An ancient land. A lost language. And a wayward son who never knew what he and his father shared. Until they embarked on an epic journey into their family's extraordinary past.
Ariel Sabar's father, Yona, was born in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Protected by mountains, the Jews of Zakho dwelt peacefully among Muslims and Christians for hundreds of years. Rugged lumberjacks and humble peddlers, self-made mystics and gifted storytellers, the members of this Lost Tribe of Israel were so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic. But in the late 1940s, the outside world would come crashing in. Yona Sabar would be the last boy bar mitzvahed in Zakho.
Young Yona and his family joined the mass exodus of 120,000 Jews from Iraq — one of the largest peacetime airlifts in history. In Israel, Kurdish Jews struggled against poverty and bigotry, watching helplessly as their ancient culture and language faded into oblivion. Yona worked his way through night school in Jerusalem and then was admitted to Yale University, where he devoted himself to the rescue of his people's vanishing traditions: the Aramaic language.
Growing up in 1980s Los Angeles, Ariel wanted nothing to do with his father's strange immigrant heritage. Until he had a son of his own.
Sponsor: CSULB Jewish Studies Program, Alpert JCC, Jewish Federation of Long Beach and West Orange County