By the Rivers of Babylon

by Khalid Kishainy

Khalid Kishtainy depicts in fictional form an episode of Arab-Jewish history which seems to have been forgotten. Based on many interviews with Israelis of Iraqi origin, By the Rivers of Babylon is a harrowing tale with a love story at its core. Two Iraqi brothers take their sister to a Jewish gynaecologist to establish whether or not she is pregnant. If so, he must remove the foetus, show it to them and then kill her. If he deceives them, they will come back and kill him. Starting from this dramatic incident, the novel weaves a tale of flight, intrigue, heroism, conflict and madness against the background of the maelstrom of the Middle East. The dramatic story, full of details about the life and suffering of the Jewish community in Iraq, has great emphasis on the human issues involved, the prospect of Arab-Jewish understanding and the need for peace between Israel and the Arab states. Khalid Kishtainy’s abundant humanity and ironic perspective, however, allows the reader to understand the consequences of a shaming moment in this seemingly endless conflict which few non-fiction accounts ever manage to convey.