Hail to the champion of Libyan-Jewish rights

Update: Libyans are to hold a demonstration coinciding with the onset of Yom Kippur to protest against Gerbi’s presence as a Jew, the reopening of the Dar al-Bishi synagogue and the return of Jews to Libya. Full story in the Jerusalem Post.

We don’t have a place for Zionism, says one sign (but another says, we are not against Judaism). Only 12 protesters turned up to a demonstration against David Gerbi on Thursday (Photo: John Boxley – NBC)
See NBC report here

In the remarkable and moving interview above via Skype with David Gerbi by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Gerbi explains that the reason why he has not been allowed to clean up the Dar al-Bishi synagogue – nor indeed have access to the vandalised Jewish cemetery – is because both are considered national archaeological sites or monuments. In other words, they are part of Libyan national heritage. Where have we heard that before? – ah yes, in Egypt, where Jewish community records are part of Egypt’s heritage, and in Iraq, where Jewish books belong to the Iraqi nation. The new Libyan regime is not ready for a Jew – who is proud to represent all Libyan Jews, be they in Italy or in Israel – to bring back to life dead monuments. After everything he has done to aid the rebels, Gerbi feels let down and cheated: meet the new regime, same as the old regime. Read Cooper’s piece in the Huffington Post:

Through the magic of Skype, I met a real hero. And the fate of this man and his mission will inform us about the ultimate outcome of the Arab Spring in Libya and perhaps across the entire region.

Meet David Gerbi, a 50-something psychoanalyst from Rome. But David was born in Libya, a native of Tripoli, who, as a 12-year-old, was exiled, along with 38,000 other Jews who were forced to flee their native Libya in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day Israel-Arab War.

Over the years, David made numerous attempts to reconnect Jewish exiles with their native land. Initial promises for cooperation during the Gaddafi era led to a perilous arrest. In recent months he hooked up with the rebel forces of the National Transitional Council, the group which has earned critical NATO backing and financial support from key democracies with the promise of a moderate Muslim society that would respect the norms of human rights.

Now, Dr. Gerbi is challenging the NTC to “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk,” and decided to spend the High Holy days at the Dar Bishi Synagogue. He spent a day clearing out mounds of garbage: “I cannot pray under the holy banner of Shema Yisrael [Judaism’s most important declaration of faith] amidst the filth,” he told me. When he returned a second day, locals warned him to flee. But David has not left Tripoli, instead he’s decided to place his safety in the balance in order to test the “new” Libya’s commitment to religious freedom and tolerance.

Read article in full

More on Gerbi’s mission here and here

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