While Jews have lived in Libya since ancient times, the majority of the country’s Jewish community left between the end of World War II and 1951. Most of the remaining Jews fled after the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence following the Six-Day War. Now, writes Ben Cohen, the Libyan government is trying to keep remnants of local Jewish culture from leaving the country:
Campaigners representing Jewish communities expelled from Arab countries reacted furiously on Tuesday to an effort by the current Libyan government to win legal recognition for its claims to property of Jewish heritage.
[U]nder the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which the Libyans have submitted to the U.S. State Department, the historic properties of the Jewish community in Libya—including archives, holy books, and objects used in synagogue worship—would be barred from entry into the United States. . . .
Ordered by the government to leave the country “temporarily” with the equivalent of $50 each, none of Libya’s Jews [who left in 1967] ever returned. Following Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s successful coup in 1969, all property and assets belonging to the community were seized, while the promised “compensation” never arrived. . . .
Attempts by Libyan Jews to restore their cultural heritage in the country following Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011 have typically been met with hostile responses. In 2011, an effort by Tripoli-born Jew David Gerbi to restore the city’s synagogue was abruptly ended when he was driven from the site by a group of armed men.
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