David Gerbi, a Jew whose family fled Libya more than four decades ago, visited Tripoli's old Jewish synagogue on Monday with big plans. He went to pray and to clean up garbage from a building long empty, though still grand with its soaring arches and butter-colored walls.
Gerbi, a 56-year-old psychoanalyst who has lived in Italy, said he had permission for the restoration from the local Muslim cleric and members of the Transitional National Council, the force that ousted Moammar Gadhafi back in August.
But two days into his effort, it came to an abrupt end.
"The building is not safe. The area is not safe. There are a lot of people armed. We don't know what happens. So the best thing for him is to leave," said Hadi Belazi, one of many people in a crowd that gathered outside the synagogue in the city's old Jewish Quarter.
A spokesman for the Transitional National Council, Jalal el-Galal, said that contrary to Gerbi's claims, he did not have authorization from the TNC to restore the synagogue.
"It's an illegal act because he has not [received] permission from anybody," he said. "I think it's a very sensitive issue at a very critical time. You are inciting something by not going through the proper channels."
Back on Tripoli's streets, Gerbi said he wouldn't be leaving.
"Enough of this," he said. "This is the old persecution. This is thousands of years that they always needed to kick out the Jew. And now they throw me out again. I don't accept this anymore."
He entered his hotel, with the synagogue he hoped to restore out of his reach for now.
(h/t Israel Matzav)