Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The former Jewish quarter in Tripoli


From The Arab News in 2020:
In 2014, when the Magen Abraham Synagogue reopened in Beirut, Lebanese politicians from across the spectrum were present, bathed in the glare of TV cameras. They all reiterated their support for a community they said they cherished as much as the other 17 sects that make up the Lebanese government. 

Former prime minister Fouad Siniora declared: “We respect Judaism. Our only problem is with Israel.” 

Even Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah weighed in: “This is a religious place of worship and its restoration is welcome.” 

Hussain Rahal, a spokesman for Hezbollah, likewise said: "We respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity. The Jews have always lived among us. We have an issue with Israel's occupation of land."

This is a standard lie we hear throughout the Arab world, and nowhere is it as obviously false as in Lebanon.

Because there are still a handful of Jews in Lebanon - modern day crypto-Jews, frightened to be revealed to their neighbors.

Monte Carlo Doualiya reports that there are only 27 Lebanese Jews left.  They live in great fear and hide their true religious identity. In Tripoli in northern Lebanon, the remaining members of the Jewish community are not known to their neighbors and practice Judaism in complete secrecy.

The Magen Abraham synagogue is not used as a house of worship. The Jews are too frightened to go there publicly.

If the Lebanese have no problem with Jews, then why do the remaining Jews have to hide?

The Arab News article, which is pretty good, describes the fear in starker terms:
The story has it that a Jewish woman from Beirut who was keen to meet other Jews heard of a coreligionist living in the town of Zahle, 50km east of the capital. She went there and searched for her. It was difficult as the woman had changed her name, something many Jews have done for safety reasons. But when she finally found her, the Zahle woman met her with a glacial stare. She spoke one word: Leave. The woman was obviously scared of the attention her visitor might awaken. 

Those who are still there preserve a total silence about their identity. They gather secretly in each other’s houses for their prayers.
The Arab News feature notes that  Lebanese Jews who now live in New York are nostalgic for the good times in the past, but in Lebanon they were attacked every time something happened in Israel.
True, Lebanese Jews were not rounded up and thrown out like their Egyptian, Iraqi and Syrian counterparts, yet “whenever something happened in Palestine, people would take revenge on the Jews,” said (author of a book on the Jews of Lebanon) Zeidan.

“They would throw a bomb at a synagogue or kidnap a Jewish man. Protests would erupt, inciting violence against the Jews.”
It seems almost unbelievable that there are crypto-Jews today, hiding their Jewish identity the way that their ancestors did in Spain and Portugal out of fear for their lives. But they still exist, and they are living proof that "anti-Zionism" always was, and always will be, antisemitism.





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