Jewish leader visits Libya after 43 years

Raphael Luzon (pictured) has long expressed his wish to take his aged mother to visit Libya before she dies, and light a candle for eight relativesmurdered in Benghazi in 1967. This AFP report does not mention them. Neither does it mention that Khadafi never kept his promise to compensate Libyan Jews for their lost property.

TRIPOLI — A Libyan Jewish community leader who visited his birthplace for the first time since being forced to flee in 1967 said on Friday it felt like he was living a dream.

Raphael Luzon, who was driven out after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and now lives in London, visited his birthplace of Benghazi, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of Tripoli, with his sister and 83-year-old mother.

“We visited Benghazi and met our loved ones amid tears and great longing for friends we have never forgotten,” Luzon told AFP. It felt like he was “in a dream.”

Luzon, who also met several Libyan officials during the visit, said he regretted not having had the chance to hold talks with the country’s leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya’s Jewish population, numbering tens of thousands, shrunk after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. Most of the estimated 7,000 remaining Jews were evacuated after the 1967 war following anti-Jewish riots.

Kadhafi has said he would be willing to compensate Jews who left behind their properties in Libya.

“All the Jewish community (living abroad) is waiting for my return so I can tell them about the results of this visit,” Luzon said, adding that he plans to make another return to Libya.

“All the Libyan Jews living in Palestine (did he really say that? ed) and Europe and America, and there are 110,000 Jews of them, yearn for Libya and wish to return, or just to visit,” he said.

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