Baghdad from the Tigris by the Forward

Iraq’s last Jewish doctor dies at 61

Dr. Thafer Eliyahu, one of the last Jews remaining in Iraq died last week. Mustafa Salim, the Washington Post’s Baghdad reporter announced on Twitter.

Remaining in Baghdad, during the tumultuous years of the U.S. invasion, Dr. Eliyahu was known for treating the sick and injured even as bombs fell overhead, the Times of Israel reported. According to the Iraq Body Count Project, more than 6,000 Baghdadi civilians died in the first year of the Second Gulf War alone, with thousands more injured.

Though Jews had lived in the area of Iraq for more than 2,700 years, before Eliyahu’s death barely ten Jews were estimated to remain in the country, mostly in the captial city of Baghdad.

Not long before Eliyahu’s birth, Baghdad had been one of the most Jewish cities in the world –, numbering more than 40% Jewish, according to a 1917 Ottoman census. He was born around 1960 just after the mass exodus of Iraqi Jewry, though more than 150,000 lived in the country. An estimated 96% of the Jews had left by 1951, due to antisemitism in the country.


David Ian Klein

David Ian Klein

David Ian Klein covers breaking news and international Jewish communities for the Forward. You can reach him at and on Twitter @davidianklein.

Iraq’s last Jewish doctor dies at 61

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