A US ministerial committee has still not come to a decision on whether if should accept Libya's demand for 'a memorandum of understanding' blocking the export of Jewish artefacts from the country. Gina Waldman of JIMENA tells JTA why Libya is wrong:
(JTA) — Gina Waldman was forced to flee
her native Libya in 1967 as anti-Jewish mobs took to the streets of
Tripoli, burning down her father’s warehouse.
Waldman, like thousands of other Libyan Jews who left the country
amid public and state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the 20th century, was
forced to leave behind both personal belongings — she was only allowed
to bring a single suitcase with her — and a rich cultural heritage that
testified to over 2,000 years of Jewish presence in the North African
country. Today no Jews remain in Libya.
That heritage — including synagogues, cemeteries and ritual objects —
has long been under threat. But now an additional obstacle is coming
from an unlikely place, said Waldman, president and co-founder of the
group Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, or JIMENA.
Gina Waldman...left with one suitcase
The threat stems from a memorandum of understanding request by the
Libyan government — currently under consideration by the State
Department — that would prohibit artifacts dated 1911 and earlier,
including Jewish ritual objects, from being brought into the United
States from Libya.
That would mean that anyone attempting to bring in antique Torah
scrolls, tombstones, books and other ritual objects would be stopped at
the U.S. border, and the objects would be confiscated and sent back to
Waldman, who lives in San Francisco, called the measure “very, very
offensive to the Jewish community.” She said the memorandum would block
people from removing Jewish artifacts “when the very government itself
has destroyed every single synagogue, every single [Jewish] cemetery.”
Waldman said she is not aware of anyone having attempted to take
Jewish artifacts out of Libya, or of any plans to do so. But she worries
that the memorandum would affect any future efforts to recover those
The State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee convened
this week to discuss and consider the request, which Libya submitted in
June. It has not announced a decision. The State Department emailed JTA
saying it would comment by Monday but did not follow through.
Libya claims that the request is necessary for curbing black market sales of artifacts from the country.
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