On March 15, the Iraqi Jewish orthopedic surgeon Dhafer Fouad Eliyahu died at the age of sixty-one, leaving only three Jews remaining in the country. Lyn Julius writes:
Known as the “healer of the poor,” [Eliyahu] 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. . . . Before their mass exodus in 1950-51, Jews contributed beyond their numbers to modernity in 20th-century Iraq, [and] 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 twelve graduated of these graduated, but all seven Jews stayed the course.
The vast majority [of Iraq’s Jews] fled to Israel [and] 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 [in Israel and the U.S.] 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.