WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced that the U.S. State Department and the government of Iraq have reached an agreement to keep Iraqi Jewish artifacts in the United States for another two years. The artifacts, which were discovered in Iraq in 2003, include priceless treasures such as Torah parchments and ancient prayer books.
The agreement follows the unanimous passage of a bipartisan Senate resolution authored by Sen. Toomey and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) which urges that these artifacts be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in the artifacts.
"This is terrific news. These priceless artifacts will remain in the United States for at least another two years, protected and accessible for descendants and scholars," said Sen. Toomey. "I don't believe we should send this collection back to a country where their owners no longer reside. I applaud the State Department's efforts and attention on this matter and will remain committed to permanently safeguarding these relics."
American soldiers uncovered a collection of Jewish historical items stolen from Iraqi Jews by Saddam Hussein, who hid them in the basement of the Iraqi secret police headquarters. In 2003, the U.S. and the Coalition Provisional Authority signed an agreement whereby the U.S. would preserve the artifacts and then send them back to Iraq. The collection, which cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $3 million to preserve, is being displayed by the National Archives and Records Administration. The previous agreement would return the materials to Iraq in 2014, despite the fact that only a handful of Jews live in Iraq today.