Tag: Jews of Libya

Ceremony held to remember Libyan Jews killed in WWII camps

For the first time,  a commemoration ceremony has been held in Rome on 27 January at the monument of the Jews of Libya at the Verano Cemetery, to remember the Libyan Jews deported to the extermination camps di Giado, Sidi, Azaz, Buerat El Hsum, Buq Buq, Auschwitz, Reichenau and Bergen Belsen.Report in Shalom:

David Gerbi standing beside a plaque recording the names of Jews who died during WWII and are buried in desecrated cemeteries in Libya

This is a little-known aspect of history, which deserves prominence in the light of the important role played by the Tripoli Jews within the Jewish community of Rome.

“There has never been a commemoration dedicated to the Shoah in Libya, neither in Italy nor in Europe,  in the history of the Memorial Day,” explains David Gerbi, President of the Association Safeguarding Transmission of the Jewish Heritage of Libya (ASTREL), which organised the event.  “It is important, because there is no place where they can come looking for us and apologize for what they did to us. These were Nazi-Fascist camps, so there was also the Italian responsibility. And it was better for Italy to forget Libya ”.

A page of history that has long been put aside nationally and internationally, but the time has come to bring it to light. At a conference dedicated to the Jews of Libya last November, David Gerbi presented his research project  into the names of those buried in desecrated cemeteries, in order to carve them on tombstones to be placed at the Verano Cemetery:

“I want us to be remembered too and for our victims of the Shoah to have a name. Not remembering them would mean killing them again and since we are the last Jews born in Libya we have the obligation to remember – explains David Gerbi – we had a giant from our Community, Sion Burbea who was deported to Bergen Belsen and managed to come back . He founded the Beth Yacov temple here in Rome, he was very loved by the people. We do all this to remember our dead, but it will be a memorial ceremony; the religious ceremony we will do on Saturday, in which we will read the names, exactly as the Jewish Community of Rome does on 16 October, and we will do the Kaddish, giving a voice to people who cannot speak ”.

The ceremony was attended by Jewish high school students, together with the President of the Jewish Community of Rome Ruth Dureghello, Rav Shalom Bahbut, Yoram Ortona, son of a victim of racial laws in Libya, Saul Meghnagi, UCEI Councilor, Ambassador Giulio Terzi , Luigi De Salvia, president of Religions for Peace, Roberta Ascarelli, president of the Jewish-Christian Friendship of Rome, Joseph Taché who read the testimony of Sion Burbea, Rocco Giansante of Yad Vashem and Friederike Wallbrecher, president of the Association Remember Together.

Read article in full (Italian)

My aunt married an Egyptian Muslim for love

Writing in The Librarians, Ayala Dekel was shocked to discover that her aunt Rachel had chosen to remain in Egypt with her Muslim love rather than emigrate with her family to Israel. (By all accounts, intermarriage was quite common in Egypt.) The story of Jewish women who stayed behind in Arab countries  because they had fallen in love with Muslims is not altogether new to readers of Point of No Return. Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi ‘s grandmother fell in love with a Muslim sheikh. But there are other stories of Jewish women who were abducted and converted to Islam. Indeed so widespread is the phenomenon of Arabs with Jewish roots, that an Israeli outreach campaign was mounted to reach them. (With thanks: Alec, Michelle)

Aunt Rachel, left behind

She boarded the ship along with the rest of her family. Everyone was excited about the voyage that would eventually bring them to Israel, the journey that would begin the great change in their lives. Yet, her heart was heavy. She didn’t really want to leave Egypt. A few minutes later, she muttered casually, “I forgot my bag by the ship, I’ll be right back.” That was the last they saw of her. She left the ship behind and returned to her lover in Egypt, choosing to stay there with him.

We never heard these stories during our childhood nor later on. The stories, like the women concealed in them, were left behind. Jewish women who lived in 20th century Egypt and who chose to remain there, though their entire families had immigrated to Israel. Women who chose to marry outside of the Jewish faith, who in most cases were expelled from home and family, left alone in a Muslim country. It’s time to tell their stories.

One of them was my aunt, Rachel. I only became aware of her existence a year ago

.My grandfather had a large, warm and noisy family. They were five brothers and one sister. Their pictures always stood on the bookcase in my grandparents’ home.

It turned out that someone was missing from the photos. Rachel wasn’t in any of them.

Rachel had fallen in love with a young Muslim man and married him when the family was still living in Egypt. Her father, my great-grandfather, did not approve of the marriage and banished her from the family home. He also demanded that everyone sever ties with her. But one sister refused to comply and kept in touch with Rachel despite her controversial marriage. Her name was Susan, I called her Tante Zuza. She would visit Rachel’s home frequently and even developed a close relationship with her son. Until it came time to immigrate to Israel.

Read article in full

Jewish girl was abandoned by her family in Egypt

Ten Jewish girls have married Muslims in Yemen

Jewish bride disappears in Yemen

The Jewish women who married Arabs in Palestine

Another Jewish woman rescued from her Arab husband

Jewish woman returns from Syria after 68 years

Iraqi-Jewish abductee rejoins her family

Last Afghan Jew to leave is a woman, 83


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
 (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

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

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

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

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.

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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  »


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