Tag: Jews of Libya

November riots in Libya: the end of trust between Jews and Muslims

Between 4 – 7 November 1945, the Jews of Libya suffered a murderous pogrom which snuffed out 133 lives.  We are reproducing this article in Focus on Israel by Leone Nauri  which gives the context of this massacre without precedent and lists the names of the dead. Nauri concludes that it is about time that Libyan Jews started a political campaign for their rights. (With thanks: Yoram, Ariel)
The war-damaged Dar al-Bishi synagogue in Tripoli

I read continuously about the good old days in Libya…and I
remain incredulous and amazed.

It would be enough to remember that from that
country we were hunted and expelled after three pogroms and without a penny in
our pockets for not believing these lies but probably it is not enough — so I
would like to remind my fellow villagers how we lived, without Stockholm or
other syndromes.

I would like to remind you that when we left the house the
silent advice of the parents was: head down and brisk walking. That way, the chances
of being insulted, spat upon, beaten, were between 30 and 50 percent. When
we left home there was possibly more than one of us, and we accompanied each other.
Generally every one of us had a “ghibbor and courageous” companion to
return with.

‘Behind me marched the angel of death’, a novel about the 1945 riots by Kalfo Samiya Jerabi z”l

When I came back, my mother always told me that I was a
brawler,  because in the end if I followed safer roads, with my head down, with a
brisk pace, or running, I would probably have reduced the number of fights!

In the narrowest streets with small sidewalks if you were lost in thought and did not
realize that a Muslim came from the opposite side and therefore you did not get
off the sidewalk and caught a slap and a series of insults from the “ia
kelb”
 (you dog), to “iudi kafr” (Jew non–believer). And this was
the rule, it wasn’t a special situation, it was just so. When you came back
from the temple they waited outside and attacked you.

I remember that our
little group coming out of Slat dar el Malte consisted of myself,  Leone Nauri, Victor Meghnagi z””l and Simo Dula. He was the real ghibbor (hero) , he put his tongue between his
teeth and said: ‘don’t answer randomly if they beat you, answer to their leader
and not to others’.

My parents always told me when I told them to leave that I was exaggerating! I would
like to remind you first of all that in 1945 40,000 Jews and 500,000 Arabs
lived in Libya in a territory three times the size of Italy and that our
annihilation led to our progressive expulsion despite the fact that we were
residents for over 2,000 years, much earlier than the Muslims, but this is never
remembered, no one gets up with the house keys to request our homes and our
rights.

We were about eight percent of the population and we should have 8% of
the territory, of the oil, all of the money that has robbed from us, beyond
revaluation and interest. Hundreds of synagogues turned into mosques or  were set on
fire, hundreds of deaths and our cemetery repaved with the asphalt of a
highway. We did not resist with arms, neither did the UN nor the other
international associations listen to us. But I think we should start thinking
about a political movement, even with the use of fashionable flotillas. Damn
them.

First of all I would like to recall the context in which the pogrom took place. Libya
was a Turkish colony, then an Italian colony and after the war it was under the
control of Great Britain. On November 4, 1945, Muslims attacked Jews wherever
they were, burned hundreds of shops, houses, synagogues and murdered 133
people. The British authorities did not lift a finger for four days and four
nights!

The result was the assassination in Tripoli of: Amira Izhak (Huga Giabin), Attia Regina
(Tesciuba), Barabes Huatu Asciusc, Barda David, Bendaud Masauda, Dadusc Lisa,
Fellah Musci-Kisc, Fellah Rubina, Genah Barkhani-Kassis, Genah Yosef Kassis,
Gerbi Hmani Barghut, Guetta Meri, Habib Pinhas, Haiun Mazala, Halfon
Hmani-Aruah, Halfon Masuda-Buda, Hassan Mas’auda, Leghziel Mamus – Ghezal,
Makhluf Nissim, Meghnagi Gebri, Messica Hai Glam, Messiah Raffael Halil, Nahum
Pinhas, Nahum Shlomo-Nawi, Naim Bekhor, Naim Bekhor Baiiba, Naim Raffael, Naim
Nasi, Naim Iosef-Haba, Rav Dadusc Sciaul, Rav Avraham Tesciuba, Serussi
Iakov-Gabbai, Sofer Hanna (Haddad), Sofer Mas’ ud, Zanzuri Rubina.

In the town of Amrus the murdered were: Buaron Misa, Baranes Zina, Baranes Miha, Baranes
Mas’uda, Glam Abraham, Glam Giuara, Iamin Mas’uda, Cahlon Huatu, Cahlon Huatu,
Cahlon Hai, Cahlon Micael, Cahlon Makhluf, Cahlon Mantina, Cahlon Saida, Cahlon
Pinhas, Cahlon Sciuscian, Cahlon Sara, Makhluf Guta, Makhluf Huatu, Makhluf
Khlafu, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Mantina, Makhluf
Nesria, Makhluf Sultana, Makhluf Scimon, Makhluf Scimon, Mimun Lisa, Mimun
Sfani, Saada Wasi, SaadaMisa, Scmuel Bekhor, Scmuel Iaakov, Scmuel Meir, Scmuel
Mergiana (Makhluf), Sasson Lisa, Scmuel Rahel, Scmuel Scimon.

In the city of Zanzur the murdered were: Cahlon Bachuna, Cahlon Huatu, Cahlon Mamus, Cahlon
Masu, Cahlon Sturi (Debasc), Guetta Aziza, Guetta Aziza, Guetta Eliau, Guetta
Fragi, Guetta Ghezala, Guetta Ghezala (Debasc), Guetta Hluma, Guetta Hmani ,
Gueta Kalifa, Guetta Khamsa, Guetta Khlafu, Guetta Khlafo, Guetta Lidia, Guetta
Mas’uda (Serussi), Guetta Misa, Guetta Mosce, Guetta Nissim, Guetta Saruna,
Guetta Sbai, Guetta Sfani, Guetta Toni, Hayun Dukha, Haiun Hmani , Haiun
Khamus, Haiun Kheria, Hayun Khlafo, Haiun Mergiana (Makhluf), Makhluf Gamira,
Makhluf Sara, Makhluf Scimon, Scmuel Nissim.

In Zawia were murdered: Bukris Esther (Dadusc), Badasc Giuara, Badasc Rahamin, Dadusc
Scialom, Haggiag Nissim, Halal Eliau, Halal Hevron, Halal Khamus, Halal Somani,
Haiun Sclomo, Hayun Ester (Tura), Leghziel Kheria (Dadusc) , Zigdon Nesria.In Tagiura
the murdered were: Arbib Bekhor, Arbib Khalifa, Arbib Scmuel, Attia Eliau,
Buaron Amira, Frig Guta (Dadusc), Skhaib Abraham.
In Msellata the following were assassinated: Attia Rahmin-Agila, Attia Iehuda, Legtivi
S’ayid.

The Jews had always trusted Muslims, and despite some problems they would never have
imagined an assault of those proportions. This caused an unbridgeable gap with
the Muslims and an absolute lack of trust in the British authorities. The
massacres lasted from 4 to 7 November and I am not aware of any commission of
inquiry of the UN or international associations. To be honest, it must be
remembered that even some Muslim dignitaries tried to stop the massacres and
that only after that date did the British intervene and stop them.

Read article in full (Italian)

An eye-witness account of the 1945 pogrom 

70 years since the Tripoli pogrom

Remembering the 1945 riots in Libya

David Gerbi sets up virtual Jewish cemetery

He’s the Libyan Jew who risked his life to pray in the Dar al-Bishi synagogue, tried to build bridges with reformists, and to record the stories of those expelled Jews. Now David Gerbi has decided to set up a virtual Jewish cemetery, JTA reports (with thanks: Edna):

David Gerbi inside the Dar al-Bishi synagogue in Tripoli in 2011

(JTA) — During a visit to his native Libya in 2002, David Gerbi saw something that he says still haunts him almost 20 years later.

“I was horrified to see children playing atop the ruins of the Tripoli Jewish cemetery, scampering about debris littered with human remains,” Gerbi, who left Libya many years ago for Italy, told the Behdrei Haredim news site in Israel last week.

The experience turned Gerbi into an advocate for what are known as heritage sites in his old community. But over the years, his efforts to preserve or restore communal Jewish sites in war-torn Libya, where no Jews remain, came to naught.

So Gerbi began to consider alternatives. And now, the psychologist who lives in Rome has announced a new effort to set up a virtual cemetery to replace each of the physical Jewish ones that have been devastated in his country of birth.

“Especially in Tripoli and Benghazi, the Jewish cemeteries were obliterated,” he told the news site. “So I decided to make a virtual cemetery for our loved ones buried in Libya.”

The virtual cemeteries will have sections for prominent rabbis and commemorative pages for victims of the Holocaust — hundreds of Libyan Jews died in concentration camps operated by Nazi-allied Italy — as well as other pages recalling the victims of three waves of pogroms, in 1945, 1948 and 1967, he said.

Users of the website will be able to virtually light memorial candles and dedicate Kaddish mourning prayers through the website interface, he said. “It will be a way to remember the dead of a community gone extinct,” Gerbi said.

Read article in full

 

The Libyan Jew preserving ‘la dolce vita’ in the kitchen

Meet Hamos Guetta, who fled his native Libya for Italy in 1967. Italy and Italian cooking has had a profound influence on Jews like Guetta as Libya was an Italian colony. It was to teach his daughter his family’s cuisine that Guetta first started making cookery videos. Now he has 17,000 followers on Youtube. Charming interview in Haaretz:

Hamos Guetta demonstrates a recipe (Photo:Tamar Applebaum)

“I was 12 when we arrived in Rome, desperately poor. We went for a walk in Piazza Vittorio, a huge square with a colourful market that rocked my world. I had never seen such produce. It stimulates all your senses at the same time. The colourful abundance of fruit and vegetables, the fresh herbs, the smells, the hustle and bustle of the market. It’s important to stop here and note that we arrived as refugees fleeing Libya after a month of hiding in different houses.

“I was totally shocked by the freedom with which people went about their affairs. In one spot, chickens were being slaughtered right there, and in another, there were stalls of Parmesan cheese that the vendors let me taste. Everyone was drinking wine and enjoying life. That evening, I returned to the square and was enchanted by a beautiful musical performance. I realized that this was la dolce vita Italiana.”

Read article in full  »

Tripoli synagogue ‘to become Islamic centre’

Once the handsomest synagogue in Tripoli, plans could be afoot to turn the Dar al Bishi synagogue into an Islamic centre. In a  JTA report based on one in the Italian-Jewish Moked, David Gerbi  of the World Organisation of Jews in Libya alleges that the synagogue is being taken over without permission. Gerbi broke into the synagogue in 2011 to pray, but was forced to leave Libya, where no Jews live anymore,  after threats on his life. If the synagogue becomes a mosque, it would not be the first. The shrine ofEzekiel at al-Kifl in Iraq was turned into a mosque without protest in the last five years.

The Dar al Bishi synagogue
JTA — An abandoned and ancient synagogue in Libya is being turned into an Islamic religious center without permission, the World Organization of the Jews of Libya said.

David Gerbi, a Libya-born Italian Jew, and member of the organization, which promotes the interests of people belonging to the Libyan Jewish Diaspora, wrote about the Sla Dar Bishi in Tripoli last week in a report published by Moked, a Jewish publication in Italy. 

 “Since there is now no Jew living in Tripoli and since the power is in the hands of the local authorities (read: militias) it was decided to violate our property and our history,” he wrote. “The plan clearly is to take advantage of the chaos and our absence.” 

 Gerbi said The World Organization of Jews in Libya “calls for this transformation to be stopped immediately and to leave the Tripoli synagogue intact with the hope that one day it will be restored.”

Contacts on the ground provided Gerbi with pictures and videos over the past three months that have convinced him that the synagogue is being taken over illegally, he said.

David Gerbi managed to pray in the synagogue in 2011 before being thrown out of Libya

Read article in full

More about David Gerbi

Amid looting, Tunisia struggles to preserve ‘its’ Jewish heritage

While looting, vandalism and smuggling are to be deplored, this article syndicated by Associated Press assumes that Jewish heritage abandoned in North Africa belongs to the countries concerned and not to the Jewish community driven into exile. While the best one can hope for is that immoveable communal property, such as synagogues and cemeteries, be preserved, for Arab states to be entitled to claim moveable Jewish artefacts as their national heritage is simply to legitimise theft. To this effect, a campaign by JIMENA  seeks to prevent these states signing Memoranda of Understanding(MOUs) with the US has been underway.

TUNIS, Tunisia (AFP) –Tunisia is struggling to protect North Africa’s Jewish heritage, threatened by vandalism, looting and the smuggling of valuable artifacts bearing witness to the long history of the region’s Jews.

While many of Tunisia’s own synagogues and Jewish graveyards lie neglected, the country has also become a conduit for antiques pillaged in lawless neighboring Libya.

“A huge number of antiques have been looted in Libya, and people are trying to smuggle them to Europe,” said Habib Kazdaghli, a historian at Tunisia’s Manouba University.

Kazdaghli is campaigning for the creation of a museum of the country’s Jewish heritage — a sensitive subject given public opposition to Israel.

In October, the Interior Ministry said it had confiscated two 10-meter (33-foot) scrolls in the coastal city of Nabeul, along with five small books in Hebrew.

In 2017, police seized a 15th-century handwritten copyof all five books of the Torah, on 37 meters of bull skin.

‘Smuggled’ Torah scroll seized by Tunisian authorities in 2017

 The ministry described the item as “unique in the world” and said unnamed foreign buyers had attempted to obtain it.

In another raid in January, the police said they had seized six Hebrew documents that smugglers admitted they were hoping to sell for 1.5 million dinars ($556,000).Tunisian authorities said a specialist network of antique smugglers had stolen the items from Libyan museums.

Allied soldiers survey the destruction at a Jewish cemetery on the coast of Libya, just west of Tripoli, on March 23, 1943. Many of the gravestones were used by Nazis to build defenses along the coast as the 8th Army advanced toward the city. (AP Photo) 

“Can you believe someone would steal the word of God and sell it?” asked Perez Traboulsi, a prominent elder of Tunisia’s Jewish community.

 Souad Toumi, an expert on Jewish heritage at Tunisia’s national Bardo museum, said she had recorded “dozens of stolen Hebrew artifacts that turned out to be important and rare.

”Many of them are old manuscripts, often meticulously written, sometimes in gold ink and stitched together with thread made from sheep or ox intestines.

The subjects include religious songs and prayers, rulings, geometric decoration, plant and animal decoration, diagrams of human bodies and constellations, Toumi said.

Read article in full

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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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