Tag: Libyan Jews in Israel

Yarden Gerbi wins gold for Israel

 An  athlete of Libyan origin is the first to win a gold medal for Israel in the women’s Judo World Championships. Yarden Gerbi was visibly moved when she stood on the podium in Brazil as the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah played. The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Sylvia) :


For over two decades judo has been one of Israel’s most successful sports. The
country’s first ever Olympic medal came courtesy of judoka Yael Arad in
Barcelona in 1992, with the likes of Oren Smadja and Arik Ze’evi also going on
to win Olympic medals, as well as countless other titles in major

However, until Yarden Gerbi came along on Thursday night,
no Israeli had ever claimed a gold medal at the judo World

Not only did the 24-year-old scale the top of the podium
in Rio de Janeiro, but she did so in spectacular fashion.

Gerbi triumphed
in all five of her battles with an ippon – judo’s version of a knockout –
overcoming world No. 4 Kane Abe of Japan in the semifinals and world No.
2 Clarisse Agbegnenou in the final. Gerbi, the world No. 1 in the under-63
kilogram category, required just 43 seconds to overcome Agbegnenou, with the
Frenchwoman losing consciousness following a near-deadly maneuver by the

“This took a long time to sink in,” said Gerbi. “It’s like a
dream. The last few days were very tense but finally my moment

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Why Libyan Jews followed one man to Netanya

Libyan Jewish girls in Purim costume

Almost half of Libya’s Jews ended up in one Israeli town – Netanya. Blogging in the Times of Israel, Jack Cohen explains why:

We visited a small exhibition held at the Netanya City Museum on the Jews of Libya. Why Libyan Jews in Netanya? Because soon after the founding of Israel the Jews from Libya were a majority of immigrants in Netanya. This is their story.

During WWII the Libyan Arabs collaborated with the Germans and aided them in rounding up Jews. After the war in 1946 there was a massacre of Jews in Libya, and clearly it was impossible for them to stay there. The Jewish Agency sent an emissary named Duvdevani (cherry) to rescue them. In 1948, when the State was founded, there were ca. 36,000 Jews in Libya. Most of them were in the cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, but they were also spread around into the countryside. The Jews from the country were very religious and quite primitive, but those in the cities were modernized and influenced by Italian culture. Duvdevani gathered them into the ports and they gave up or sold everything. They were very happy to take boats and sail for Israel via Italy, sometimes at great risk. They were the only Jewish community that made aliyah almost in its entirety.

Half of them, ca. 14,000, settled in Netanya, more than doubling its population in 1948. There were two reason why they settled here, first because it was by the sea and reminded them of the cities they had left. Second, by coincidence, a Palestinian Jew named Menachem Arkin had been a volunteer in the British Army in N. Africa and as a Major had been in charge of Tripoli. After the war when he returned to what became Israel, his job was the Manager of the city of Netanya. He knew many of the Tripolitanian Jews personally from having dealt with them when he was in Libya and he welcomed them to settle in Netanya. At first they lived in tent camps, called ma’abarot, that dotted the countryside soon after independence when the immigrants from Europe and the Arab world flooded in. Eventually they became part of the population and can no longer be distinguished.

The exhibition is entitled “My mother’s gold,” but this refers not to the gold that they brought with them, but more to the advice and guidance that their mothers particularly gave them. Of course they could bring little with them, only what they could carry and hide. They sold their gold bracelets and other trinkets in order to give their children an education. The women also did embroidery and sold this to keep them from poverty. Now, of course, this is their history. Examples of their gold and embroidery are shown in the exhibits. Also shown are quotes from Libyan Jews who became Israelis and remembered their mother’s advice and sacrifices.

We were shown around the exhibition by Chava Appel who is the Manager of the Netanya Museum. At present this is a one story small building, restored from what had been the first city hall of Netanya. This includes the office of the first Mayor, Oved Ben Ami, who was the visionary who in the 1920′s found the site of what is now Netanya when it was completely barren, saw the potential and collected money to build a resort city here. Needless to say he was successful, Netanya now has a population approaching 200,000. In about 2 years a new larger building will be renovated to constitute the enlarged Netanya City Museum with a permanent exhibition. Part of this will memorialize the role Libyan Jewry played in its development.

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The Libyan-Jewish music scene in Israel

Chris Silver’s blog Jewish Morocco is a treasure trove of unusual factoids. Here’s his latest post on long lost Libyan records which resurfaced in Israel. (With thanks: Michelle)

Between 1949 and Libyan independence in 1951, some 30,000 Libyan Jews left their homeland for Israel. Harvey Goldberg writes in the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times (p. 442) that when the Israel-bound ships sailed from the harbor at Tripoli, immigrants sang Moses’ song of redemption at the sea (Exod. 15). But what else were they singing?

Geoula Barda, Libyan master of the mawwal and Zakiphon standout

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Libyan Jewish musicians flocked to Jaffa to record with Raphael Azoulay and his sons for their Zakiphon label. These musicians included Bano Gniss, Joseph Mango Boaron, Geoula Barda, Suffa Kahlon and others. They recorded Andalusian music (ma’luf), Libyan pop and original chaabi songs. Through the latter, these musicians succeeded in narrating their own migration experiences and confronting their new realities.

It is unclear whether any 78 rpm records were ever commercially recorded in Libya in the first half of the twentieth century as attested to by Jonathan Ward at the excellent Excavated Shellac blog. LPs and EPs were indeed recorded in independent Libya but it remains a real challenge to find any of this music today. So when I stumbled upon a stack of Libyan 45s in the Jaffa flea market last month, I knew I had uncovered rare musical artifacts that had to be shared with readers and listeners.

Yaacov Yamin, music writer and composer who worked closely with Geoula Barda

As you will hear, Libyan music is and feels different from the rest of Maghrebi music. Separate the Egyptian pieces out and you are left with killer violin, mawwal that feels like sacred ritual and trance inducing repetition. The Arabic is different as well. It was difficult to choose one 45 side to post but I decided to go with Labnyia Labsitt Sirwal by the famed Joseph Mango Boaron. This is one of the first pieces Boaron recorded in Israel. He manages to capture the initial reaction to the Libyan experience in Israel by narrating the story of a young woman from Amrous, a village-turned-city just outside Tripoli. In Israel, this young Libyan woman flirts, smokes and worst of all – as he repeats over and over again in the chorus: the world and times are terrible…this girl is wearing pants.

Unfortunately most of this music has been lost and many of these musicians have passed including Joseph Mango Boaron. I know very little of Bano Gniss. Suffa Kahlon…well it seems he may still be alive. His story is so unbelievable that I will have to save for another post. I was pleased to learn that Geoula is still belting it out. Check out this performance of hers at a 2011 Libyan wedding.

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Jews concerned at post-Gaddafi future

Green Square in Tripoli has been renamed (Martyrs Square,with its associations to Jihad) – not a good omen for the post-Gaddafi future, say Libyan Jews in Israel. A Taiwan TV channel has the story:

Asked about the nearing end of Gaddafi’s rule and his sons’ fate, Arviv says he has no feeling towards them.

[David Arviv, Tripolitan Restaurant Owner]:
“I know they were mean people who did a lot of bad things and they deserve it.”

The Jewish community in the former Italian colony, which traces its origins to Roman times, numbered about 38,000 at the end of World War Two.

By the time Israel won the Middle East War against Arab nations in 1967, the community had dwindled to about 7,000.
The Jewish community in Libya is now virtually non-existent.

Arviv says he hopes the future rulers of Libya will allow Jews of Libyan origin to visit their childhood neighborhoods.

[David Arviv, Tripolitan Restaurant Owner]:
“I hope it will be better now and that we will have relations with them, and that we will be able to visit; that we Tripolitans will be able to visit Libya and see the neighborhood in which we grew up in. I hope it will create a new road.”

But in the Libyan Jews Heritage Center in the Israeli town of Or Yehuda, curator Avi Pedatzur is pessimistic.

[Avi Pedatzur, Curator, Libyan Jews Heritage Centre]:
“The revolution leaders took the main square in – the ‘Green Square’ – and turned it, within an hour, into ‘Jihad Square’*. Jihad and its meaning are well known to Jews. I don’t think that democracy will immediately emerge in Libya.”
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*Actually Martyrs square

Gaddafi sends a delegation to Israel

Muammar Gaddafi (Photo: Reuters)

Both government and rebels in Libya are trying to curry favour with the West – by visiting Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports:

A delegation from Libya sent by leader Muammar Gaddafi recently visited Israel and met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni and other officials, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

According to the report, the delegation of four senior Libyan officials received visas from the Israeli embassy in Paris after gaining approval from Israeli security services. Once in Israel, the delegation immediately asked to meet with Livni.

Upon receiving the invitation for a meeting, Livni immediately turned to security officials, who gave their approval for the opposition leader to meet with the Gaddafi delegation.

According to the report, Gaddafi’s motive in sending the officials was to attempt changing Israeli perceptions of the embattled Libyan leader, and to try and prevent Israel from supporting Libyan rebels, who have been fighting government forces for months.

As part of that effort, the Libyans reportedly gave Livni “digital media,” which she handed over to security officials.

In the four-day visit, the senior Libyan officials reportedly met with other Israeli officials in addition to the opposition leader.

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Haaretz article


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