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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Libya and Jews

In ancient days Jews had moved to Libya from Egypt, and Augustus had granted Cyhrene's Jewish population certain privileges through Flavius, the governor of the province. They were keeping close contact with Jerusalem's Jews. In 73 BCE there was the 1st Jewish-Roman War in Iudea (Judea) Province including a revolt by this Jewish community which was suppressed by governor Catullus. The revolt, led by Jonathan the Weaver, ended with Jonathan being killed as well as many of the wealthy Jews in Cyrenel More revolts broke out in 115 ACE in Cyrene, Egypt and Cyprus. Jason of Cyrene was a Libyan Jew whose work is the source of the 2nd Book of Maccabees. Simon of Cyrene became an early Christian as he carried the cross of Jesus as he was taken to his crucifixion.

Libya was colonized by Italy in 1911. By 1931 there were 21,000 Jews living there out of the 550,000. They lived mostly in Tripoli. By the late 1930's, the Fascist Italian regime passed anti-Semitic laws, just like Germany was doing. Jews lost their jobs with the government and their papers were stamped with the words, "Jewish race." By 1941 the Jewish population made up 25% in Tripoli. They had 44 synagogues there. In 1942 German troops deported more than 2,000 and sent them to labor camps. Over 1/5th of the Jews died. Their history includes many attacks from then on.

Today Libya is the 29th largest of 47 Muslim countries. It has a population of 6, 173, 579 of which 97% are Sunni Muslims. This is the state religion. Their government is called the Jamahiriya Revolution, so Gaddafi is not a king.

In 1969 Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi was in power and only 100 Jews were in Libya. He confiscated all their property. If anyone owed money to a Jews, he had it cancelled. The Jews were not allowed to emigrate. They had to sneak out as it was against the law to leave.. By 1974, only 5 years later, 20 Jews remained in Libya.

Now the Muslim population is rioting for wanting a democracy. 2,000 protesters were rioting and throwing stones and petrol. Several were killed. Perhaps Gaddafi's days are over. He's one horrid ruler, as far as I can see.

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