The Jews of Iraq numbered about 130,000 in the 1940s, and took an active and central part in the establishment of Iraq’s institutions and in the development of its economy after the First World War. Following the Farhud (riots of 1941) and the establishment of the State of Israel, the lives of the Jews became unbearably difficult.
On March 9th 1950, a law was published for renouncing citizenship, which allowed Iraqi Jews to leave Iraq legally and immigrate to Israel as part of “Operation Ezra” – provided they give up their Iraqi property and citizenship. They were forced to leave their homeland as destitute refugees, deprived of their economic and cultural assets. Most of them immigrated to Israel in the years 1949-1952, and about 25,000 of them arrived through Iran as illegal immigrants or by using Persian passports. About 7,000 Jews who stayed in Iraq after the Great Aliyah suffered persecution by the authorities, imprisonment and unbearable torture, which led most of them to flee the country, sometimes at a risk to their lives.
The Jews of Iraq arrived in Israel with one suitcase and encountered the harsh reality of life in transit camps, tents and barracks, often lacking minimal means of subsistence. But thanks to their glorious heritage, education and the liberal professions in which they engaged, such as: commerce, banking, goldsmithing, law, accounting, pharmacy and medicine, as well as the changes that have taken place in recent generations, Iraqi Jews became a powerful and leading human force in building the State of Israel.
Their extensive heritage and rich and extraordinary cultural legacy of more than 2000 years, helped them to quickly integrate into Israeli society and make a mark in every field: in government institutions, security forces, academia, medicine, education, religion, law, commerce, banking and culture.