After the Jews, Libya is now turning on Christians

A Jewish family in Libya (from The Last Jews of Libyacopyright Vivienne Roumani-Denn, used with permission.)

Recent news that the new Libyan government has arrested four foreign nationals
on charges that they were proselytizing Christianity in Libya has been troubling Gina Waldman, of JIMENA, writing in the Times of Israel. It is reviving memories of her own expulsion in 1967:

  

Sadly, the story of the Swedish-American,
Egyptian, South African and South Korean who were arrested for printing
and distributing bible pamphlets in Benghazi by a unit of the Libyan
Defense Ministry known as Preventative Security, brings back sad
memories.

Even though Libya had a revolution, the
country still maintains an archaic law from the era of the regime of “El
Rais,” Moammar Gadaffi, which makes proselytizing any religion, other
than Islam, a criminal offense punishable by death. One oppressive
dictatorship has fallen but another one has replaced it. Libya continues
to deny its citizens the freedom to worship in the religion of their
choice.

I was born in Libya, but left the country as a
19-year-old in 1967. I loved my country, the food, culture and
traditions of our people who had a history in Libya for more than two
thousand years. But I left when mobs were roaming the streets, not
chanting for democracy or yearning for freedom but calling for the heads
of Jews. Violent political culture has often been part of Libyan
society, especially towards its Jewish community. I suffered as a member
of Libya’s Jewish minority just as Christians suffer for being a
minority in Libya now.

After WWII, Arab nationalism spread throughout
the Middle East and North Africa, leading to riots which often turned
into violence directed at the Jewish communities. In 1945, more than 140
Jews were killed and many injured in a pogrom in Tripoli called the
“Mora’ot.” The film: “The Forgotten Refugees” highlights these events.

My mother, Laura, escaped attacks on our house
by jumping from rooftop to rooftop until she was rescued by a Christian
woman. After the riots, my father helped bury the severed bodies of his
friends; an experience that traumatized him for the rest of his life.

When Israel became a state in 1948,
anti-Jewish riots escalated, synagogues were torched and Jewish homes
were destroyed. This resulted in the mass expulsion of 30,000 Jews to
Europe and Israel. By 1950, only 6,000 Jews were left from what was once
a thriving Jewish community. I was one of those Jews. Today there is
not a single Jew left in Libya.

While living in Libya my family and I, like
the rest of the Jewish Community became prisoners in our own country.
Jews were prohibited from leaving the country, holding citizenship,
travel outside of Tripoli, holding government jobs or attending
government schools. I was stripped of my basic human rights and treated
as a Dhimmi, a subjugated, second class citizen, for my
religious beliefs. Although I was raised in an orthodox Jewish home, I
had no other choice but to attend Catholic school. I could recite
prayers in Latin, but I was not even allowed to learn Hebrew, the
religious language of my people.

My father had invested heavily in Libya. He
had a business and a family. We always prayed that things would get
better, but we were living in denial. The situation for Jews in Libya
worsened. By 1967 during the six-day-war between Israel and its five
Arab neighbors, mobs took to the streets burning Jewish homes. I became
separated from my family and was hidden in the home of a Christian
family.

By order of the Libyan Government, my family
was expelled; all of our assets were confiscated. We were allowed one
suitcase and the equivalent of $20 to take with us outside of the
country. Fleeing for our lives, my family narrowly escaped death when
the bus driver attempted to burn the bus taking us to the airport. We
were rescued by Christians.

Today Libya is Judenrhein, Jew free, and recent events show it will soon be Christian-rhein.
The Libyan government must find some enemy to justify the police state
that rules over the Libyan people. “Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya.
We are a 100% Muslim country and this kind of action affects our
national security,” a security official named Hussein Bin Hmeid told
Reuters in justifying the arrests of the Christians.

Does it surprise officials of Western
governments that intolerant societies like my native Libya could produce
so many who are willing to murder in the name of religion?

Read article in full

On this day, 21 February (Cleveland Jewish News):

1897:
In correspondence bearing today’s date, “leading members of the Jewish
community in Tripoli sent a letter to the President of the Alliance that
gave a grim picture of Jewish life in rural Tripolitania.”  The Jews
reported that they were living as “dhimmi.” An Arab mob had destroyed
the synagogue in the village of Zliten and in another village the
authorities refused to find those who had murdered one Jew and injured
his companion.

2 Comments

  • My oh My! We Jews seem to raise hate wherever we are! And why is that? No one can answer that question.
    When Cairo burned and we went to our rooftop, it was our BAWAB, porter, who saved us. He stood in front of the mob and said "THERE ARE NO JEWS HERE!
    That picture was beautiful. Thanks for that
    sultana

    Reply

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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