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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Libya 02: Arab rule

Arab conquest - persecutions - Tripoli - military service in Ottoman Empire since 1909

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in Libya, vol. 11,
                  col. 199-200, map with Jewish settlements from the
                  beginning to modern times
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in Libya, vol. 11, col. 199-200, map with Jewish settlements from the beginning to modern times

from: Libya; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 11

presented by Michael Palomino (2010)


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[Arab conquest - persecutions]

<Arab Period. According to late Arabic sources, the Jews were dispersed among the Berbers who lived around Mount Nefusa before the Arab conquest, but in Jewish sources the Jews of this district are only mentioned from the tenth century onward. the Jews also believed that the Jewish population of the entire region originated there. From the frequent repetitions of the surname al-Lebdi in 11th- and 12th-century sources, it can be concluded that there was also an important Jewish population in Lebda, near the harbor town of Homs, and also in the oasis of G(h)adames. There was also a Jewish population in Barce and in other localities. Between 1159 and 1160 the Jewish population suffered as a result of the victory of the Almohads but the rulers did not take any lives or force conversion.

There is no extant information on Libyan Jewry during the next 400 years. According to a later source, 800 Jewish families fled from Tripoli to Tajura - situated to the east of the latter - and to Jebel Gharyān (Garian) - in the interior of the country - as a result of the Spanish invasion of 1510. After the Turkish conquest the Jews prospered again. At that time, R. Simeon *Labi, a Spanish refugee, settled in Tripoli and strengthened the position of Judaism and introduced Jewish learning. According to a manuscript which belonged to M. Gaster (now BM. Or. 12368), "A sad and bitter event happened to the people of the Maghreb", i.e., the Jews of Libya were in great distress during the years 1588-89 as a result of the revolt against the Turks which was fomented by the Mahdi Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā. Many of them were forcibly converted to Islam, but with the suppression of the revolt, they returned to Judaism. There is, however, no mention or allusion in Jewish sources to this period of persecution.

[Jews in Tripoli]

The community of Tripoli gained in strength with the arrival of Jews from *Leghorn. In 1663 the Shabbatean Abraham Miguel *Cardozo arrived there and conducted his Shabbatean campaign. From the second half of the 17th century until the Italian conquest (1911) the Jews of Libya were led by qā'ids ("leaders"). During the famine and plague of 1784-85, there was much suffering among the Jews and they were threatened with grave danger when Ali Gurzi, known as "Burgul", was appointed pasha of Libya. After a year and a half he was banished from the town, and in commemoration of their deliverance the Jews of Tripoli celebrate "Purim of Burgul" every 29th of Tevet.

[Jewish quarters in Tripoli - community life]

The Jews of Libya lived in special quarters (ḥāra) in the various town. In the two villages of Jebel Gharyān and Tigrinna, they lived in below-ground-level caves until their emigration to Israel in 1950-51. The Ḥārat al-Yahūd ("Jewish quarter") in Tigrinna contained about 300 Jews. They earned their livings as goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and peddlers among the Bedouin in the area.

The traveler Benjamin the Second found about 1,000 Jewish families (about a third of the population in Tripoli. There were four competent dayyanim [[judges]] and eight synagogues. In 1906 N. *Slouschz visited Libya and his descriptions have become a historical source of information. Most of the information in his books about the 18th and 19th centuries stems from his guide Mordecai Hacohen, whose history based on earlier sources is still in manuscript.

[Military service in Ottoman Empire since 1909]

At the end of Ottoman rule there were no important incidents in the history of Libyan Jewry, apart from the fact that in 1909 they, like all citizens of the Ottoman Empire, were subject to the compulsory military service law. Jews - of an Orthodox religious background - feared the law because [col. 201]

they were forced to desecrate the Sabbath in the course of military service. However, the law was only in force for a short time, since Libya shortly thereafter fell to the Italians. [H.Z.H.]





Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col.
                        198
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col. 198
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col.
                        199-200
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col. 199-200
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col.
                        201-202
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col. 201-202
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col.
                        203-204
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col. 203-204
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col.
                        205-206
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Libya, vol. 11, col. 205-206




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