Associated Press writers Matti Friedman, Aron Heller and Michelle Faul have given this bleak reminder of the once proud Jewish community of Libya, who were driven-out over several decades and currently live in exile as a diaspora – mostly in Israel.
The article outlines the current feelings of the Libyan Jewish communities:
Bublil-Waldman, who heads an organization of Jews from Arab countries in San Francisco, said she was still angry and hurt by the memory of her family’s expulsion from Libya. Those feelings remained strong, she said, and at this point she “would be afraid to go.” Navit Barel, a 34-year-old Israeli of Libyan descent, said the upheaval made her want to visit the country where her parents were born. Her mother and father, now deceased, both grew up near the Dar al-Bishi synagogue. “I feel like it brought back my yearning to talk to my father,” she said.
And the sad story of how this diaspora came to be:
…In the 1940s, thousands were sent to concentration camps in North Africa where hundreds died. Some were deported to concentration camps in Germany and Austria.
Their troubles didn’t end with the war. Across the Arab world, anger about the Zionist project in Palestine turned Jewish neighbors into perceived enemies. In November 1945, mobs throughout Libya went on a three-day rampage, burning down Jewish shops and homes and killing at least 130 Jews, among them three dozen children. After Israel was founded in 1948, it became a refuge for Jews of ancient Middle Eastern communities, including those of Libya. Barel’s father fled in 1949, and her mother soon after. Most were gone by the time Gadhafi seized power in 1969. The new dictator expelled the rest, who were ordered to leave with one suitcase and a small amount of cash.
Jewish properties were confiscated. There was no way to determine how many. Debts to Jews were officially erased. Jewish cemeteries were turned into dumping grounds or built over, and most of the dozens of synagogues around the country were either demolished or put to different use. Some became mosques. A community that numbered about 37,000 at its peak vanished.