Spine-chilling account by poster Israelinurse on the excellent blog Harry's Place of her mother-in-law's experience of a pogrom in Libya in June 1948. Whenever her grandchildren join the Israeli army, the mother-in-law sits them down and tells them this story:
My mother-in-law’s family are from Tripoli in Libya. They didn’t live in the Jewish quarter of the city and had Arab neighbours with whom they had enjoyed cordial relations for years. Her mother had died in childbirth some years previously, so my mother-in-law, who at 18 was the eldest child, was largely responsible for her younger siblings.
One day out of the blue, whilst their father was out, riots began in the neighbourhood. They saw from the window of their apartment that a mob of their Arab neighbours was converging on them armed with all sorts of implements, but what shocked my mother-in-law most was the next door neighbour who was a butcher, brandishing the long knife he used to slaughter animals and shouting along with the others ‘Itbah el Yahud’.
They quickly locked the door and pushed a heavy wardrobe against it before hiding in the apartment and keeping as quiet as they could in the hope that the mob would think they weren’t at home. It worked– the mob went off in search of other victims.
When their father came home it was decided that my mother-in-law would try to get help. They knew they had to get to the Jewish quarter– they couldn’t stay in that Muslim neighbourhood. So she sneaked out of the apartment and stole through the narrow streets trying to think what to do.
Suddenly she saw a British policeman. She grabbed his arm and refused to let go until he agreed to help her. He went back to the apartment with her and escorted the whole family, carrying only what they could, to the Jewish quarter.
There they heard of the terrible events which had been happening in other parts of the town too, and within a short time they organised their travel arrangements to Israel.
They arrived with nothing and at first lived in a ‘ma'abara’. They all became professionals– teachers, lecturers, a chemist.
Whenever one of our children joins the army, my mother-in-law sits them down and tells them that story.