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Project Team

Dr. Bahar Baser is Associate Professor in Middle East Politics at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, UK. Her expertise lies in diaspora studies, peacebuilding, and conflict transformation, with a regional emphasis on the Middle East. Dr. Baser has authored numerous publications on stateless diaspora activism and mobilization in Europe. She is the editor of the Kurdish Studies Series published by Lexington Books and the co-editor of the Diasporas and Transnationalism Series published by Edinburgh University Press.


Dr. Duygu Atlas is a historian of the modern Middle East, Turkey and Israel in particular, and an author. She collects stories.

Mesut Alp is a graduate of Ege University's Department of Near Eastern Archaeology. He participated in numerous excavations across Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia, worked at the Mardin Museum and served as a lecturer at the Mardin Artuklu University. He produces bilingual (Kurdish and Turkish) content on the history and archaeology of Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia on his YouTube channel. His play Gilgamesh was staged by the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) in March 2022, and made additional debuts in Holland and Turkey.

Guliz Vural is a distinguished expert in political photography, known for her previous photojournalism projects titled “Journey in the Death Boat,” “Remaining,” “Journey with Refugees,” and “Bunk,” which documented the lives of refugees and their perilous journeys. She has earned numerous awards, including the “Upcoming Masters of Photography” in Germany. Notably, Vural was the first journalist to cross the Mediterranean in a boat alongside refugees.

This project has received funding from the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL).

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Bridging Identities: The Cultural Odyssey of Kurdish Jews

The Jews of Kurdistan have a rich history which dates back to ancient times. In the eighth century BCE, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and forcibly resettled Jews to the region later known as Kurdistan. Until the mid-twentieth century, Jewish communities, who spoke various dialects of the neo-Aramaic language, existed in all four parts of Kurdistan. The majority of these communities centered in Iraqi Kurdistan in cities such as Zakho, Amadiya, Aqra, Dohuk, Arbil, Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya. They lived in rural areas under the mandate of Kurdish tribes and received protection from Kurdish tribal leaders. But their situation grew more precarious with the reorganization of the Middle East after the First World War and the subsequent emergence of nation-states in the Kurdistan region. Although Kurdistani Jews’ immigration to Palestine began as gradual trickles in the mid-eighteenth century, it continued until the mid-twentieth century with their final mass migration to Israel taking place during 1951-52 in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, in which some 120,000 Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel. According to some estimates, Kurdistani Jews and their descendants number around 150-200.000 in Israel today.

This exhibition is the product of a field work conducted by Dr. Bahar Baser, Dr. Duygu Atlas, Guliz Vural and Mesut Alp in May 2023 in Israel, during which the research team interviewed and photographed members of the Kurdistani Jewish community, digitized family photographs and participated in communal activities such as Kurdish dance classes, street performances and traditional cooking. The objective of this project is to gain insights into how these Kurds and their descendants navigate their diverse religious and ethnic identities while establishing a vibrant transnational community within Israel, while shedding light on their past through the lens of their memories and nostalgic ties to the homeland they left behind and if and how the markers of Kurdishness are transmitted to generations next.

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Retaining Kurdish Traditions: Dance, Music, Food

The first generation of Kurdish Jews who now reside in Israel often reminisce fondly about their days in Kurdistan, despite occasional tensions that may have marked their history. Having successfully built new lives in Israel, they maintain nostalgic ties to their former homeland. What is particularly intriguing is their commitment to preserving their heritage through the vibrant mediums of culinary and musical traditions. By weaving the rich tapestry of their cultural identity into the fabric of their new lives, the Kurdistani Jews not only connect with their roots but also impart a sense of history and belonging to future generations. The intricate flavors of their traditional cuisine and the evocative melodies of their music serve as powerful conduits for storytelling, encapsulating the essence of their journey – one that embraces both the challenges of the past and the promise of a culturally rich future.


The most visible cultural activity for Kurdish Jews is the Seharane (possibly derived from Kurdish seyran) festival, a public celebration accompanied by Kurdish music, dancing, and cuisine, which takes place during the Sukkot holiday in October. In Kurdistan, the Seharane was originally celebrated during the intermediate days of Pesach (Passover), marking the beginning of spring much like the Kurdish Newroz. In Israel, the festival was moved to October in 1975 so that the Kurdish festival did not coincide with and was overshadowed by the Mimouna, the post-Pesach celebration of the much larger Moroccan community.