Monday, June 06, 2011

Jewish refugee returns to Libya to help the rebels

The Six-Day War, whose anniversary falls this week, marked the end of the remaining Jewish communities in the Arab world. Psychoanalyst David Gerbi (pictured - centre), who left Libya as a refugee in 1967, is back in the country, helping the rebels. Among other projects, he plans to give a Jewish family slaughtered in Benghazi in 1967 a proper burial. Report in The Jerusalem Post:

ROME – Dr. David Gerbi, a Libyan Jewish Jungian psychoanalyst who found refuge in Italy after the pogroms of 1967, has cast his lot with the Libyan rebels in Benghazi and their interim government, the National Transitional Council.

The first Libyan Jew to join the rebels, he has returned to Rome after a week of volunteer work at the Benghazi Psychiatric Hospital, teaching his colleagues there the techniques of healing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gerbi dedicates his life to retrieving his several identities while working for democracy and reconciliation. In 2004, he was appointed by the UN High Commission for Refugees to serve as a Witness for Peace mentor, and in 2007 he was named the commission’s Ambassador for Peace in South Africa.

One of his principle aims is salvaging the Libyan Jewish-Arab cultural heritage (dating as far back as the third century BCE) from which he and all Libyan Jews now dispersed across the world were so abruptly severed following repeated Arab riots and massacres related to political incitement against the State of Israel, notably in 1945*, 1948 and 1967.

“I was warmly welcomed in Benghazi by the leaders of the rebel government as a returned exile, as a Jew, an Italian, a psychoanalyst, and as a Libyan citizen with full rights to travel and live in Libya,” Gerbi told The Jerusalem Post last week. (...)

Gerbi hopes that with the advent of a democratic and pluralistic Libya, exiled Jews will be permitted to regain their passports and return for travel, work or residence.

He plans to propose a proper religious burial of the remains of Libyan Jews in the Benghazi cemetery (whose bones are presently stored in trunks), the re-consecration of the Homs and Derna Jewish Cemeteries, the reconstruction of the synagogues of Tripoli and Jefren (Yafran), and renewed negotiations regarding collective and individual property confiscated from the Jewish community by the Gaddafi regime.

In pursuing these dreams for his people, Gerbi has repeatedly risked his safety in the past 10 years by going on solo missions to Libya (in 2002, 2007 and 2009). He even tried to persuade Muammar Gaddafi in person, under the tent set up for him during his visit to Rome last year, to support these efforts – but to no avail.

During Gerbi’s sojourn in Tripoli in 2007, Libyan police arrested him and confiscated six mezuzot he had brought with him, and the money he had hoped to use to begin the restoration of the Sla Dar Bisni Synagogue. They kept the mezuzot but later returned the money.

Read article in full

* the massacre of 130 Jews took place three years before Israel was founded


MK Gross said...

"... related to political incitement against the State of Israel, notably in 1945 ..."

bataween said...

You're right, that was very sloppy of the journalist, as I have indicated

Hend El Dressy said...

I'm Libyan and I think that Libyan Jews should go back to Libya if they want. It's their country and their right if we really want democracy and justice!!

bataween said...

Dear Hend
Thanks for your noble thoughts.
unfortunately not many Libyan Jews (now mostly in Israel) are interested in returning to Libya. They would be content if the Libyan government apologised to them and paid them compensation.

Anonymous said...

I do not think Mr.Hend el dressy realises the danger for Jews if they return to Lybia. There may be some friendly Lybians but the vast majority aren't that friendly and furthermpore Jews will have to pray in secret, not reveal their faith, as we did i Egykpt. could not wear our symbols etc.
suzy vidal
Shabbat Shalom

Anonymous said...

Jews should not think of returning to their Arab countries of origin or seek compensation until Palestinians are legitimately offered the same. This discussion is offensive.

bataween said...

Any discussion of Jews returning to hate-ridden, racist and dangerous countries is offensive. Unfortunately the Palestinians are amongst the worst of the haters.