A Babylonian treasure: How dozens of pictures of Iraqi Jews came home
An employee of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in central Israel stumbled across a handful of images found years earlier by elderly woman who spotted them dumped on a Tel Aviv street; through social media, the owners have already been located
How does a bunch of family photos from Iraq finds its way to an abandoned corner in the streets of Tel Aviv? That we still don't know, but the identity of those found in the pictures is a mystery that's been already solved.
During a project to digitize the entire archive of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, an employee by the name of Ginat Salman came across a bunch of unknown pictures.
After conducting a short inquiry, Salman discovered that the pictures were actually found by an elderly woman who came to the Heritage Center years ago.
The woman gave the pictures to the Center, claimeing they had been found on a street corner in Tel Aviv along with the rest of the belongings of a recently deceased woman.
"She couldn't share any details because, according to her, she didn’t know anything about the pictures," says Aliza Dayan-Hamama, the CEO of the Heritage Center.
"We very interested in finding the origins of the pictures, so we decided to use the power of social media in the hopes someone somewhere would recognize a person or two, and we'd be able to finally solve the mystery."
Dayan-Hamama says the pictures were uploaded to the Center's Facebook and Instagram accounts, where they received huge engagement.
"The response was amazing," she says. "We got more than 200 shares across dozens of groups, along with responses from a great many people. The most touching response came from a man named Ilan Gabay, who was actually able to identify his mother as the baby in one of the pictures."
According to Dayan-Hamama, "we were also contacted by several other people from Israel, Canada and London, who identified themselves in the pictures - and with that, the puzzle was complete."
Ilan Gabay, who who identified his mother in several pictures, saw them in a Facebook group after someone shared the Center's post.
"I recognized my family, I showed my mom the pictures and she was very excited, I knew these pictures from my childhood, but we didn't know other copies existed, let alone dumped on the street. As far as my mother knows, these copies belonged to her aunt who died 20 years ago."
Ilan's mother Eva Gabay (née Cohen), celebrated her 80th birthday not long ago.
"The picture was taken on my first birthday, and I have a framed copy of that very same picture in my house to this very day," she says.
"I really appreciate my parent's efforts to bring this picture to Israel despite all the hardships, it truly is a wonderful childhood memory, along with any other picture that made its way to Israel."
Among the trove of pictures, Eva also found one of her parents.
"The married couple in one of the pictures are my parents, Leah and Abraham Cohen. The picture was taken on their wedding day; my brother has a framed copy of the same picture in his house," she says.
"I wasn't aware more copies even existed," says Eva, "but I'm glad they found their way to the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, a place that records the legacy and history of the Iraqi Jews."
Dayan-Hamama says the Heritage Center makes it a priority to preserve the magnificent legacy of the Iraqi Jews, a legacy that started over 2,600 years ago.
"We have archives and rare footage of pictures, documents and recordings, both audio and video, kept here in the Center's library," she says.
"We also have rare books and original manuscripts dating back 200 years."