The Jews of Libya
By Mitchell Bard
Jewish population: 38,000
had a presence in Libya at least since the time of Hellenistic rule under Ptolemy Lagos in 323 B.C.E. in Cyrene.2Once
home to a very large and thriving Jewish community, Libya
is now completely empty of Jews due to anti-Jewish pogroms
and immigration to Israel.
A savage pogrom in Tripoli on November 5, 1945, killed
more than 140 Jews and wounded hundreds more. Almost every synagogue
was looted. In June 1948, rioters murdered another 12 Jews and destroyed
280 Jewish homes.3
Thousands of Jews fled the country
was granted independence and membership in the Arab
League in 1951. After the Six-Day
War, the Jewish population of 7,000 was again subjected to pogroms
in which 18 were killed, and many more injured, sparking a near-total
exodus that left fewer than 100 Jews in Libya.
When Col. Qaddafi came to
power in 1969, all Jewish property was confiscated
and all debts to Jews cancelled. In 1999,
in Tripoli was was renovated, however, it
was not reopened.4
The last Jew living in Libya,
Esmeralda Meghnagi, died in February 2002.
This marked the end of one of the world's
oldest Jewish communities, which traced its
origins to the 3rd century B.C.E.5
Singer and Lawrence Grossman, Eds. American
Jewish Year Book 2003. NY: American Jewish
Judaica, CD-Rom edition, 1997.
History of Israel, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf,
1979), p. 400; Norman Stillman, The
Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, (NY:
Jewish Publication Society, 1991), p. 145.
Department of State, 2000
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom,
Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human
Rights, and Labor Washington, DC, September
Report, (March 11, 2002).