views updated Jun 08 2018


KIRKUK , town in N. Iraq. The first known Jewish settlement in Kirkuk dates from the 17th century. There is information available on local Jews who traded mainly with Baghdad during the 18th century. Various travelers – Jewish and non-Jewish – of the 19th and early 20th centuries report on the existence of a Jewish community numbering about 200 families which lived in a separate quarter in the town. In May 1918 the town was captured by the British with the assistance of its Christian and Jewish inhabitants. After two weeks the town was retaken by the Turks, who persecuted the Jews who had not succeeded in leaving. After the war the number of Jews in Kirkuk increased, especially after it became a center of the petroleum industry. In 1947, 2,350 Jews were counted in a census. The Jews engaged in commerce, hawking, and handicrafts. In 1913 an elementary school was opened by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, but it closed with the outbreak of World War i. It was only in 1934 that a Jewish school was founded in the town by the philanthropist Ellis *Kadoorie. Social progress was slow, and it was only during the 1940s that some of the youth who graduated from the government secondary school acquired an academic education. Some individuals now left the closed quarter in order to build houses outside it. The attitude toward the Jews by the population, which was mostly Turkish, was generally hostile. In 1888 a Jewish child was abducted by a maidservant and taken to a mosque, the Muslims refusing to return him. There were, however, no anti-Jewish riots as elsewhere in *Iraq, not even in 1941. All the Jews of the town immigrated to Israel in 1950–51.


A. Ben-Jacob, Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1967), 117–22.

[Haim J. Cohen]


views updated May 23 2018


A city in northeastern Iraq at the foot of the Zagros Mountains.

Historically a Kurdish city, Kirkuk today has an Arab plurality. According to the 1977 census, the population was 535,000; in 2004, it was estimated to be 784,100. The city is in the heartland of the Kurdish region; the Kirkuk oil field, the largest oil field in Iraq, is also the center of the Iraqi petroleum industry. Refineries and major oil pipelines lead from Kirkuk to Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.

see also zagros.

reeva s. simon

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