Liliana Zanzuri Leitman, 63, with her mother Gina Zanzuri, 83 ... lucky to get out (Staff photo/Janeris Marte)
Liliana Zanzuri and her mother, who were driven out of Libya in 1948, tell the Florida Jewish Journal they cannot bring themselves to feel sorry for the 'antisemitic' Libyan people. They can only count their blessings that they were able to get out (with thanks: Sarah and Liliana):
While the world sits glued to television sets, watching the heroic struggle of Libyan freedom fighters against the oppressive despot Muammar Gaddafi, some in the Jewish community aren't cheering.
"When I watch the TV images on what is going on in Libya, I cannot bring myself to feeling sorry for the people there," Liliana Zanzuri Leitman, 63, of Pembroke Pines said. "They never felt sorry for my family when they sacked and stole our property and livelihood and scared us out."
Leitman's mother, Gina Zanzuri, 83, echoed those sentiments.
"What goes around -- comes around," Zanzuri said. "They drink anti-Semitism with their mother's milk."
In 1948, when Leitman was still a baby, she and her family were forced to flee Libya without their money or possessions after suffering persecution and pogroms.
"In front of those images on TV, my mother cringes and says, 'How lucky are we that we are not there anymore. If we were, they would come for us first.'"
The Jewish Libyan community once counted 35,000, Leitman noted. Today, there is not even one Jew left in Libya, she said. "This community, that goes back 2,500 years, has obliterated their oldest minority."
Leitman noted that in Libya, "just as in any Muslim country in the world, the Jew is seen in a very bad light." She said Imams incite hatred against the Jews and school texts preach hatred of the Jew.
"It is a massive brainwashing of the younger generation that has been going on for generations," she said. "Libya is no different. Jews used to be harassed for no reason in the streets of Libya just for being Jews. My father used to tell us a story about going to a British officer on the street asking for help from some Arab youth who came to harass him. The soldier apologized -- 'Sorry, I cannot interfere.' My father never forgot those words. They resonated in his memory until his death and they still live on in our memories."
By the time Gaddafi came to power in 1969, only about 100 Jews remained in Libya, Leitman said. "Under his rule, all Jewish property was confiscated, all debts to Jews were canceled and emigration for Jews was legally prohibited. Still some Jews succeeded in leaving the country and by 1974, only 20 Jews lived in Libya. A few years ago, the last known Jew in Libya died."
Leitman said she hopes Gaddafi is forced out.
"I would like it very much if I could go back and see the places where my community once stood and my parents' home and business were," she said. "But I would not dare go back unless that country became democratic in the true sense. My personal feeling is that all this turmoil in the Arab world will not bring Democracy but rather radical Islamization."
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