Remembering Iraq's Jewish community

The last Jewish doctor in Iraq and one of the few remaining Jews in Baghdad, has died at the age of 61. Dr. Thafer Eliyahu, an orthopaedic doctor at Wasiti Hospital, was nicknamed “the doctor of the poor” because he treated those who couldn’t afford healthcare for free. 

During the Gulf War of 2003, Dr. Thafer Eliyahu continued to see sick and injured patients even as bombings continued overhead. According to his colleagues, Dr. Thafer Eliyahu "did not deal with fear or suspicion" but treated patients "with pure love. This is why everyone loved him." 

Another colleague told Iraqi TV, that Dr. Eliyahu "was an example of humanity and humility." Dr. Eliyahu was buried in the Al-Habibiyah Jewish Cemetery in Baghdad. The cemetery was established during the early 20th century, with a number of Jewish nobles buried there. 

Many of Iraq's Jews fled the country after violent National Socialist riots -known as the Farhud- targeted Jewish citizens in 1941. After the creation of Israel in 1948, regional tensions skyrocketed and further anti-Semitic campaigns took hold, forcing the rest of Iraq’s Jews to flee. 

Start learning about the Iraqi-Jewish community 

Osnat was born five hundred years ago in Mosul, at a time when almost everyone believed in miracles but very few believed that girls should learn to read. Osnat and Her Dove by Sigal Samuel paints a rich portrait of the first female rabbi and an early female Jewish hero. 

In the 1940s a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish. The Wolf of Baghdad by Carol Isaacs is a beautiful history of Baghdadi Jews and is told through her own family's memories. At first Carol Isaacs sees social cohesion but then the mood turns darker with the fading of Iraq's Jewish community.

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