by Max Sawdayee


Monday August 17, 1970

At noon, while exercising yoga on the beach of this nice small Italian town, Ostia, by the Mediterranean, with my new Polish immigrant friend Ricardo, who lives next door to my flat here, and with both his and my children playing together on the sun-drenched sand around us, Sa’ida comes to fetch me out in the midst of all these happy swimmers and sun-bathers, holding two letters in her hand.

‘Fouad, I have some delightful news for you!  One is really exciting!  But first I’ll kiss you for it!’ she says gleefully.

‘Ah, I insist you do that before handing me the letters!  There is no harm in that!’ I retort jokingly.

The first letter is an answer from my Rome doctor to the effect that the thorough medical check-up I went for a week ago in a Rome clinic is encouragingly all right, and that the doctor is satisfied with it.  The second, the more important one, is an express letter from friends in England telling me that my brother Kamal is safe and sound in Baghdad, that no fewer than eighty Jews have already fled to Iran one way or another, all of them by better and extremely shorter roads than ours, and that many more are presently escaping or intending to escape very soon!

I can’t help my surging emotion.  My eyes get a little misty with tears, the first time for over twenty five years.  Recalling the past three years or more during which Iraq has bled heavily in every sense of the term – physically, morally, spiritually – I realise that what I did in order to escape, and the way I persevered in it till the end, were not only necessary and right, but also inspiring.  And most of all, human.

I feel delighted that many Iraqi Jews have brushed aside their hesitation and fear which restrained them for a long time from taking resolute steps towards a new life of respect and of hope.  At this sunny moment I realise with full satisfaction that what I have done for myself, for my family and for many like us is drastic enough to shape a person’s life, to inspire him and to make him relish better the mysterious flavour of freedom and happiness.

Detecting some tears in my eyes, Ricardo exclaims:  ‘Hey, Fouad, but I see tears in your eyes!  What’s up for God’s sake?!’  Still absorbed in my thoughts, my mind slowly assimilates his words, but I hasten to reply: ‘Eh?!...Pardon!...What?!  Oh!  Oh… yes.  Sorry!  I – it’s…nothing! Nothing, Ricardo… nothing important!  Let’s go back to our yoga again!  We feel wonderfully good with that while recuperating on the sun-baked sands!’

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