(JTA) — Damaged Torah scrolls found by U.S. troops in Iraq’s intelligence headquarters were buried in a cemetery in New York.
The burial, the method under Jewish law of disposing of unusable religious objects and texts, took place Sunday at the New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon, Long Island, the Associated Press reported. More than 100 people attended the ceremony, among them Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S.
“This is a statement by the government and people of Iraq that we are here to respect the heritage of the Jews,” Faily said during the ceremony, according to AP.
Thousands of Jewish ritual items were discovered by U.S. troops in 2003, after the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein. U.S. troops found the items in the waterlogged basement of Iraq’s intelligence headquarters. The items were shipped to the National Archives, where experts set about restoring them. An exhibit there on display through Jan. 5, is the first opportunity to see them.
A number of Jewish groups and U.S. lawmakers have protested plans to return the items to Iraq, where there are virtually no Jews, and want the items to remain in the custody of one of the expatriate Iraqi Jewish communities.