Diarna, Our Homes
In a Christian village beneath the majestic Kurdish mountain ridge in Iraq, a crumbling shrine to the prophet Nahum endures. On Aden’s volcanic crater in Yemen, a ransacked Jewish cemetery still exists. Though it is not easy to access these sites in person, visitors to Diarna.org, a heritage mapping site, can zoom in on them using Google Earth. Diarna, meaning “Our Homes” in Judeo-Arabic, explores Jewish history in the Middle East and North Africa with satellite imagery, archival and contemporary photography, scholarship and oral history.
Since its founding in 2008, Diarna has sent 17 expeditions to the region and recruited individuals on the ground—mostly young Muslims—to document 750 sites, many in danger from ISIS, other warring factions or simple decay and neglect. About 100 are available on the website, along with videos and interviews.
“We are in a race against time,” says Jason Guberman-Pfeffer, project director and executive director of the American Sephardi Federation, Diarna’s major partner. “Jewish identity is rooted in the Middle East. This is where we’re from; it’s our heritage.”