I was born a Jew in Baghdad, in the Muslim country of Iraq. My roots there go back centuries: Legend has it that our first Khazzoom ancestor was born in Baghdad six hundred and fifty years ago In 1951, at the age of 18, I left my family and the country of my birth, Iraq, to settle in the new state of Israel. Along with more than 850,000 other Jews from Arab lands, I was escaping persecution and seeking sanctuary in the Jewish homeland, after Israel's war of independence. With the rise of Arab nationalism during the nineteen thirties and forties, the everyday hatred directed toward Iraq's Jews by our Muslim neighbors snowballed into fearsome terror. Still, we did not decide to upend our lives lightly. Most of us who joined this migration left behind homes, loved ones, businesses and bank accounts in order to live in peace and security among fellow Jews. One of my aims in writing what follows is to document a way of life that vanished with this exodus: the rich Babylonian Jewish culture that had flourished since ancient times in Iraq. I also wanted to put the current bloodshed in Iraq in a larger historical context. Much of the torture, assassination, bombing, kidnapping, hand cutting and beheading that dominate today's headlines (and that mistakenly many tend to attribute to the presence of our troops in Iraq) - is what we lived through and endured, except that at the time there were no TV cameras and no reporters to report to the world what was happening to us. Iraq was and remains a very violent society. Saddam Hussein was not an aberration. He is a product of that culture of violence. I witnessed this inherent violence of Iraqi society over and over as a child. However much I tried to erase it from memory, terror of the mob is imprinted on my soul. What remains -- what I have been unable to shed -- is a harrowing instinct to be prepared to flee at any moment. I was young and had little to lose by way of material assets when I left Iraq.