Iraq’s Jewish community dwindles to fewer than five

iraqs jewish community dwindles to fewer than five

BAGHDAD: The death of Dhafer Eliyahu hit Iraq hard, not only because the doctor treated the neediest for free, but because with his passing, only four Jews now remain in the country.At the Habibiya Jewish Cemetery in the capital Baghdad, wedged between the Martyr Monument erected by former ruler Saddam Hussein and the restive Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, an aged Muslim man still tends to the graves, but visitors are rare.The day of Eliyahu’s burial, “it was me who prayed over his grave,” the doctor’s sister told AFP.“There were friends” of other faiths who prayed too, each in their own way, she added, refusing to give her name.To hear Jewish prayer out in the open is rare now in Baghdad, where there is but one synagogue that only opens occasionally and no rabbis.But Jewish roots in Iraq go back some 2,600 years.According to biblical tradition, they arrived in 586 BC as prisoners of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II after he destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.More than 2,500 years later, Jews were the second largest community in Baghdad, making up 40 percent of its inhabitants.Some were very prominent members of society like Sassoon Eskell, Iraq’s first ever finance minister in 1920, who made a big impression on British adventurer and writer Gertrude Bell…

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