Popular Articles

The recent death of the “last Jewish doctor” in Iraq highlights the near-extinction of the oldest Jewish Diaspora in the world.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Dr. Dhafer Fouad Eliyahu, the “last Jewish doctor” in Iraq, passed away on March 15, 2021. Source: Facebook.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

(JNS) The oldest Jewish Diaspora in the world, that of Iraq, edged closer to extinction on March 15, with the death of 61-year-old Dhafer Fouad Eliyahu—an orthopedic surgeon at al-Wasiti Hospital in Baghdad.

A plethora of tributes to the “last Jewish doctor” appeared on Iraqi social media upon the announcement that Eliyahu had passed away after suffering a stroke.

Known as the “healer of the poor,” he ran a private clinic but treated those who could not afford medical care for free. His mother was among the first female doctors in Iraq. She had her own private clinic in Baghdad in the 1950s. In spite of intensifying persecution, her family stayed behind. Eliahu, too, stayed on to serve his Iraqi compatriots when “tens of thousands” had left. He had sacrificed his personal life to remain in a country where there were no Jewish girls left to marry.

Before their mass exodus in 1950-51, Jews contributed beyond their numbers to modernity in 20th-century Iraq. Jews comprised 40 percent of the medical profession. When the Royal Medical College opened in 1927, seven out of 21 students were Jews. In 1932, only 12 graduated, though all seven Jews stayed the course.

One of the most eminent graduates was Dr. Jack Aboudi Shabi, who specialized in neurology and psychiatry. Shabi practiced in his first-floor clinic in Baghdad. So identified with mental illness was he that the expression “send him to the first floor” became a byword for “this person is crazy.”

Another Jewish doctor known for his compassion and loyalty to his patients was Dr. David Gabbay from the city of Amara. In spite of his popularity and good works, Gabbay was jailed and tortured by dictator Saddam Hussein in 1969. Eventually, he fled Iraq on foot and resettled in London.

Eliyahu’s death leaves just three Jews still living in Iraq. With his passing, a question mark hangs over the issue of who will manage the community’s assets and maintain cemeteries and synagogues. Jewish affairs were administered by Marcelle Azra, who died in her 90s this past September.

The origins of the community go back to the Babylonian exile following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Rabbis at the pre-Islamic academies of Sura and Pumbedita wrote the Babylonian Talmud, the most authoritative source of Jewish law.

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

In 1948, the community numbered 150,000 Jews and a quarter of the population of Baghdad was Jewish. They were seen as a fifth column after the establishment of Israel and suffered extortion, execution and a series of discriminatory laws.

The vast majority fled to Israel in 1950-1. They were stripped of their Iraqi citizenship and much of their property was frozen without compensation.

The most recent bone of contention has been the so-called Iraqi-Jewish archive. The U.S. administration has pledged to return to Baghdad this random collection of Jewish books, correspondence and school reports, which was seized from the community by the Iraqi regime but shipped in 2003 to the United States for restoration.

Iraqi Jews have been fighting to keep this last vestige of their former lives, arguing that their memorabilia are of no interest or value to the rest of the Iraqi people.

While Iraqis themselves are increasingly acknowledging the selfless loyalty of Jews like Eliyahu, the return of the archive to Iraq would rub salt in the wound, adding yet another injustice to a very long list.

Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK. She is the author of ‘Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight.’

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Previous
Next