It is essential to 12 year-old Salman Shasha that he’s what it says within the title – a boy from Baghdad. However in 1951 it isn’t simple to be a boy from Baghdad – particularly should you’re Jewish: as a result of the Iraqui authorities has given the Jews of Iraq a yr to get overseas. They won’t be allowed to take something with them aside from one suitacase, and they won’t be allowed to take any cash with them. Up till now, Salman’s household has had a snug life in a pleasing home. His mom is a marvellous prepare dinner – there are luscious descriptions of household meals, they usually need for nothing. Salman’s solely drawback is that he oves swimming, however he is aware of his father wouldn’t approve of his ambition to be an olympic swimmer, so he has to coach in secret – he swims as typically as he can within the River Tigris, together with his cousin Latif protecting time for him.
He is aware of concerning the authorities edict. The fledgeling state of Israel has agrred to soak up the Iraqui Jews, and eventually, the household has a spot on a aircraft which can take them there. They’re informed that will probably be a land of milk and honey, with jobs, homes, and prospects for all. Salman does not care about any of this: he loves Baghdad, it is his residence and he desires to remain there.
However go they have to. And once they arrive, they discover that their new house is a tented camp, and there’s little prospect of labor for Salman’s father. Circumstances are harsh, there’s little meals, and Salman’s mom, in despair, sinks into despair and takes to her mattress. As his father appears for work within the close by metropolis, it is as much as Salman – and Latif – to search out meals for the youthful youngsters.
And that is not all. It seems that prejudice exists right here too. The Ashkenazi (European) Jews had arrived first, they usually look down on the Jews like Salman, who’re from Arab nations. Salman is informed he should solely communicate Hebrew, and he should change his title to a Hebrew one – Shimon.
At first he resists, decided to carry on to his identification. He nonetheless holds on to his desires of turning into a swimmer – however how is that ever going to occur now?
However step by step, Salman and his household discover buddies who assist them: buddies who come from all of the totally different teams now residing in Israel, together with Ashkenazis and Arabs. They discover hope once more, and finally – spoiler alert – Salman finds a method to get his swimming again on observe. However actually, the teachings Salman learns about the way to reside are the necessary ones.
Apologies if I’ve associated an excessive amount of concerning the story of the e-book (which relies on Miriam’s husband’s household): the e-book solely arrived yesterday, and I sat down and skim it in a single go, and I am slightly stuffed with it.
But in addition, extra importantly, it has a really clear relevance to the horrible issues which can be taking place in the meanwhile. I’ve solely a reasonably hazy concept of how Israel got here to be. This e-book is not an explainer of that (in order for you a quick, however very clear clarification of that, strive Rory Stewart on The Relaxation Is Politics podcast). However what it does do, very clearly and vividly, is take us right into a small nook of that point: and by permitting us to enter the lives of this household, it allows us to see simply the way it was for the individuals residing by that point – how advanced had been their circumstances, how troublesome the choices they needed to make. (And certainly, that generally, there aren’t any selections to be made: the Shasha fmily had no selection about whether or not or to not depart Iraq.)
It is a very, superb e-book, and I strongly advocate it.