Continuing our series about the repercussions of the Six-Day War leading to the liquidation of the Jewish communities in Arab countries, we re-visit Libya: the 1967 riots were the third pogrom in 20 years to target Jews.
David Meghnagi, today a professor of clinical psychology in Rome,
recalls the bitter memories preceding his flight from Libya
in an interview with Informazione Corretta (February 2014). (With thanks: Eliyahu)
Among my most disconsolate memories, there is a night spent burning all
photos and letters from relatives in Israel. The Libyan government,
after putting the Jewish community under its direct control, appointed a
governmental officer to collect information about those who left the
country. I cried all night for those photos: they were the only visual
memory I had of my family.
I was not sure I would have met them. We
were hostages. If someone had to leave, even for medical reasons,
someone had to stay hostage to guarantee the other would return.
Violent attacks broke out again in 1967, after increasing hostility against Israel and the Jews: what happened?
Friday 2 June 1967, the ulemas incited to holy war from the mosques,
while meanwhile the government joined the Syrian and Egyptian initiative
of celebrating a week in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The
King declared the state of “defensive war” and offered support for the
liberation of Palestine. Radios reverberated everywhere that the Zionist
entity had no chance to survive.
Jewish notables sent to the King a
declaration of solidarity, recalling their neutrality and loyalty. We
were disquieted and, as every year in occasion of the Palestine Day, the
wealthiest men of the community had to give a “donation” for Palestine.
Hideously maltreated, they had to pretend to be happy, hoping that
would prevent further harm. We fasted; we lighted candles in honour of
Rav Meir and Bar Yochai.
I was terrified of violence against women; I
was in fear for what could happen to my sister, my mother, my father.
Somehow this fear toppled with the distress of Arab armies surrounding
the Jewish state. Tel Aviv was a few kilometres away from the Eastern
border, while the border in Jerusalem was just barbed wire.
the silent and gloomy nights, I wondered what could happen if the Arabs
would attack first. When the war broke out, on 5 June 1967, the crowd
was exulting in the streets. Radio Cairo announced the destruction of
Tel Aviv and Haifa: we knew that it was just Arab propaganda, but we
were in fear. From the PLO building, voices cried out for holy war.
endless and voiceless hours for my loved ones and my neighbours to come
back home, I wondered what we should do had the crowd tried to break
into our home. My brother Isaac managed to jump out of the window while
the building where he worked was burning.
As in 1945 and in 1948,
youth had put a sign to tag Jewish homes and businesses. After declaring
the state of emergency and imposing the curfew, the authorities managed to
get back in control. On Thursday 8 June, the police had to hold back a crowd
of peasants from the nearby village of Zawia, where several volunteers
were recruited for “the holy war against infidels”. They were heading
toward Tripoli to cleanse it of Jewish presence.
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