A Special Art Project Marking the 70th Anniversary of the Mass Immigration from Iraq
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Orly Baher Levy
(Blog No. 1)
On March 9, 1950, the Waiver of Citizenship Law (Tasqit) was promulgated in the official gazette of Iraq - al-Waqiya al-Iraqiya - under which Iraqi Jews were allowed to leave their country legally and emigrate to Israel. The condition was that they relinquish all their property and waive their Iraqi citizenship. As a consequence, Iraqi Jews were forced to leave their homeland and become refugees, holding a laissez-passer for one-way travel and a single suitcase per person that could weigh no more than 30 kilograms.
I am pleased to announce that exactly 70 years later, on Monday, March 9, 2020, we launched a special art project that we have been working on in the last few months… Rubi Bakal, an Israeli-born artist and member of the second generation, came to the Museum in the morning, laid out his work tools and jars of paint in the exhibition hall of the Jeanette and Yehuda Assia Gallery, and began painting as members of the staff and visitors gazed with wonder and excitement.
Rubi Bakal, who was born into a family of Iraqi descent, was commissioned by the Museum to create a personal and retrospective interpretation of the immigration and absorption experience in Israel. During the next few weeks, and step by step, we will see how this monumental and unique work of art takes shape on the walls of the gallery. I should mention that both of us, the artist and the curator, are very excited about this highly unusual endeavor. The stages of the project included Rubi presenting the overall concept underlying his planned mural, in addition to showing me some preliminary sketches. However, both of us know that this work of art will take various forms here at the Museum, in the exhibition hall of the gallery. And for the first time, we will be introduced to the process by which an artist works and thinks.
I am certain that this work of art in its final form, coupled with the observation of the process, will cause viewers to reflect on how their own parents and grandparents were absorbed in the country. As you know, Israeli society is comprised of a mosaic of immigrants and children of immigrants. All that remains for us to do now is to eagerly continue tracking how it evolves. I promise to keep you posted and share my impressions.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Foundation for the Advancement of Education in Israel for taking part in producing this unique project.