The Iraqi Jewish Archive

On May 6, 2003, United States soldiers in Iraq went down into a basement in an Iraqi Special Intelligence house. The basement was flooded with water and had been left without supervision for months. Buried in the water and mud, soldiers found hundreds of documents from Iraqi Jews, varying from prayers from the 15th Century CE to journals from the 1970’s (“The Iraqi Jewish Archive”). The soldiers brought the books outside to let them dry out. Mold started growing on the books, and the team commander contacted the American National Archives for information on how to preserve the documents. The National Archives responded immediately—they ordered that the books be quickly packaged up and be shipped to the United States for further preservation efforts. At the National Archives in Washington, DC, the documents were dried out, copied, and digitized.

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Workers transfer the documents out of the basement into crates for transportation to the United States.

At the time, the National Archives argued that the relics had to be moved to the United States (Sanchez 2014). Iraq was too dangerous a location for such important documents, as evidenced by the fact that they were left in a flooded basement. Continue reading The Iraqi Jewish Archive

Saint Mark

In 828 CE, the Muslim ruler of Alexandria, Egypt supposedly planned to destroy all the Christian relics in the city. Two monks from Venice who happened to be in Alexandria at the time decided that they had to save the most important Christian relic in the city. The body of Saint Mark, author of the earliest New Testament Gospel, was kept in the Church of Saint Mark. The monks convinced the local priests that the only way to save Saint Mark’s holy relics was by stealing them away to Venice.

Tintoretto's "The Stealing of the Body of Saint Mark"
Tintoretto’s “The Stealing of the Body of Saint Mark”

The monks hid the relics buried under a layer of pork and cabbage. The Muslim officials could not touch the pork, and so the relics were carried out of Alexandria to Venice, where they reside today in San Marco (Och 2011). Today, Saint Mark’s holy remains and his church in the center of Venice are defining features of the city. The legend of the monks hiding the relics in pork is a story told with pride and as a factual piece of the city’s history (“The Annunciation” 2012). Continue reading Saint Mark