Thursday, July 27, 2006

Visit this site on the Jews of Libya

Anyone interested in the Jews of Libya is strongly encouraged to visit Armando Nahum's blog, The forgotten Jews. This attractively-designed site contains interesting information about Nahum's own family and community. There are some wonderful old photographs showing Tripoli, its synagogues and glimpses of family and communal life.

The history section gives an eloquent and concise summary of the final decades of the Libyan Jewish community, now extinct:

"In 1911, 350 years of Ottoman rule ended and the Italian colonial period began. At the time, Libya’s Jewish population numbered 20,000. The next quarter century was to prove a golden age for Libya’s Jews. By 1931, nearly 25,000 Jews lived in Libya. The introduction of anti-Jewish legislation in Fascist Italy was extended to Libya in 1936. By 1940, Libya became the scene of heavy fighting between the Axis and British armies.

Pan-Islamic and anti-Jewish propaganda, fueled by the Arab League and coupled with the rise of Libyan nationalism, led to Muslim rioting in 1945 in the Tripolitania province. Decades of reasonably cordial relations with Muslims came to an end. Jews began to consider “Aliyah”, immigration to Palestine, and by 1952, 33,000 Libyan Jews had emigrated to Israel.

In December 1951, Libya became an independent state ruled by King Idris, who had been the leader of Cyrenaica province. The 6,000 Jews who remained did so for a variety of reasons: ties to the land and culture, age, infirmity, non-transferable business interests, quality of life, indecision, missed opportunities, faith in the country’s leadership.

Notwithstanding constitutional guarantees, restrictions on the Jewish community were gradually imposed. As early as 1952, Jews were forbidden to return home If they visited Israel, and access to Libyan passports became virtually impossible. Few Libyan Jews were granted citizenship in the newly independent Libyan state.

In1953, Libya joined the Arab League and increasingly echoed its anti-Israel rhetoric. All contact with Israel was proscribed and in 1958, the Tripolitania Jewish Community Board was forcibly dissolved and the authorities appointed a Muslim to administer the affairs of the community.

Ten years after the independence, Jews could no longer vote, hold public office, serve in the army, obtain Libyan passports, purchase new property, acquire majority ownership in any new business, or supervise their own communal affairs. Yet the Jews remained. Their daily lives were, to a substantial degree, largely unaffected by these prohibitions. Their roots in Libya were deep, their attachment to the country strong, and their daily lives unhindered. They came to resign themselves, almost to take for granted, their political powerlessness and physical vulnerability. Without specific provocation, it would have been difficult to just get up and leave for an uncertain future.

As late as January 1967, Tripoli’s Jews felt sufficiently confident of their position to plan the construction of a new synagogue in the city center. But in the ensuing months, growing tension throughout the Middle East and North Africa was fueled by Egyptian President Nasser’s provocative actions against the Jewish state and fiery anti-Israeli rhetoric. Libya’s Jews hoped they would somehow remain untouched by events beyond their country’s borders, but the outbreak of war in the Middle East in June of that year dispelled any such hopes."


Anonymous said...

Jewish cemetery in Iran:

Anonymous said...

Article threatening that Iran's Jews will be in danger if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic: