Iraq’s Last Jewish Doctor and the Fate of a Dying Community’s Cultural Treasures

March 22 2021

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.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Iraqi Jewish Archive, Iraqi Jewry

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism