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THE

INCREDIBLE

STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE



FALL IN THE NUMBER OF JEWS IN LEBANON

____________________________





























TIMELINE
jimena

132 BCE    After the Bar Kokhba revolt, Jewish communities are established in Lebanon.

1071    Jewish Academy built in Tyre.

1911    Immigration of Jews from Greece, Syria, Iraq and Turkey to Beirut. Nearly 5,000 Jews total. The Jews play a key role in the establishment of Lebanon as an independent state.

1943    Lebanon gains independence from France on November 22, 1943

1948    Lebanon populated by some 5,000 Jews.

1958    Civil War causes many Lebanese Jews to leave for Europe or the United States.

1971    Secretary General of Lebanese Jewish Community is kidnapped by Syrians, and imprisoned in Damascus with other Syrian Jews.

1975    Muslim-Christian Civil War damages many Jewish homes, business and synagogues. Most of the remaining 1,800 Lebanese Jews emigrate out of fear of the growing Syrian presence.

1982    During Israeli invasion 11 Jewish leaders are captured and killed by Islamist radicals.

1990s    Due to the political climate, Jews are unable to practice religion openly.

2005    Less than 50 Jews remain in Lebanon.

2008    Restoration of the Maghen Abraham synagogue begins.


THE JEWS OF LEBANON, HISTORY AND RECORDS

Alain Farhi, The 32nd IAJGS International, Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Paris,
15 -18 July 2012  (GO TO SITE FOR DETAILED RECORDS)

The country we know today as Lebanon was carved out of the Greater Syria, a country created following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War II and put under a French Mandate.

During the Ottoman Empire and prior to 19th century, the area known as Balad El Cham extended from Turkey to the Gulf of Akaba. Around 1834, with the first construction of roads following the invasion of Ibrahim Pasha’s armies of Akko, namely the roads from Beirut to Damascus, from Damascus to Jerusalem and from Jerusalem to Jaffa, the Ottoman Empire created three main provinces (wilayats): Mount Lebanon with the Mediterranean Coast from Akko to Turkey (with Beirut as capital), Syria from Aleppo to the Red Sea on the west side of the Jordan river (capital Damascus) and Palestine (capital Jerusalem).

In 1920, the Greater Syria under the French was split again into Lebanon (something referred to “Le Grand Liban”) and Syria; and Lebanon achieved its independence in 1943.

Lebanon was originally a part of an area called Phoenicia in the Bible and in older sources. Its capital was Tyr that was linked to a small university town the Romans called Beryte or Beritus. Jewish prisoners were concentrated there after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple.

Kirtsen Shultz, a historian at the London School of Economics, claimed in her book “The Jews of Lebanon” that the first Jews came to Tyr around 1000 BCE. Jewish residents were first recorded there during the time of King Solomon, when it is thought that Jews were involved in selling cedar for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. However, it is more likely, as recorded in the Bible, that these trees were sold by Hiram, King of Srour (Tyr) without any Jewish middlemen. (Source: St Takla Coptic Bible: http://st-takla.org/Full-Free-Coptic-Books/FreeCopticBooks-002-Holy-Arabic-Bible-Dictionary/06_H/H_247.html).

Little is known about the history of Jews in the area subsequent to that first dispersion, except for some ancient tombstones found in the port area of Saida (Sidon). (Source: Ferdinand “Fred” Anzarouth). Saida and Tripoli were the main commercial centers of the Mediterranean coastline.

In 1173 Saladin expelled the non-Muslim from Jerusalem and Safed. In that same year, Benjamin de Tudela, travelling from Zaragoza to Jerusalem (1165 to 1173) reported that there were about 50 Jews in Saida, mostly working in the dyeing of threads and textiles.

A census, conducted for the Ottoman authorities by Nabil Khalife in 1519, reported the presence of 19 Jews in Beirut, probably having fled from the plague that ravaged Jerusalem in about 1514.

There is a reference in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1905 to 5 Iraqi Jews who had settled in Beirut. They were from the Levy family and lived near Saint Elie Catholic Church and the Assaf Mosque. In 1807 they built a synagogue named Mesguad Ladek (demolished in 1930). Many Ottoman immigrants moved into the same area that became known as Haret el Yahoud (the Jewish Quarter).

At the beginning of the 19th century (ca 1832), the population of Beirut included 400 Europeans from Italy, France and Austria, settled there for trading reasons. None of them were Jewish. (Source Zeidan)

Over the years, Jews from Akko (1809), Greece (1821-30), Egypt, North Africa (1837), Aleppo and Damascus (1900-1948), Iraq and Iran (1900-1955), and Ashkenazim from Europe (1833,), also settled in the Lebanon.

The port of Beirut became important after the decline of Akko in the 19th century. (Thomas Philipp, ACRE. The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian City, 1730-1831 , Columbia University Press, New York, 2002).

In June 1860, following civil unrest and rioting between the Christian and Druze population in the town of Deir El Kamar, Barook and Hasbaya, the Jewish families from these cities moved to Aleh and Damascus. Among them the Zalt, Dahan, Khabieh and Zeitoune families. Those from Hasbaya became known as Hasbani.

In around 1869, one of the Picciotto families (wealthy traders and consuls in Aleppo) emigrated from Aleppo and built a mansion for themselves in Wadi Abou Jamil, close to Beirut. This became the new Jewish Quarter of Beirut.

 By 1940, most of the residential houses of Haret el Yahoud had been converted for commercial use as their owners moved to Abou Wadi Jamil. Haret El Yahoud was destroyed in the Civil War of 1976.

The scale of the immigration into Lebanon can be seen from the Montefiore censuses of 1846-1861-1884-1885-1889-1893-1895.

Jews lived in the following cities: Beirut, Saida. Tripoli, Deir el Kamar, Barouk, Hasbaya, Tyr, Aley and Zahlé. After the construction of the Beirut-Damascus railroad in August 1895, Aley became a popular weekend destination for the Jews of Beirut.

By the 20th century, the Jewish communities of the following towns had vanished due to emigration to the larger cities – Baalbek, Deir el Kamar, Ramiche, Mokhtara, Hasbaya and Tyr (where Jewish emigrants from North Africa bound for Safed settled in 1834 following the devastation of Safed in an earthquake). The 20 families of Hasbaya left the town after riots in 1860. Ramiche had only one remaining family - the Grunbergs who owned a cheese factory there until 1911.

LEBANESE 1932 CENSUS

 An official census was conducted in 1932, when many Jews from Damascus claimed to be Lebanese just to get recorded in the civil records. The Census recorded only 3,531 Jews in just 5 cities:

Beirut               3,060

Maten                     5

Deir el Kamar           7

Tripoli                    51

Saida                    384

Zahlé                     24


A SMALL COMMUNITY OF AROUND 200 JEWS REMAIN IN LEBANON BUT FEEL INCREASINGLY ISOLATED.

By: Ash Gallagher Al-Monitor   May 18, 2015        

Lebanon's Last Synagogue

The Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Beirut in 2004. NYC2TLV/Wikicommons








BEIRUT — Tucked away in Wadi Abu Jamil, a neighborhood near downtown Beirut, is the only standing Jewish synagogue in Lebanon, and its renovation is almost finished.

The Maghen Abraham Synagogue, built in 1925, was abandoned and closed down a year after the start of Lebanon's civil war in 1976. A few years later, in 1982, the synagogue was hit by Israeli shrapnel during a bombardment of the Palestinians in the synagogue's neighborhood.

The renovations will revive a symbol of the scattered Jews. At one time, over 12,000 Jews lived in Lebanon, but by 1970 there were only 2,000, and even more left during the war.

Al-Monitor was given rare access to the synagogue, where no photos were allowed for security concerns. The entrance bears a sign in Hebrew with its name, held up by columns. Inside, wooden chairs covered in bubble wrap are laid out on the stone floor. In the center of the room, a small marble podium stands where the Jewish scriptures, the Torah, will be read.

A scaffold blocks a small stage at the back of the room, where a small ornamental closet waits to store the Torah scrolls again. A Star of David adorns the wall as a reminder of whom the synagogue represents.

Only about 200 Jewish believers remain in Lebanon. Weary of media attention, they were not willing to respond to Al-Monitor's inquiries. But Bassem al-Hout, a Muslim lawyer who represents their interests, told Al-Monitor that even though the synagogue renovations are nearly finished, security in the country is not high enough yet for it to reopen.

"We are waiting for the struggle to end," he said, referring to the regional conflicts spilling into Lebanon from Syria and Iraq. "The region is on fire." Hout stated that when the synagogue is opened, Jews and supporters from around the world will be invited for a dedication ceremony.

For now, the Jewish community within Lebanon's borders practices its faith in the privacy of home. Hout explained, "They are afraid of a reaction by individuals," who do not understand their religion is not synonymous with the State of Israel.

But Hout also said the Lebanese public needs to be educated about the difference between Lebanese Jews and Israel, and it is the responsibility of the media to expose such information.

Edy Cohen of Bar Ilan University in Israel told Al-Monitor, "Most Jews from Arab countries don't relate to the Israelis," but rather they relate to the countries that raised them. Cohen himself, a Lebanon native, identifies as Lebanese first, differentiating his nationality from his religious practice. He left Lebanon when he was 19 after the country's civil war. He said his father was kidnapped by Hezbollah a few years before, in 1985, and was killed when the Israeli government refused a prisoner exchange.

He confirms most of the Jews in Lebanon did not want to migrate to Israel during the war, saying, "Israel is always in a state of war; it's known." They had relatives in other places such as the United States, France or Canada. Cohen believes those who fled Lebanon for the West did not want to start a new life in a place of war.

But Hout said that Lebanon's Jews "do not like Israel; they are Arabian." Like Cohen, Hout believes Lebanese Jews identify with their nationality versus their religion.

In Tel Aviv, Canadian-Israeli citizen Corey Gil-Shuster hosts a YouTube channel called "Ask An Israeli," a project he started nearly four years ago in 2011, to better understand the narrative on the streets of Israel about the Palestinian conflict and the Arab world around them.

In one episode, entitled "Meir: Lebanon," dated September 2013, he interviews a Lebanese-Jewish man called Meir, who admits he misses Lebanon. Meir said that in Israel, people are stressed, but in Lebanon, "You lived like kings. In Lebanon, things were great: the food, the atmosphere." But the war changed everything. Meir once had Muslim friends, but now there is no one. His own family lives in the West, while for now, he feels more comfortable in Tel Aviv than New York. He would return to Lebanon if there were peace.

Shuster follows with another episode in which he asks Israelis whether it is possible to have peace with Lebanon. While most say the divide is the fault of "terrorist organizations," namely Hezbollah, one man, Shai, who served in the Israeli military and was deployed to Lebanon in 1977, believes the "noisy minority" — extreme parties in both Lebanon and Israel — prevents relations between the countries.

Shuster told Al-Monitor the knowledge base in Israel is a "closed system." He explained many Israeli citizens are unaware of the Arab world outside their borders, including Lebanon, and base what they know off "what's on TV" at night. He said there are "only two narratives; you're either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli," and there's little understanding of an alternative storyline.

Most texts point to the formation of an Israeli nation through Jewish-religious roots. The interpretation of how their people-group should exist, however, is changing due to many Israelis abandoning their religious beliefs and practices.

But those living in the Arab world who find solace in the Jewish religion are finding their identity torn. In Lebanon, Hout stated there are "individuals who do not see the difference because of the war."

Certainly, Hezbollah's refusal to recognize the State of Israel has not helped, nor has a series of conflicts at Lebanon's southern border. But spokesman Hussain Rahal was quoted back in 2008 as saying, "We respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity … we have an issue with Israel's occupation of land."

The Lebanese government and the Israelis are officially considered enemy states after nearly 70 years of complicated border relations and war. Lebanese citizens are prohibited from speaking to Israelis, though there is no law against speaking to the Lebanese Jewish population.

JEWS OF LEBANON
BBC 2012 (46.26)

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN LEBANON
WIKIWIKIUP 2016 (20.33)


WHY LEBANON IS FRACTURED
BY THE CONFLICTS
IN THE MIDDLE EAST
NowThis World 2016 (3.47)