. Under the windows were wooden seats cushioned with mattresses and embroidered sheets. From the Shnashil one had a panoramic view of the street.
The Jews of Iraq, who immigrated, en masse, during the first years of the State of Israel, were forced to give up their Iraqi citizenship. They reached the young state as refugees with one suitcase, and many of them were housed in absorption camps. This interactive exhibition shows the visitor the process of the absorption of the Iraqi Jews in Israel, while emphasising the feelings of an individual adjusting to a new country.
At the end of the 18th century, communities of Babylonian Jewry began to spread to the Diaspora, at first the Far East and later in Europe, Australia and North America. These communities continued to maintain strong ties with Babylonia, but were also greatly influenced by local culture. The exhibition presents a map of the dispersion of Babylonian Jewry. Judaica items and furniture from the Far East and English communities show the influence of local culture on daily life.
The summer living room at the museum is open to the replica of the courtyard on the ground floor. The decorative flooring is made of colorful tiles characteristic of Iraq. A crystal chandelier hangs from its ceiling. It is furnished with benches, armchairs and side tables and accessorized with various dishes for hosting guests, as well as Iraqi style embroidered textiles.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish community in Babylonia became the main centre of Jewish life. For over one thousand years, it led the entire Jewish Diaspora. The spiritual flame of the Jewish nation was kept burning by means of the large yeshiva academies of Nehardea, Sura and Pumbedita. The exhibition displays facts about King Jehoiachin and his sons and the prophet Ezekiel during the duration of their stay in Babylonia.
The exhibition presents the wedding customs of the Jews of Iraq, in the late 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century.
In the center of the space is a double bedroom, in the lobby there are wedding invitations, special addresses, and memorabilia, traditional bride and groom clothes, and wedding photographs featuring 50 years of fashion.
The testimony video of women who married in Iraq in the 1940s, introduces to the visitor the personal angle, with a retrospective look at the wedding and the following hours.
The Great Synagogue (Slat-Il-Kbiri) was the most ancient synagogue in Baghdad. This structure is replicated in a space which is about an eighth of the synagogue's original size. It includes a Tevah (Bima), and Torah Ark containing scrolls from Iraq and the Far East. In the alcoves of the synagogue, the Jewish festivals and holidays are presented according to the customs of Babylonian Jewry. One can see holy items, a scribe at work, unique Iraqi lamps and many other interesting objects.