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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Jewish Defense in Libya

Filed under: Libya, World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 13:3-4 (Fall 2001)


During the late medieval and modern periods, the Jews of Libya had often felt the need for protection, which they did not trust the state authorities to provide. Consequently, the Jews developed strategies to defend themselves independently or in collaboration with local chiefs, who strove to keep independent of the authorities. Jewish defense was based on individuals and special organizations that were not part of the official communal leadership, which was responsible for internal religious services and relations with the authorities. As a result, the official communal leadership could deny any knowledge or responsibility for defense activities when the state authorities were critical of these operations. On the other hand, those in charge of defense felt they could act independently and need not seek the approval of the Jewish leadership, which was often dependent economically and politically on the state authorities. Still, these defense organizations were tolerated by the authorities as long as they did not cross the fine line between defensive and offensive activities.

The notion that Jews are responsible for each other – Kol Yisra’el ‘arevim zeh la-zeh – existed among Libyan Jews just as it did among Jewish communities worldwide. It was often felt that mutual self-reliance was necessary, although in theory the rulers of a state should be the ones responsible for the security of all its population, regardless of religious and ethnic affiliation. In Libya, as a Muslim state, the responsibility of the authorities should have been even greater: according to Muslim law, the ruler of a Muslim state is required to protect non-Muslim monotheist communities, including Jews, who are regarded as “protected people.” As part of that category, Jews were forbidden to possess weapons and ride horses, namely, they were denied by law the basic means to defend themselves.1 Yet during the Ottoman period and until the mid-twentieth century, the state in Libya did not always provide the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Jews.

Jews lived in the Mediterranean coastal towns of Libya, mainly in Tripoli and Benghazi, and in small towns and villages in the hinterland.2 The state was in charge of security, but there were times when Jews felt the need to take measures into their own hands in order to better protect themselves. The proximity to the centers of power and the effectiveness of the defense provided by the state were important factors in determining the defense methods which were employed by Libyan Jews. This, however, was not undertaken by the formal leadership of the Jewish community, which was in charge of religious, educational, and welfare issues as well as relations with the authorities. The strategies used by various organizations and individuals to ensure the physical survival and safety of the community changed over time, yet the need for self-defense existed regardless of the identity of the regime: whether Muslim or Christian, Middle Eastern or European.

The Ottoman Period

During the Ottoman period in Libya (1551-1911), the meager state military forces were stationed mainly in the coastal centers, and the security situation was often bad, especially for Jews who, as noted, were forbidden to carry arms.3 One source of protection, especially during the late Ottoman period, was provided by European and American consuls, mostly to citizens of their own states.4 Consuls usually used political and legal means and hardly intervened physically to protect their proteges, though at times they widened their protection to local citizens. Thus, for example, in the 1870s, the American consul in Tripoli protected a Jewish maid in the service of the consulate from the unwanted attentions of Ottoman officers.5 Later on, in 1911, Italy used its obligation to protect its citizens as a justification for its invasion of Libya.6 In addition, international Jewish organizations, among them the Alliance Israélite Universelle, intervened in order to protect Jews through pressure on the authorities in Libya and Istanbul and on European consuls in Libya.7 Because Libyan Jews could not always rely on foreign or government protection, they developed two defense methods, based on their habitation: urban or rural.

Urban Setting: Tripoli

The protection of the community of Tripoli was undertaken by Jewish strongmen (biryonim), who were headed by a leader (rosh ha-biryonim) and a deputy (mishneh).8 They conducted weekly contests, which served as maneuvers, every Saturday afternoon on the western part of the city walls, which bordered on the Jewish neighborhoods. Meanwhile, family members, including women and children, stood on the wall, watching and encouraging their favorite contestants. Each of the two groups, made up of members of the Big Quarter and the Small Quarter respectively, held a flag of a different color and fought with their bare hands: some wrestled, trying to drop the other party to the floor, while others were hitting with their fist, head or foot, but the winner was careful not to hit his opponent too hard. They used to take prisoners from each other, and then the team had to fight back to redeem these prisoners. Usually, the daring and manipulative members of the Small Quarter were the winners. At one time, those of the Big Quarter had two fast running members, who could jump big distances; whenever the tide was against their group, these two ran to their rescue. During the games, the groups did not enter each other’s neighborhood, but when the games ended, they raised a white flag, peace returned for all, and members of the two quarters had even intermarried.

Some members of the regime tried to incorporate these strongmen into the state’s security forces. During the reign of Yusuf Karamanl Pasha (1795-1835), one of his officers wanted to enlist the Jewish strongmen into the local force. He went to the wall with his police force, whereupon the two strongmen took two stones each and climbed down the wall outside the town. Behaving as if they were ready to give themselves up, at the last moment they jumped down the twelve meters of the wall without hurting themselves. When the officer wanted to punish the Jews for showing disrespect to the government, the governor did not let him, stating that he wished his army was as courageous as these Jews.

The group was known as fearless and intervened to protect urban Tripolitan Jews, even when a Jewish woman was molested by a senior Ottoman official.9 On another occasion, the Ottoman treasurer tried to take revenge on the group, and they cunningly made him and his men look like thieves and were punished by the governor, while the strongmen were praised and received gifts.10 The strongmen used to travel alone in the countryside, armed only with a stick but no weapon. When they were confronted by robbers, they sometimes acted cunningly, behaving as if they wanted to honor the robber, but when they got close enough, jumped on him, threw him to the ground, took his weapons, and occasionally even brought him in chains to the authorities.11

With the strengthening of the Ottoman regime in the mid-nineteenth century, the rationale for Jewish self-defense had weakened, and the regime had the means to prevent citizen defense organizations. At the same time, the strongmen suffered as a result of two accidents. In 1845, one Jew choked another to death during the weekly games. Following this affair, the Jews fought on the ground by the wall, taking care not to have another disaster. Five years later, in 1850, a contestant fell into a deep well in the middle of the street near the main synagogue, and was rescued only thanks to his brother.12 From then on, the Saturday games stopped, and the phenomenon of an organized group of Jewish strongmen defending the Jewish community gradually faded. The strongmen ceased to exist as a group by the late nineteenth century, but individual strongmen remained. One of them was Hai, who traveled in the desert and whose exploits were the terror of the tribes and Ottoman authorities alike. Following the killing of his brother by Arab tribesmen, Hai vowed revenge, and by 1906 had already killed three men of that clan.13

Following the Young Turk revolution and the restoration of the Ottoman constitution (1908), a new gate was opened in the city walls of Tripoli, named “Freedom Gate.” When Jews were molested by Muslims during the inauguration ceremonies, the mayor did not intervene, and even told the Jews that they had not been invited. The Jews responded that he should have publicly announced that this celebration was for Muslims only, and for the rest it was the “Gate of Slavery,” whereupon the mayor warned everyone not to attack anyone, regardless of one’s religion.14

The Hinterland

The Ottoman state was unable to impose effective control over Berber regions of the Tripolitanian hinterland. Rural Jews, however, felt secure because they acquired tribal protection by becoming “slaves” of neighboring tribes.15 According to this arrangement, which preceded the Ottoman conquest, every Jew was considered a “slave” (‘eved) of a Berber “lord” (adon), who fought the Jew’s cause against those who acted violently against him. When a Jew was oppressed, it was regarded as a disgrace for his Berber lord if he let it pass. Moreover, tribes sometimes fought vehemently with each other because of wrongs committed against “their” Jews. This “slavery” was basically an agreement between a powerful chieftain to protect a Jew and his family, while the latter in return gave homage to his Berber “lord” and rendered commercial and industrial services to the tribe: the Jew was not forced to work for his Berber “lord,” and the property of the Jew remained his own. Some characteristics of customary slavery were, however, present: the Berber “lord” would bequeath his Jewish “slave” to his son, and when he had several sons, each would inherit a share in the “slave.” The Berber “lord” could also sell his Jewish “slave,” and the latter could free himself and acquire a deed of manumission by paying an agreed-upon sum. At the beginning of the twentieth century, some Jews still had in their possession deeds of manumission which stipulated the amount paid for acquiring one’s freedom.

By the mid-1830s, the effective power of the Ottoman state in Libya had increased. In order to have real authority in the countryside, the Ottomans fought the tribes using larger military forces than had been previously stationed there. The regime tried to subjugate the tribes and reached agreements with some. There were chieftains who collaborated with the regime, while others rebelled, escaped, were killed, exiled, or imprisoned. Although the tribes retained some of their previous influence in the countryside, it had diminished, and they could no longer offer the same kind of protection to the Jews as before. During these wars, the Jews were at times in danger due to the weakening of the local chiefs. As a result, Jews were attacked by the masses who took advantage of the fact that they no longer had a strong patron, while it was illegal for them to carry arms or be trained in military arts.16

Another reason for the weakening of relations between the Berbers and the Jews was the change in the Ottoman attitude towards slavery. As a result of European pressure, slavery was abolished in the empire, and although the aforementioned relations in Tripolitania were not real slavery, they were also affected. Following the new law, all Jewish “slaves” were to be released, and consequently even those Jews who did not buy their manumission deed were set free.17 Nonetheless, many Jews continued to use the family name of their former Berber lord and honor him, and in exchange were protected by him from being harmed by other Berbers.18

In the towns and villages of the hinterland, Jews usually lived close to the market. During the nineteenth century, the Ottoman authorities in the central Tripolitanian regions of Jebel Yefren and Gharian moved the markets from the Jewish neighborhoods to the vicinity of the seat of government, where the security forces were lodged, thus enhancing the security of the commercial-industrial areas.19 Some governors took seriously their role as protectors of the weak segments of the population, and several of them had intervened in order to return to the community Jewish girls who had been kidnapped.20 As a result, Jews felt relatively safe under their rule. Nonetheless, there were instances when Jews were murdered and the government could not help the community.21 This resulted from the fact that although many provincial governors made an effort to protect the Jews, this was not always the case with lower officials at the district level. Thus, one provincial governor ordered the posting of eighteen guards at the Jewish neighborhood of Idder (Misurata), but after a while the guards were transferred with no explanation. The local governor told the Jews that if they secretly gave him eighteen Napoleons, he would reinstate the guards. After the Jews paid the bribe, the guards were returned-but only for three days.22 In another case, the beadle (shamash) of Yefren was murdered in 1906 in the early morning while calling the community to prayer. As a result, the government established permanent military posts in the Jewish quarter, and security improved. But the guarding deteriorated by 1909, and local strongmen returned to molest the Jews. By 1911, the guarding was completely abolished, and the pillage and arson of synagogues increased.23 As time passed, some guards became a threat to Jewish life and property.24 In general, safety deteriorated in periods of interregnum, in between two governors,25 or during local resistance to government activities, such as military mobilization.26

During the late Ottoman period, security in the Tripolitanian countryside was poor and traders were in danger.27 Jewish peddlers who traveled with merchandise and money served as an easy target for robbers. To overcome this problem, Jews preferred to travel in groups, and at times were even armed: some Jews possessed arms despite the prohibition, and used them for their protection at home28 and in travel.29 They also used cunning when confronted by robbers.30 In some areas, though, the government was able to secure the roads, and Jewish merchants traveled safely.31

Safety, including that of the Jews, was generally observed in Cyrenaica following the spread of the Sanusi Muslim order during the nineteenth century due to the importance of trade for this religious society.32 Nonetheless, Jewish peddlers from Benghazi did not dare travel on dangerous desert routes, and most of their trade was with tribes and villages in the vicinity or through the sea route with Tripoli.33 Jewish traders were occasionally attacked in regions that were outside the realm of the Sanusiya or by tribes which the Ottoman authorities did not restrain.34 Moreover, even the main cities were not always safe: when fire broke out in the market of Benghazi in 1906 and Ottoman soldiers were sent there, they robbed Jewish stores instead of putting out the fire and protecting the merchants.35

In the spirit of the nineteenth century Ottoman reforms, the regime tried to enlist the local population, including Jews, into the army. Conscription was carried out in Libya only following the Young Turks revolution and Jews were actually mobilized in 1911.36 The few hundred Jews who were enlisted served only a short period of time in the Ottoman army, due to the Italian invasion of late 1911. The Jewish soldiers underwent basic military training, their physical condition improved, and they had their weapons with them when the invasion took place. Thus, they were instrumental in protecting the community,37 especially during the interregnum between Ottoman and Italian rule when neighboring Arabs tried to invade the Jewish quarters, rob Jews, and injure them.38 The Jews benefited from the fact that most of them still lived in the old Jewish quarters of Tripoli which could be sealed and were thus easier to protect. The Jews kept their weapons until the Italians demanded that all civilians hand over their weapons and ammunition. The Jews felt that the Muslim population did not fully comply with this order, and as a result many Muslims remained armed during the Italian period, while the Jews were not.39

The Italian Period

During the Italian period (1912-1942) the authorities usually protected the Jewish community, and once Italian rule was established in the Tripolitanian hinterland, security improved.40 Among the Italian officers who served in Libya were several Jews, some of whom were close to the Zionist movement and even trained Libyan Jews in the use of arms.41 Despite the satisfactory security situation overall, the services of individual Jews were at times required to defend the community.42 In the late 1930s, following the introduction of anti-Jewish racial legislation, there were those in the community who believed “that there would be no trouble there, for the Jews would be able to take care of themselves.” This belief was based on “the Jewish addiction to sports.”43 This interest in sports was manifested in the establishment of the Maccabi sports club in the 1920s, and the numerous trophies which the club won in competitions against local non-Jewish clubs.44

With the rise of Fascism, there were sporadic incidents when fascists attacked Jews in Libya, mainly in the Jewish quarters of the Old City of Tripoli.45 Usually, the community did not suffer from these incidents, but the need for self-defense rose once again. Under Italian rule, however, there was no organized effort. One of the individuals deeply involved in Jewish defense was Shim’on Berakhah (Muni Gabay, 1894-1938), who was known for his courage and vigor. He used to protect the community against Arab thugs and Italian fascists, and attack them with his bare hands when they tried to harm Jews. In one of these incidents, an Italian soldier was stabbed to death and, as a result, four Jews were imprisoned, including Gabay. He encouraged sports activities, and in 1936 established a soccer team, “Tel-Aviv,” whose members were involved in defense operations.46

During World War II, coastal areas suffered air bombardments. The British invaded Cyrenaica three times, but had to retreat twice. They succeeded in conquering Libya only in 1942-43. During the first invasion, the Jews welcomed the British enthusiastically (especially the Palestinian Jews within the British army) and were very helpful. When the Italians returned, several Jews were arrested, but the community as a whole did not suffer. Following the second British retreat in early 1942, the Italians expelled the Jews of Cyrenaica to camps in central Tripolitania. In addition, starting in late 1940, the Italians put Jews with British or French citizenship into camps in Libya, and in 1942 they expelled those with French citizenship to Tunisia, while those with British citizenship were first sent to Italy and then to Austria and Germany.47 In addition, there were sporadic attacks on Jews and young Jewish women were kidnapped.48 Thus, while during most of the Italian period the Jews enjoyed the protection of the state, they also suffered, especially with the spread of fascism and during World War II, from organized molestation by the state, without having any Jewish defense organization to rely upon.

The British Military Administration (BMA)

The BMA (1943-1951) witnessed the growth of Libyan nationalism among the Muslims49 and the strengthening of Zionism among Jews. The BMA, and especially the presence of Palestinian Jewish soldiers within the British army, safeguarded Libyan Jews for a while. The overt involvement of the soldiers in Jewish communal affairs did not last long due to the growing opposition of the British command to this activity and due to the units’ transfer to Italy. Another important source of protection for the Jewish community were Jews within the police force in urban and rural areas. In contrast to previous periods when Jews were prohibited from joining the police, under the BMA, numerous Jews became policemen, and the community supported this morally and financially.50 Yet both the soldiers and the policemen were under British command, and were not free to fully protect the community as they saw fit. Increased feelings of vulnerability prompted the emergence of widespread and well-organized professional self-defense among Libyan Jews, especially in Tripoli. This started in 1943 and became indispensable following the November 1945 Arab riots in Tripoli and its surroundings.51 The establishment of defense units (Haganah), based on patterns developed among the Jews in Palestine, was initiated by Jewish soldiers, continued under the guidance of emissaries from Palestine, and came under local command from mid-1947.

Shortly after the British occupation, during a period of unrest, the unit of Mosheh Gershoni, a Palestinian Jewish sergeant, was sent to protect the inhabitants of the Jewish quarter of Tripoli. While the soldiers mixed freely with the inhabitants, Gershoni laid the foundations for the first cell of a defense organization among the local Jews, who realized that reaction to outside threats should be self-defense.52 The soldiers also sent two machine guns and some rifles to the quarter, and trained several men in their use “so that the Arabs won’t get any ideas.”53 In addition, two local Jewish women, Lucia and Clara Levy, together with some community leaders, enlisted the help of the 1039 Port Operation Company (pelugat tif’ul ha-nemelim), which was composed of Palestinian Jews, in order to establish Jewish groups of self-defense against Arab attacks. The BMA opposed these initiatives and monitored affairs in the community, but the cautious planning of the defense units enabled them to continue functioning and to train Jews to use force in case of need.54 During the summer of 1945, members of the R.A.O.C. company no. 593, which was composed of Palestinian Jews, tried to provide more training in self-defense to Tripolitan Jews. They met with representatives of the youth movements, but this became known to the police and their activities ceased.55

In the fall of 1943, two emissaries from Palestine arrived in Tripoli: Ya’ir Duer and Ze’ev (Wilo) Katz. Although both left within a year, as did a third emissary, Naftali Bar-Giyora, who came in mid-February 1944, they contributed significantly to local Jewish self-defense. Their original task was to organize Jewish emigration to Palestine, but another major aim was to train and arm Jews so that they could defend themselves.56 Duer and Katz realized that local conditions made emigration extremely difficult, and they focused on the establishment of a Zionist pioneering youth movement. In addition, both of them, and especially Katz, acted on other fronts, including defense. Katz started to train some of the young adults with whom he had come into contact in self-defense.57

The Zionist pioneering youth movements were a major source for the Haganah. One of these movements was the Religious Scouts which was established by soldiers and local activists, with support from Palestine. It spun off from the Ben Yehudah Society58 in order to be independent of the mother organization and be able to participate in activities which could not be undertaken within Ben Yehudah, such as Haganahand illegal emigration. Scouts graduates were among the first members of the Haganah, and they participated in the defense of the Jewish quarter in the 1945 and 1948 riots.59

Several youth movement members were sworn into the Haganah after their character was examined, and they received explanations on the Haganah and their future responsibilities and duties.60 Among the early recruits were Hayim (Chicho) Fadlon and Eliyahu ‘Azaryah. ‘Azaryah was sponsored by Duer, and soon realized the extent to which the emissaries had to rely on him. ‘Azaryah became responsible for the youth movement and the establishment of a nucleus of the Haganah from among trusted elements within the youth movement.61 He was in constant touch with the Palestinian Jewish soldiers and was the contact person for emissaries who arrived illegally from Palestine and received dedicated and loyal service from him.62 He also participated in secret discussions regarding self-defense with emissaries from Palestine, which were held in private homes.63

In order to prepare the youth for self-defense, a special effort was made to improve their physical condition. To this end, emphasis was placed on physical education, sports competitions, and hikes.64 Longer hikes brought activists to hidden places, where they could undergo defense training. One place which served this purpose was an agricultural training farm (Hakhsharah) established near Tripoli in 1944. As long as Jewish soldiers were around, they occasionally visited the Hakhsharah on Saturdays and trained the members in the use of arms.65 Local Jews also provided arms training to the youth in the Hakhsharah.66 Most of the members of the urban Hakhsharah (1946-1948) had been sworn in to the Haganah prior to joining the Hakhsharah, and underwent arms training on some evenings.67

The November 1945 Riots

The 4-7 November 1945 riots in Tripoli and its vicinity claimed the lives of approximately 130 Jews, in addition to many injured, and much Jewish property looted, destroyed, and damaged.68 Most of the Jewish inhabitants of the Old City of Tripoli locked themselves in their houses, and several Jews were helped by their Muslim neighbors to reach their homes safely.69 The narrow streets of the Jewish quarters of the Old City, which were inhabited solely by Jews, could be closed and protected better than the new neighborhoods, where Jews lived among non-Jews.70 Consequently, these quarters benefited somewhat from the early initiatives in self-defense organized by Palestinian Jewish soldiers involving some Zionist youth. They blocked the entry of rioting Arabs into the neighborhood and even pushed them back. Several young Jews stood on rooftops throwing stones at the advancing Arabs: one Jew was killed while defending the neighborhood and another shot a pistol at an Arab who had killed three Jews, including the shooter’s mother.71 Some communal leaders who opposed the preliminary defense training admitted that had it not been for these defense groups, the number of dead would have been much higher.72

Two days before the riots began, the weapons of the Palestinian Jewish soldiers stationed in Tripoli were collected for inspection; this raised the suspicion that the British had advance knowledge of the forthcoming riots, and wanted to prevent the Jewish soldiers from helping their brethren.73 Nonetheless, the soldiers helped as much as they could. On the first day of the riots, the soldiers still moved freely in town and some twenty of them had been in the Jewish soldiers’ club. They used their car to escort some 150 Jews to their homes and brought injured Jews to the hospital. On the following day, several soldiers went to check on the situation in town, but after their return to camp, Tripoli was proclaimed “out of bounds” for the company. Their commander blamed the police and the authorities for their inactivity and demanded to let his men guard the Jews and their property. The regional commander promised to take measures to stop the violence, and the soldiers took equipment to distribute among the Jewish refugees coming from the hinterland. Some soldiers forged vacation permits and entered town to distribute food among the Jews. In some instances, Arabs were beaten or run over by the soldiers. Three soldiers were detained after storming into the office of the police inspector of ‘Amrus where 40 Jews had been murdered in view of the police.74

Anti-Jewish riots broke out also on the Tripolitanian shore where some defense measures were undertaken, in part benefiting from the presence of Jews within the police force. In Zliten, three Jewish policemen were injured but refused to be hospitalized and continued to protect the Jewish neighborhood until the arrival of Sudanese soldiers who introduced order. The task of the Jewish policemen was made difficult because the British took their weapons, so that they would not “provoke” Arab policemen.75 In Khoms, police inspectors Captain Berlitz and Khlafo Kahalon (Jewish) had stationed the police force, including its Jewish members, at the town entrances and confiscated all axes, scythes, and other iron instruments which the Arabs tried to bring into town, ostensibly for repair by Jewish blacksmiths.76 In Zanzur, a man in uniform stood on a rooftop and shot the rioters with a machine gun, causing the Arabs to flee from that street. This might have been a Jewish soldier who managed to get out of the camp where the other Jewish soldiers had to remain under military orders.77 In Zawiya, the Jewish officer Grant sent some soldiers to rescue several Jews and transfer them to a hospital.78 In ‘Amrus, Jews gathered stones and bottles with a mixture of hot pepper and water ready to throw on Arab rioters were they to try to enter the house. The men took to the roofs while women and the old remained downstairs. When an Arab police inspector saw them on the roof he brought them down forcefully, and threw out all the stones and the peppery mixture. The Jews tried once again to reach the roof and protected themselves by pouring boiling water and throwing sand and stones. When there were no more stones, they demolished internal walls and used their stones. They managed to hold their ground until Sudanese soldiers came, but nonetheless, forty Jews were murdered.79 The Hakhsharah in Colina Verde had to be evacuated, and was completely destroyed.80

The role of the Palestinian Jewish soldiers, the youth movements, and local Jewish policemen in the defense of the community during the 1945 riots can be deduced also from the demand of Arab leaders that the Jewish Palestinian company of the British army be removed, that the Jewish Boy Scouts Association be disbanded, and that Jewish members of the police be dismissed.81 Some Jews were arrested as a result of their participation in the defense of the community during the riots, and remained imprisoned until the mass immigration to Israel: only at the very end of the official emigration were these prisoners released and allowed to leave for Israel.82

Rabbi Rabinovich, who served with the British army, scolded the Jews for not protecting themselves and fighting back against the Arabs. He told them that the Zionist national poet H.N. Bialik rebuked the Russian Jews: “instead of giving your throat to the gentiles to be killed and cry ‘Shema Yisra’el’, kill them yourself, and let them cry: ‘Shema Yisra’el’.” The community, and the youth in particular, were greatly impressed with these words.83


Following the 1945 riots, the Jewish national institutions in Palestine decided to become involved in the organization of an effective Jewish defense in Libya. Yisra’el Gur (Gorilik) from Kibbutz Sede Nahum was chosen for this operation and stayed in Tripoli from May 1946 until early 1947.84 Gur, known in Libya only by his nickname “ha-Dod” (the Uncle), lived in Tripoli clandestinely, and his true identity was revealed only to those who were sworn in to the Haganah.85 He operated from within the Zionist youth movement, relying on previous preparatory work undertaken by earlier soldiers and emissaries. One of the local activists in the youth movement, Eliyahu ‘Azaryah, who was scheduled to receive an immigration certificate to Palestine, was asked to postpone his departure in order to help Gur in his defense activities. ‘Azaryah was promised, however, that he would emigrate before Gur’s departure. This, indeed, was done, and by that time there were additional local Haganah activists.86 ‘Azaryah had to escape from Tripoli when it was felt that he was in danger of being arrested by the British, who became aware of his activities in illegal Jewish emigration and defense. He was ordered by Gur to leave immediately, and was smuggled from Tripoli in a ship with returning Palestinian Jewish soldiers, hidden for two weeks in a box.87 Gur himself had to depart soon after, when the British ordered the community leaders to send him away at once.88 After Gur left, the Haganah in Libya operated under local command.89

Candidates for membership in the Haganah were suggested by a committee of five to a three-member committee who made the final decision. The candidates did not know that they were under consideration for membership. Once approved, a committee member would talk with the candidate and schedule a meeting. Most candidates, however, did not meet anyone at the first predetermined appointment. Instead, someone would clandestinely observe their behavior to ascertain that they followed orders promptly. In the meantime, more checking was made on the candidate’s friends and family, to see if they tended to gossip, had connections with the police, etc. When it was decided that the candidate was indeed suitable for the Haganah, a dramatic swearing-in ceremony was scheduled. These ceremonies took place every two to three weeks.90 The swearing-in ceremony was similar to those conducted in Palestine at the time: a projector blinded the candidates’ eyes, and their hand placed on a Bible, beside which was a pistol. The ceremony was officiated by Palestinian Jewish soldiers and later by emissaries and local activists who were hidden behind a screen; only their voice was heard as they swore the new member in, while the latter repeated the oath. Following the ceremony, the true identity of the anonymous voice was disclosed to the new members.91 Within a short while, the number of Haganah members rose to two hundred, about a quarter of whom were women.92

Soon after his arrival, Gur organized small compartmentalized groups of three to four members. Thus, the various Haganah activists did not know what took place in areas for which they were not responsible: each took care of specific tasks which were assigned by Gur.93 Secrecy reached such a degree that members of the same family who were in different cells did not know of the involvement of one another.94 Various organizational meetings took place in private homes, some of which were opposite the offices of the British Intelligence Service.95

The Haganah established a special department in order to acquire secret information from British intelligence, the ports authority, and the police. Some Haganah members joined these agencies in order to learn what the authorities knew about them and what they were planning.96 The Haganah also paid certain people connected with the municipality in order to get a detailed map of Tripoli, which was of great help in locating strategic places and manning key positions around the Jewish quarters. This planning was evident in the Jewish defense efforts during the riots of June 1948.97 The Haganah divided Tripoli into sections, each having a house which served for storing arms (mainly pistols, ammunition, and hand grenades) and a center for the members, who were always on the alert to be called into action.98 When the command felt that there was danger of an Arab attack, armed groups were stationed in strategic points to stand guard until the danger was over, and the arms were returned to the depot.99 In order not to attract the attention of the police, Haganah members did not come to the center to get arms and ammunition. Rather, women brought the arms to the members’ homes, hidden in bags covered with vegetables, and returned the arms to the center in a similar manner after each operation.100 In addition to these special alert operations, some seventy Jews were organized in regular paid night guard duty for the Jewish neighborhoods of Tripoli.101

The Haganah paid high prices for all kinds of arms which it purchased on the black market, through the Arab underworld, and even from military sources. Members charged with this task were mostly simple folk who had no trouble in communicating with the underworld. The buyers brought arms from the countryside to Tripoli hidden on their bodies or in sacks of produce, such as sugar. They used to try out the arms in remote places before acquiring them, and at times were almost discovered by the police. Occasionally, they tried the explosives in deserted places, such as close to the port of Tripoli. The presence of Jewish policemen proved advantageous in hiding arms caches when those involved in arms acquisition were caught. Thus, a Jewish policeman in Zuara saved a Haganah member who bought arms for the organization from the Arab underworld.102 The Jewish soldiers in the British army were also instrumental in acquiring weapons for the local Haganah. Some soldiers and Jewish policemen stole weapons and ammunition from army stores or declared that they lost their arms. In one case, the Jewish soldiers staged a robbery of a military vehicle which transported weapons at night. After the Palestinian Jewish driver brought the weapons and ammunition to the Haganah, he drove to an Arab neighborhood where he was found in the morning by a British convoy, with his hands and feet tied and his mouth muzzled, stating that he had been robbed by a gang of armed Arabs.103 Most of the weapons reached the Haganah, but some were acquired by individuals who had to defend themselves due to their isolated dwelling or their occupation which required them to be in places far from defended Jewish centers.104

The Haganah had its own ammunition industry in Tripoli under the direction of a Jewish fisherman, Berhani (Khani) Roth. He was an expert in the manufacture and use of explosives and instructed Haganah members in the production of hand grenades. They bought scrap-iron and bronze from Arabs, and made bombs from metal pipes filled with explosives or bottles and cans filled with sulfuric acid. This was basically a home industry in which the whole family, including women, participated. The primitive conditions of this operation and the need to periodically transfer the equipment for security reasons resulted in some accidents, including serious injuries and even the death of one woman. Despite all precautions, there were informers who told the police about these activities. The accidents, too, alerted the British of Jewish activity in this field. Thanks to the compartmentalization of the Haganah and the loyalty of most members, the harm was not great, but a few Jewish men were detained.105 It is possible that some of the manufacture of bombs and ammunition was carried out at the Hakhsharah: in mid-1947 a bomb exploded in a nearby field, but this might also have been an old mine.106 Jews also used more traditional means of defense: securing the doors and windows and preparing bottles with sulfuric acid or a mixture of hot pepper with water to be thrown on attackers.107

Only those who passed a severe test regarding their credibility and ability to keep secrets were selected for arms training. The first instructors were Palestinian Jewish soldiers and later local Haganah members. Some of the latter were former policemen who joined the Haganah and were of great help due to their thorough knowledge in the use of arms.108 The instruction was conducted in private homes, even in the neighborhood of the British intelligence and information offices. Shooting practice was held on the beach or in the fields on rainy, stormy nights.109 During the day, they practiced throwing grenades in the dunes and at deserted places far from Tripoli.110 They also trained in stick dueling.111 The local police suspected that training took place, but never made any discoveries. The police tried to put pressure on the head of the community to obtain information about these activities, but the Haganah members whom he contacted denied the very existence of the organization.112

The expenses of the Haganah in Tripoli included the acquisition of arms and ammunition and salaries for the night guards and poor members who had closed their businesses in order to emigrate but remained when asked to continue in their tasks in the Haganah.113 These expenses were covered mainly from local funds, though some money came from immigration officials of the Jewish Agency in Italy, and later from Jewish Agency representatives serving in Tripoli.114 The money for buying arms was collected in part from the youth, who were not wealthy but contributed generously for this purpose.115 In addition, some individuals paid for a large purchase of arms and ammunition and in exchange kept a certain percentage of the purchase.116 The salaries of the guards were paid from a special fund from monies collected from Jewish shopkeepers throughout Tripoli. There were special blue and white receipts – the colors of the Zionist national flag – with the words: National-Tripolitanian Military Organization (Irgun Tzeva’i Le’umi-Tripolitani). On Sabbath eves, those in charge of the collection distributed coupons with the words: End of Redemption – Help of the Guard (Ketz ha-Ge’ulah – ‘Ezrat ha-Shomer). This was also a source of funds for the purchase of arms and ammunition.117 A Jewish policeman helped to record the contributions, purchases, and sales of equipment, all of which were written in a small copybook which was kept in a children’s money-box, ostensibly being a child’s homework.118 The British did not believe that this was a voluntary collection, and suspected that the fisherman Berhani Roth financed the activities of the Haganah through contributions levied on intimidated Jewish shopkeepers and inhabitants of the Old City.119 In cases of emergency, when the regular collections did not suffice, some members took “loans” from their parents’ cash boxes, but were careful to return the money before the father did the monthly balance at the end of the month.120

One of the innovations of the pioneering movement in Libya was the attempt to give equal status to women. As noted, about a quarter of the Haganah members were women, but their participation encountered various obstacles. Women were not accustomed to associating with men who were not their relatives, and it was hard for them to participate in conversations with male Haganah members. Moreover, it was difficult to convince women that training was impossible while wearing skirts; only after a while were they ready to wear pants during training.121 Women were involved in the manufacture of ammunition, the hiding and transfer of arms and ammunition, and concealment of documents related to the purchase of ammunition and receipt of donations.122 Women also incited the men to fight and attack rioting Arabs: at times, their shouts caused the rioters to flee.123 Women were active in treating the injured: they were trained as nurses by a local Jewish physician, helped in the hospital, brought food, and kept guard on hospitalized injured Jews.124

As a result of the 29 November 1947 UN Security Council resolution on the partition of Palestine, the tension grew between Jews and Arabs in Libya. Bombs were thrown at Jewish businesses in Derna, while in Benghazi stones were thrown at Jews and Jewish businesses, Jewish businesses were robbed, and Jews were shot by Arabs.125 Disturbances continued, and one of the political parties (the Kutlah) instigated riots in Tripoli on 17 February 1948 during which three civilians were killed, including an eighteen-year-old Jew, although no looting or molestation of the British, Italian, or Jewish communities took place.126 As the war in Palestine progressed with growing Jewish success, there was increased despair among Muslim Libyans, resulting in anti-Jewish attacks in Benghazi, but the Jews could not, or would not, identify their attackers.127 Jews in the countryside started to move to bigger towns in order to be better protected.128

The June 1948 Riots

The effectiveness of local Jewish defense became apparent during the feast of Shavu’ot in June 1948 when anti-Jewish riots broke out in Tripoli.129 The riots resulted in part from the presence in Tripoli of some 200 Tunisian volunteers who were prevented by Egypt from joining the Arab forces in Palestine in their fight against the Jews. The connection with the events in Palestine was clearly echoed in the inflammatory shouts heard during the riots: “If we can’t go to Palestine to fight the Jews, let’s fight them here.” This time, however, the Jews were prepared, the defense of the Jewish quarters was organized, police intervention was swift, and Arabs were thus prevented from entering the Jewish quarters. As a result, the riots were confined to Tripoli, mainly on June 12th, and the community was harmed much less than in the 1945 riots: fourteen Jews were killed and 23 were seriously wounded; one Jewish defender was killed in action but most of the Jewish victims were from isolated areas surrounded by non-Jews in the New City. Nine Jews and 68 Arabs were arrested; of the latter, only nine were from Tripoli and seven from Tunis.

The riots started on June 12th in Via Leopardi, a mixed Jewish-Muslim neighborhood, when an Arab crowd proceeded towards the Jewish quarter and tried to enter through the Freedom Gate. The Arabs were held back by Jewish defenders who, together with the police, also stopped Arabs from entering through the New Gate. As a result, the Arabs set to looting nearby Jewish premises and assaulting any Jew they could catch. One of the Jewish commanders was Berhani Roth, who kept his cool in commanding under fire. By previous planning, Jewish men, women, and children were stationed in strategic places on rooftops and on the city walls bordering on the Jewish quarters, from where they threw stones, hand grenades, and Molotov cocktails, and used small arms. Defense measures were well-planned and grenades were thrown when the rioters were at optimum range. The Arabs were surprised at the preparedness of the Jews, and when one man held the Zionist flag and shouted that the Haganah had arrived, the attackers were alarmed and withdrew. A sign was posted on the walls of the Old City: “Tov la-mut be-‘ad artzenu” (it is good to die for our country) – a famous saying attributed to the renowned Zionist warrior Yosef Trumpeldor. Several Jews were killed following the arrival of the police, which included local Arabs, who started shooting in order to maintain order. Some young Jews fought with the police in an effort to break out of the Old City and attack Arabs. Both sides stoned police forces, and the Jews also threw a bomb and fired some random shots at the police. According to official British reports, the Arabs were armed only with sticks and stones, and Arab shops and premises in the Old City were looted by Jews once they were evacuated by Arabs. On the morning of the 13th, there were some disturbances by Arabs at an entrance to the Jewish quarters and stones were thrown. Jews, on their part, threw an Italian grenade on four police trucks which exploded, but there were no injuries.

The situation was more severe in the new neighborhoods of Tripoli where several Jews were killed. As a result, some 250 Jews took refuge in police stations and were later escorted to their homes. Another 800 Jews took refuge in a synagogue, and during the night the police supplied them with bread. The police also escorted Jewish gravediggers at night. Fearing for their safety, many Jews who lived close to Arabs moved from the New City to the old Jewish quarters which could be better defended. The main damage was to Jewish property – homes and businesses – but no compensation was paid. Some of the Religious Scouts graduates were arrested as a result of their involvement in the defense of the Jewish quarter, but they did not disclose any details on the local defense organization, and were released after a week. Later on, however, the British increased their monitoring over the movement.130

The urban Hakhsharah in Tripoli was attacked during the riots by Arabs armed with sticks and knives. Although the Hakhsharah members had arms, they decided not to use them in order not to risk a major confrontation with the British authorities which could result in their arrest and the prohibition of all Zionist activity. They managed to retreat and reach Tripoli unharmed, but the Hakhsharah was completely demolished and never restored.131 Thus, a major defense training area and assembly place for illegal emigrants was lost.

There were some disturbances in Benghazi on 16 June 1948 when several Jews were beaten, one shop looted, and fire broke out in a synagogue. Of the sixteen Jews who were treated in hospital, seven were released shortly afterwards, and one died of his wounds. The local police introduced order, and there was no need for the army to intervene. Among the emergency measures which were enforced was a prohibition on carrying arms, sticks, knives, daggers, ammunition, flags, and signs. In addition, demonstrations and gatherings were forbidden and a curfew was installed.132

Overall, the Jews of Cyrenaica, who were not organized like their Tripolitan brethren, felt unsafe and feared for their lives and property. Although Muslim-Jewish relations improved after the riots, violence against individual Jews did not cease altogether. Those who suffered most were the Jews of Barce and Derna. One manifestation of this lack of safety were cases of kidnapping and forced Islamization of young Jewish women, especially in the countryside.133

Deterrent Actions

Following the June 1948 riots, Jews were afraid to walk at night outside the Jewish quarters. As a result, many Jews who wished to live in a homogeneous neighborhood which facilitated protection, moved from the New City to the old Jewish quarters of Tripoli, despite increased overcrowding.134 The Haganah wanted to deter Arabs from attacking Jews and to intimidate Arabs who lived in the Jewish quarters so that they would leave and make the area exclusively Jewish. The Haganah tried to achieve this by giving the impression that its power was greater than it really was and to this end it exploded bombs on the wall bordering the Jewish quarters. Another purpose of the explosions was to divert the attention of the police from operations involving illegal emigration. Consequently, loud explosions were often heard at night and triggered speculations regarding their origin; there were even rumors that the “Stern Gang” was responsible for them.135

A major series of explosions took place during August-November 1948, mostly at Arab targets in the Old City.136 British intelligence realized that many of these bombs were of a similar nature. The British discovered arms and ammunition caches, and all the bombs were found to be serviceable. Most of the explosives were from German and Italian bombs salvaged from the desert, and at least one army pistol was known to have been stolen in April 1947. Since the explosions were on a small scale, the police believed that they were made for intimidation rather than destruction, and that the intended targets of intimidation were Arabs living in or near the Jewish quarters of the Old City.137

On 1 November 1948, the Jewish communal council of Tripoli gave the police the names of three Jews whom it alleged had disturbed the peace. When Giuseppe Habib, the acting president of the council, was asked whether he could produce any witness to substantiate a criminal charge against them, he replied that complainants would be frightened to testify in court. The three were kept under surveillance and were the first to be apprehended after the explosion on November 12th at the entrance to an Arab bakery in the Old City, but a subsequent check on their movements could not connect them with that occurrence. Information received by the police on November 13th, and somewhat reluctantly confirmed by Jewish sources, led to the arrest of five Jews on November 14th:138 Lillo Mahluf, alias Lillo Vecchio, 19, unemployed; Hamani Debash, alias Bisilil, 23, unemployed;139 Berhani Roth, 32, fisherman and barkeeper; Sion Buaron, 19; and Scialom Fargion, 19, shoemaker’s assistant.140

Scialom Fargion was interrogated on November 14th in the presence of his brother, a police constable, and made a complete confession. His statement confirmed that all the explosions had been carried out by a Jewish group of whom all five detainees were members. On the same day, while under arrest, Lillo Mahluf managed to jump out of an open window on the second floor, some 40 feet above the ground. He was immediately taken to the hospital suffering from fractures of both wrists and a severe bruise at the base of his skull. The police believed that Mahluf was the “strong-arm man” of the group, who, on nearly every occasion, had actually set off the bombs. The real leader was supposedly Berhani Roth, who headed the Jewish “Night Guard” organization, disbanded some months previously, and was in charge of financing the activities of the group through contributions levied on Tripolitan Jews. Because of Jewish accusations of police brutality during interrogation, all those under arrest were examined by a physician who stated that there was no basis for this accusation. The detainees also made statements to this effect at the time, but at least one detainee described his torture after his release. As a result of the searches and arrests, all the Jewish shops in Tripoli were closed in protest on 15 November 1948.141 Of the five Jewish detainees, two were acquitted, and the rest were sentenced to eight, six and three years’ imprisonment and fines.142

The police believed that the council of the Jewish community of Tripoli was aware of the activities of the group. The acting president of the council admitted that the existence of the group had been known for at least six weeks prior to the arrests, but excused himself for not informing the police on the grounds that he was investigating the issue himself. The police suspected that one reason for not divulging the information may have been that the brother of one of the suspects worked at the council’s headquarters. The police believed that among the young Jewish activists, there were no more than twelve actual “terrorists.”143

More disturbances took place in Tripoli in late March 1949, starting with an explosion on March 27th at a police station in the Jewish quarter, killing the wife and daughter of a Jewish sergeant and injuring his sister, as well as an Arab NCO and constable on duty. This led to attacks by Jews on Arab passersby, but the police prevented the situation from deteriorating. Investigation showed that the explosion resulted from a homemade bomb of a type similar to those used during the autumn of 1948. The police suspected that this was done in retaliation for their investigation into illegal emigration.144

The British were aware of the continued existence of a Jewish defense organization which trained secretly at night and used explosives. The British felt, however, that the main purpose of the Zionist activity in 1949 was immigration to Israel, and not “invasion in the opposite direction.” Moreover, in view of the 1945 riots, the British understood that the Jews took precautionary measures for self-defense, especially during periods of tension resulting from the war in Palestine and Jewish success there, which made their brethren in Libya “somewhat conceited.”145

Jewish defense units continued to protect the community during the mass emigration to Israel (1949-1951). In Tripoli, trained Jews guarded immigration officials and offices, the emigrants and their assembly areas, as well as the ships that carried them from the port of Tripoli directly to Haifa. Indeed, all these operations went smoothly.146 In addition, during some communal activities, members of the youth movement kept order.147

The deterioration of security in the countryside made life risky for Jewish peddlers and farmers. Several peddlers were murdered and, as a result, most peddlers were afraid to travel. Farmers, too, hesitated to go out to their fields.148 In order to protect Jews outside Tripoli, during August-November 1949 Israeli immigration officials initiated the transfer of most of the Jews from the Tripolitanian hinterland and from Cyrenaica to Tripoli, where it was easier to protect them while awaiting emigration.149

Jewish policemen continued to serve the community well and Israeli immigration officials tried to persuade them to postpone their emigration as much as possible in order to protect the community.150 Some Jewish policemen felt discriminated against in their units. Thus, three Jewish policemen in Khoms complained that, despite their hard and dedicated work, they were at the mercy of British and Arab officers and could not rise in the ranks; they were ready, nonetheless, to stay in their posts and emigrate last.151 In Misurata, the four Jewish policemen also felt restricted by the authorities. When Arabs rioted following the return of a kidnapped Jewish girl, the British officer in charge of the police force allowed the Jewish policemen to use only sticks but no weapons, and the British themselves did not intervene.152 In 1949, Zliten had five Jewish policemen, who were excited to learn that they were viewed by the Israeli emissaries as Israeli soldiers, who should continue in their role and protect the community.153 Some Jewish policemen remained in Tripoli after the mass emigration, and the last four of them were discharged in 1954.154

Eighteen Jewish prisoners from the 1945 and 1948 riots were released to enable them to emigrate to Israel following negotiations between Baruch Duvdevani, the first Israeli immigration officer in Tripoli, and British authorities. It was agreed that they would complete their prison terms in Israel. Only one prisoner remained, and was released after Libyan independence.155

The Jews who remained in the independent kingdom of Libya were threatened twice, but did not have a Jewish defense organization to protect them. They had to rely completely on the Libyan authorities and foreign powers. The riots in Tripoli during the Arab-Israeli June 1967 War resulted in eighteen Jews killed, and many homes and shops as well as most of the synagogues burned. In order to protect the community, the authorities gathered the Jews and put them under government protection, mainly in military camps, in what was seen by many Jews as imprisonment. When the atmosphere calmed down, the majority of the community – some 2,500 Jews – emigrated, mostly to Italy, while some 200 remained in Tripoli and only three in Benghazi.156 Following the rise of Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi to power in September 1969, most of the remaining Jews left as well.


During most of the period from the Ottoman conquest of Libya in the mid-sixteenth century until the mass Jewish emigration from Libya to Israel in the mid-twentieth century, the life of the Jews of Libya was relatively safe. They suffered the worst during the twentieth century under European rule, resulting from the anti-Jewish Italian legislation during World War II and during the 1945 and 1948 Arab riots under the British Military Administration. Despite the relative calm during most of the period, the Jews did not trust the state to protect them: the Ottoman security forces were usually meager, disorganized and weak, and the British disappointed the Libyan Jews with their mishandling of the 1945 riots. Consequently, Libyan Jews developed defense mechanisms which suited specific times and regions. Except for a short period in the 1940s, all these organizations and arrangements were locally conceived, led, and manned. Most of the time Jewish defense was exclusively Jewish, except for the Berber regions of Tripolitania until the mid-nineteenth century, where Berber tribal chiefs protected the Jews. None of the Jewish urban defense organizations were part of the official communal leadership, and much of their structure and activity was secret. Members were often from the middle and lower ranks of the community and their roles and status were based on qualifications and achievements-not on family connections, wealth, and learning, as was usually the case in the official temporal and spiritual leadership. These defense arrangements served the Jews well and the state authorities usually did not intervene to liquidate them due to their own weakness (as was the case during most of the Ottoman period) and the prudence of the defense leadership not to cross the fine line between self-defense and terrorism.

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1. On the legal status of non-Muslims in the Muslim state, see Xavier de Planhol, Minorites en Islam: geographie politique et sociale (Paris: Flammarion, 1997). Libyan Jews interpreted these regulations as resulting from the hatred of the Berbers towards them. See Harvey E. Goldberg, The Book of Mordechai (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1980), p. 49.

2. On the Jews of Libya during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see Renzo De Felice, Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).

3. All the civilian population was forbidden to carry arms, but nonetheless many Muslims, especially in the countryside, owned weapons.

4. Rachel Simon, “The Relations of the Jewish Community of Libya with Europe in the Late Ottoman Period,” in J.L. Miege, ed., Les relations intercommunautaires juives en méditerranée occidentale (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1984), pp. 73-75.

5. Mordecai Hacohen, Higgid Mordecai (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1978), p. 157 (Hebrew); New York Times, 13 August and 26 September 1875; Daily Levant Herald, 20 and 25 September 1875.

6. Rachel Simon, Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy, 1911-1919 (Berlin: Klaus Schwartz Verlag, 1987), pp. 57-65.

7. During the Ottoman period the Alliance Israélite Universelle was much involved in these affairs. See, for example, 9th Annual Report of the Anglo-Jewish Association, 1879-1880, p. 46, on AIU intervention following the murder of Rahamim Eidan, asking protection from the Ottoman governor and the consuls of Britain, France, Italy, and Austria. In 1896 the AJA was called by the Tripolitan community to intervene because one of its synagogues was attacked and desecrated. Following the intervention of the British Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, George Curzon, the governor sent guards to the Jewish quarter and ordered that the attackers be found. See the 26th Annual Report of the AJA, 1896-1897, pp. 16-17.

8. Hacohen, pp. 118-120. The last leader was Shelomoh ‘Ashush Bukhati, and his deputy was Shabtai Nahum who died in 1872 at the age of 115.

9. Hacohen, pp. 120-121.

10. Hacohen, pp. 121-123.

11. Hacohen, pp. 119-120.

12. Hacohen, p. 119.

13. Nahum Slouschz, Travels in North Africa (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1927), pp. 146-147.

14. Ha-Yehudi (Hebrew weekly published in London), 5 August 1909. On other incidents between Muslims and Jews following the revolution and the restoration of the constitution based on the assumption that the Jews brought it about in order to despise the Muslim religion, see Ha-Yehudi, 19 August 1909.

15. Hacohen, p. 284; Goldberg, p. 74 (English translation), 43-46 (analysis). Somewhat similar arrangements existed between patron and client tribes in North Africa.

16. Hacohen, p. 145, on attacks on Jews following the rebellion of ‘Abd al-Jalil bin Sayf al-Nasr in 1839.

17. On the abolition of slavery in the Ottoman empire, see Ehud R. Toledano, Slavery and Abolition in the Ottoman Empire (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998). On slavery and the Jews of Libya, see Frigia Zuaretz, et al., eds., Yahadut Luv (Tel Aviv: Va’ad Qehilot Luv be-Yisra’el, 1982), pp. 17-18 on Farjallah ‘Ovadyah, formerly of central Tripolitania, who settled in Moshav Ben Zakai in Israel, who told of an old Berber chief who was always friendly with the Jews. On his deathbed, the chief gave the ‘Ovadyah family a document which he had received from his forefathers, stating that the ‘Ovadyah family members had been their slaves since they arrived in Libya. The Berber did not want his sons to know this and gave the Jews this document, which was lost or burned during the 1915 rebellion.

18. Hacohen, p. 284; Goldberg, p. 74 (English translation).

19. Hacohen, p. 81. On the establishment of military posts in the Tripolitanian hinterland and the increased security for the Jews, see Ha-Yehudi, 17 March 1907.

20. Me’ir Levi, Tripoli to AIU, Paris, 23 November 1903 – Archive of the Alliance Israélite Universelle [henceforth: AAIU], file IC 16 (a case in Misurata); Ha-Yehudi, 22 November 1906 (a case in Tripoli).

21. In the coastal Tripolitanian village of Zawiya, the head of the Jewish community, Farjallah Ashlag, was killed in 1906 and the killer had witnesses swearing that he was with them at the time. See Hacohen, p. 317; Goldberg, p. 144 (translation); Ha-Yehudi, 24 January 1907, 11 March 1909; Slouschz, Travels, pp. 41-43; Nahum Slouschz, Sefer ha-Masa’ot (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1938-1943), v. 1, p. 50-52 (Hebrew).

22. Letter from the Jews of Idder to the Chief Rabbi, Tripoli, 17 Tevet 657 (22 December 1896; a French translation was sent to Paris on 5 March 1897) – AAIU, file IC 11.

23. Ha-Yehudi, 25 November 1909, 4 May 1911. See also Hacohen, p. 298; Goldberg, p. 104 (translation).

24. E. Brandenburg, “Judische Höhlenbewohner in Tripoli,” Der Morgen, v. 1 (1925):120-122, on a gendarme in Tigrina, Gharian, who in 1910 gave the visitor a Torah scroll which he admired, while the Jews were afraid to protest (the visitor then secretly returned it to the Jews).

25. L.C. Féraud, Annales tripolitaines (Paris: Librairie Vuibert, 1927) p. 423, on a Jew killed in his home in 1870 during the anarchic five weeks following ‘Ali Rida Pasha’s departure and before Khalid Pasha’s arrival.

26. Jewish merchants were attacked in the market of ‘Amrus, Suq al-Jum’ah, when Muslims protested against the order to mobilize them. The governor took severe measures to catch the attackers and compensate the Jews. See Me’ir Levi, Tripoli, to AIU, Paris, 4 November 1901 – AAIU, IC 14; Hacohen, p. 172; Goldberg, p. 59.

27. Slouschz, Sefer ha-Masa’ot, v. 1, p. 82, on the dangers facing Jewish peddlers from Mislata travelling in distant areas.

28. Ha-Yehudi, 24 January 1907, on a Jew who shot a robber who entered his home.

29. Hacohen, p. 310; Goldberg, p. 130 (translation). When Hacohen was in Yefren in 1885 he had a revolver in his possession.

30. Hacohen, pp. 99-100, on how three Jews from Zawiya outwitted a robber.

31. Slouschz, Travels, pp. 167-168, regarding the Zintan-Yefren region in 1906.

32. On the Sanusi order, see E.E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (Oxford: Calrendon Press, 1949); Nicola A. Ziadeh, Sanusiyah (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1958).

33. Slouschz, Sefer ha-Masa’ot, v. 2, pp. 175, 193, on friendly relations between the Sanusis and the Jews, and the safety of Jewish merchants who reached Jaghbub with no harm; Slouschz, Travels, pp. 79-87.

34. British Vice Consul Dennis to the Governor of Benghazi Halil Pasha, 15 May 1866, and to the British Consul General in Tripoli, 31 May 1866 – Public Records Office [henceforth: PRO], Foreign Office [henceforth: FO] file 160/82 on attacks on a Jewish merchant by the ‘Abeydat tribe which was under the governor’s command, and the Bara’isa tribe which attacked the ‘Abeydat. The Ottomans seemed unable or unwilling to take decisive measures to return the merchandise to the Jewish merchant.

35. Slouschz, Travels, pp. 78-79; Ha-Yehudi, 19 June 1906.

36. Pestalozza, Tripoli, 27 May 1911 – Archivio Storico e Diplomatico [henceforth: ASD], Serie P, pac 17, no. 37852; Ha-Yehudi, 11 May, 22 and 29 June 1911; Hacohen, p. 185; Yahadut Luv, p. 130.

37. Yahadut Luv, pp. 130-131, on the intervention of Jewish soldiers during the funeral of Rabbi Eliyahu Tzeror when Arabs rioted; shortly afterwards, government troops came and arrested many Arabs.

38. Hacohen, pp. 185, 340-342; Goldberg, pp. 182-183 (translation). On anti-Jewish riots in the hinterland during that period, see Hacohen, p. 345; Goldberg, p. 187 (translation).

39. Hacohen, pp. 342-343, 348; Goldberg, pp. 185, 191 (translation).

40. D. Kleinlerer, “Cave Dwellers of North Africa,” Jewish Tribune, 31 May 1929.

41. Yahadut Luv, p. 141 (on p. 140 is a photograph of the leaders of “Hevrat Tzion” with the Italian Jewish Captain Bruchs).

42. On disturbances between Jews and Arabs in Tripoli in 1933 and the feeling of the Jews that the Italian authorities did not protect them, see De Felice, p. 133.

43. D. Schwartz, “A Visit to Tripoli,” Canadian Jewish Chronicle, 7 December 1945, based on impressions from a visit to Tripoli in 1938, and talks with the chief rabbi and other Jews.

44. Yahadut Luv, pp. 156-159.

45. Loubaton, Tripoli, to AIU, Paris, 18 September, 22 October 1923 – AAIU, IC 26. There are numerous reports in the file, covering the years 1923-1936.

46. F. Zuarets and F. Tayyar, eds., Shim’on Berakhah zal (Muni Gabay): ha-Gibor ha-Le’umi shel Yehude Luv (Tel Aviv: Va’ad Qehilot Luv be-Yisra’el, 1964), pp. 14-16, 21-32; Yahadut Luv, p. 231 (on Jewish strongmen who prevented fascists from entering the Jewish quarter and molesting the Jews and even killing some of the attackers), pp. 418-420 (on Muni Gabay).

47. Rachel Simon, “It Could have Happened There: The Jews of Libya during the Second World War,” Africana Journal, 16 (1994):391-422.

48. Yahadut Luv, p. 179, on kidnapping and riots in Mislata.

49. On political developments in this period, the deterioration of Jewish-Arab relations, and the economic crisis which filled Tripoli with numerous impoverished Muslims from the hinterland, see De Felice, pp. 185-192.

50. Yahadut Luv, p. 21.

51. On the 1945 riots, see below note 68.

52. Testimony of Eliyahu Kohen (Ben-Hur) – Hebrew University, Institute for Oral Documentation (henceforth: HU-IOD) file 10 (43), 2nd interview.

53. Testimony of Yehi’el Teiber – HU-IOD, file 10 (43). Soldiers had also intervened to protect the community during demonstrations following a Muslim festival; see Naftali Bar-Giyora, “Dapim Telushim mi-Yoman Tzefon-Afriqah,” in Ben-Zion Rubin, ed., Luv: Hedim min ha-Yoman (Jerusalem: ha-Agudah le-Moreshet Yahadut Luv, 1988), pp. 125-126.

54. Bar-Giyora, p. 114.

55. Yo’av Gelber, Toldot ha-Hitnadvut, vol. 3: Nos’e ha-Degel (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 1983), p. 128. R.A.O.C. = Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

56. Bar-Giyora, p. 108, telling about a meeting he had with the head of the Institute for Illegal Immigration (Mosad la-‘Aliyah B), Sha’ul Avigur, in summer 1943.

57. For details on Katz’s activities and on the background of the early Haganah members, see Ya’ir Duer, “Masa’ li-Tripoli,” in Rubin, pp. 65-67. Katz left in December 1943.

58. This society was established in Tripoli in the early 1930s to spread modern Hebrew among the Jews.

59. Yahadut Luv, pp. 161-164 (F. Tayyar), pp. 284-285 (Mosheh Pinhasi, a scout and later a Hakhsharah member, who was active in Haganah and illegal emigration), p. 349 (Yosef Ganish, a scout who joined the Haganah), p. 357 (Gavri’el Magnagi, a scout who joined the Haganah); Yaacov Haggiag-Liluf, Toldot Yehude Luv (Or Yehudah: ha-Makhon le-Limudim ule-Mehqar Yahadut Luv, 2000), p. 121; Tzuri’el Shaqed, “Qehilat Yehude Luv,” in Asher Wasserteil, ed., ‘Al Toldot Qehilot Tunisyah ve-Luv (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Culture, 1976), p. 39. Pinhas Shalom Fadlon was a Haganah member. See his letter to Yisra’el Gorilik, 20 Adar 709 (21 March 1949) – Yad Tabenkin Archive [henceforth: YTA], Div. 2/overseas-Libya, box 1, file 4. 60. On the swearing-in ceremony, see below, note 91.

61. Ya’ir Duer, “Eliyahu ‘Azaryah zal, he-Halutz mi-Tripoli,” 20 October 1987 – YTA, Div. 25/A/Duer, box 1, file 8. Includes biographical data on ‘Azaryah, and his relations with the emissaries.

62. Yosef Guetta, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9. Yosef Guetta was a Haganah member who came from the younger members of the youth movement.

63. Yosef Mimon, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9.

64. Ya’ir Duer, Ramat Yohanan, to Dr. Ben-Shalom, Youth Dept., 18 November 1944 – Central Zionist Archives [henceforth: CZA], file S32/1068. Sports activities were quite developed in Tripoli since the Italian period. On the participation of Jewish students in an all-Tripoli sports rally, see Qol ha-Moreh, Nisan 5706 [April 1946].

65. Yosef Mimon, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9.

66. Among them was Amos Baranes. See Yahadut Luv, p. 348. He and his friends participated in protecting the community from rioting Arabs.

67. Duer, p. 87. Yosef Guetta, the Hakhsharah‘s coordinator, was very involved in Haganah activities. See Haggiag-Liluf, p. 121.

68. For reports on the 1945 riots, see De Felice, pp. 192-210; Yahadut Luv, pp. 207-213 (Tripoli), pp. 214-227 (Tripolitanian hinterland); Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 122-127, 352-353; J.B. Segal, “Tripolitania 1943-1949,” Jewish Chronicle, 11 February 1949, p. 11 (the author was in Tripoli during the 1945 riots); for a proposal to bring in units from the Sudanese army, because the police force in Tripoli was mostly local and, consequently, partisan, see E.C. Reid, War Office, to Coverley-Price, Foreign Office, 8 January 1946 – PRO, FO 371/53510. The proposal was abandoned because the Governor-General of the Sudan could not send the troops, ibid. , 18 July 1946.

69. Yahadut Luv, p. 238, on help from an Arab acquaintance.

70. Dr. R. Eisen, Jerusalem, 6 March 1946, memo on a talk with Yosef Saltzberger (a soldier who returned from Tripoli) on 3 March 1946 regarding the situation in Tripolitania – CZA, file S5/797.

71. Yahadut Luv, pp. 238-244 (memoirs of Shim’on ‘Atiya whose mother was killed during the riots. While defending his family, he shot an Arab to death with a pistol which had been hidden until then in the ground of their garage. ‘Atiya was sentenced to six and a half years in prison); Refa’el Nahum Sanbirah and Paulino Habib, Cyprus, to Golda Meirson, 12 November 1947 – CZA, file S6/3847.

72. Bar-Giyora, p. 116; on several defenders of the Jewish quarter, see Yahadut Luv, pp. 238-244 (Shim’on ‘Atiya), p. 352 (Shalom Dayan), p. 354 (Bekhor Zatlawi), p. 359 (Nahum Khlafo).

73. Yahadut Luv, p. 248.

74. Gelber, pp. 129-131, describing the activities of R.A.O.C. company 593.

75. Ha-Tzofeh, 21 November 1949; Yahadut Luv, p. 224.

76. Yahadut Luv, p. 227.

77. Yahadut Luv, pp. 214-216. 34 Jews were murdered in Zanzur, ibid., p. 208.

78. Yahadut Luv, p. 221.

79. Yahadut Luv, pp. 224-225.

80. Yahadut Luv, p. 248.

81. Mentioned in a proposal for a question to the British Minister of State for War, on a blank, undated page, CZA, file Z1/10221.

82. See note 155 below.

83. Yahadut Luv, p. 231; Haggiag-Liluf, p. 129.

84. Yahadut Luv, pp. 231-234, 317; Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 129-134.

85. Yosef Guetta, undated testimony – YTA, Div. A/25, series Duer and Libya, box 1, file 13.

86. Gur, in a memorial book to ‘Azaryah, p. 12 – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9.

87. Yosef Guetta, undated testimony – YTA, Div. A/25, series Duer and Libya, box 1, file 13; Nahum Refa’el, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9; Avraham Hadadi, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9.

88. Yahadut Luv, p. 317.

89. According to Haggiag-Liluf, p. 134, in addition to the central defense organization in Tripoli, there were some small independent ones. He mentions two independent groups, one of which was responsible for the August-November 1948 bombings.

90. Yahadut Luv, p. 236.

91. Yosef Guetta, undated testimony – YTA, Div. A/25, series Duer and Libya, box 1, file 13; Nahum Refa’el, undated testimony – YTA, Div. 25/A/Libya, box 1, file 9; Yahadut Luv, p. 236. Guetta, a central member of the youth movement and later the coordinator of the urban Hakhsharah, was sponsored by ‘Azaryah. While Gur was in Tripoli, new members met him a short while after the ceremony in the home of a trustworthy Jewish woman, Lucia Levy.

92. Yahadut Luv, p. 236.

93. Yahadut Luv, p. 231; De Felice, p. 212.

94. Yahadut Luv, p. 237.

95. Yahadut Luv, p. 231.

96. Yahadut Luv, p. 237.

97. Yahadut Luv, p. 234.

98. Yahadut Luv, p. 245, 251 (one of these centers was in Lillo Mahluf’s home).

99. Yahadut Luv, p. 249.

100. Yahadut Luv, p. 245.

101. Yahadut Luv, p. 248.

102. Yosef Guetta, undated testimony – YTA, Div. A/25, series Duer and Libya, box 1, file 13 (referring apparently to 1947 or 1948); De Felice, p. 212; Yahadut Luv, pp. 233-234 (Some Arabs were caught at a bank robbery and one of them mentioned the name of a Jew, who was then detained as well. The latter feared that the cache in his home would be discovered, and asked the only Jewish policeman in Zuara, who was guarding him, to help hide it, which he did, and the arms were transferred to another safe place), p. 246 (on a British soldier who supplied them with arms which were hidden in large baskets for carrying bread), p. 249 (on buying pistols from British, American, and Western soldiers), p. 251 (on arms purchase as a private business, selling weapons to individuals). For an earlier period, see Bar-Giyora, p. 122, who tells about a coffee house where Jews who traded in stolen arms and other military equipment used to meet. He does not explicitly state that the Haganah bought arms from them.

103. Haggiag-Liluf, p. 132.

104. Haggiag-Liluf, p. 133.

105. Yahadut Luv, pp. 234, 246-249. Lillo Mahluf used to make bombs during the day and guard the neighborhood at night. Roth’s name appears also as Berhani Gerbi Roth.

106. Entry for 16 June 1947 from ‘Alon Qevutzat ha-Hakhsharah Ge’ulim, 6 (14 July 1947) – YTA, Div. 2/Overseas-Libya, box 1, file 3.

107. Haggiag-Liluf, p. 133.

108. Yahadut Luv, p. 234. According to this source, the policemen numbered about one hundred.

109. Yahadut Luv, p. 236. According to this source, a few hundred were thus trained.

110. Yahadut Luv, p. 249.

111. Yahadut Luv, p. 236 (includes details on training accidents).

112. Yahadut Luv, p. 237.

113. Yahadut Luv, p. 232.

114. Yahadut Luv, pp. 231-232, 234.

115. Yahadut Luv, p. 236.

116. Yahadut Luv, p. 249 (on money given to the Haganah for buying 100 pistols at the price of 1000 lire each in exchange for five pistols to the financier).

117. Yahadut Luv, p. 248.

118. Yahadut Luv, p. 253 (Eliyahu Makhluf [Lillo Mahluf] tells that during a search a British policeman took the copybook which was written in Hebrew, but the Jewish policeman’s daughter grabbed it from him, and the Briton thought it belonged to her. Later her mother destroyed it. The Jewish policeman was suspected by the police and was later smuggled out of Libya).

119. Report of 16 November 1948 – PRO, War Office [henceforth: WO] file 230/129; Report on the Jewish Community of Tripolitania, January 1949 (apparently by the World Jewish Congress) – CZA, file S20/555. During the searches which led to Roth’s arrest in November 1948, several receipt books for subscriptions paid to the “Night Guard” were discovered in his house. Some subscribers appeared to have been told that this was “protection money,” some that it was for the purchase of arms for the Jewish army in Palestine, others that the money was being collected for illegal emigration, and yet others that it was for sporting activities.

120. Yahadut Luv, pp. 234-235.

121. Duer, p. 56.

122. Yahadut Luv, p. 234 (on an accident during the manufacture of ammunition), pp. 245, 252-254.

123. Yahadut Luv, p. 245.

124. Eliyahu ‘Azaryah, Tripoli, to the Youth Dept., 28 December 1945 – CZA, file S32/1068. They were trained once a week, on Saturday; Yahadut Luv, p. 254.

125. Reports from 5, 8 and 17 December 1947 – PRO, WO 230/241.

126. BMAT to Civaffairs, Cairo, 17 February 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129; Mosheh Da’bush et al., Tripoli, to the Youth Dept., 20 February 1948 – CZA, file S32/123, stating that this was an anti-British riot by Arabs, and the Jew was killed unintentionally.

127. Reports from April 1948 in PRO, WO 230/241.

128. On the Jews of Tajurah moving to Tripoli, see a telegram dated 14 May 1948 – PRO, WO 230/241; De Felice, p. 224, on attacks on peddlers in the countryside who as a result stopped going to regional markets and small villages.

129. For official British reports on the riots, see PRO, FO 371/69422, FO 160/98, WO 230/129. According to these reports, there were three Arab dead and fourteen seriously injured. Arab policemen were vigorously attacking Arab rioters in order to protect the Jews, and handled Jewish wounded with care. Nonetheless, Jews expressed no confidence in the Arab police. For Jewish reports, see J.B. Segal, “Tripolitania 1943-1949,” Jewish Chronicle, 11 February 1949, p. 11; Shemu’el Auerbach, Tripoli, “Yahadut Tripoli metzapah le-‘ezrah,” 30 July 1948 – CZA, file S32/1069; Pinhas Shalom Fadlon, Tripoli, to Yisra’el Gorilik, 20 Adar 5709 (21 March 1949) – YTA, Div. 2/Overseas-Libya, box 1, file 4; De Felice, pp. 223-225; Yahadut Luv, pp. 234, 246-247 (on Berhani Roth), pp. 250-251 (including the Hakhsharah), pp. 267, 318, 354.

130. Yahadut Luv, pp. 161-164 (F. Tayyar), pp. 284-285 (Mosheh Pinhasi, a scout and a Hakhsharah member, active in Haganah and illegal emigration), p. 349 (Yosef Ganish, a scout), p. 357 (Gavri’el Magnagi, a scout).

131. Duer, p. 87.

132. Telegrams from 17, 18 and 19 June 1948 and announcement no. 172 by Arthur Stanley Parker, Acting Chief Administrator, Cyrenaica, 17 June 1948 – PRO, WO 230/241; World Jewish Congress, “The Present Situation of the Jews in Cyrenaica,” 10 May 1949 – CZA, S20/556.

133. World Jewish Congress, “The Present Situation of the Jews in Cyrenaica,” 10 May 1949 – CZA, S20/556 (on a 13-year-old Jewish girl kidnapped in Barce and forcefully Islamized, but the authorities refused to intervene); Ha-Tzofeh, 18 November 1949 (the return of a kidnapped Jewish girl from Tarhunah to her family was followed by an Arab attack on the Jews and setting the synagogue on fire. The reporter, Yonah Cohen, who was in Libya at the time, stated that following each case of kidnapping and attack, village elders used to claim that this was done by “kids” and should not be viewed as reflecting ill-will toward the Jews); Ha-Tzofeh, 21 November 1949 (on a Jewish girl from Khoms who was kidnapped, and following British demands to return her, the Arabs threatened to attack the Jews, and later transferred her to another place and she remained with Muslims); Ha-Tzofeh, 22 November 1949 (on a kidnapped Jewish girl in Misurata who, following police intervention, was returned to her family and swiftly transferred to Tripoli and sent to Israel. As a protest, the Arabs rioted in town, there was much damage to property, but the British prevented efficient use of Jewish policemen, while they themselves did not intervene to maintain order. Later there were some failed attempts by Arabs to kidnap Jewish girls); Ha-Tzofeh, 9 December 1949 (on daily reports on kidnapping or attempted kidnapping. Idris al-Sanusi stated that the two sisters kidnapped in Barce had left of their own will, and converted to Islam voluntarily).

134. Report on the Jewish Community of Tripolitania, January 1949 (apparently by the World Jewish Congress) – CZA, file S20/555.

135. Yahadut Luv, p. 250 (once, during an explosion, an Arab who happened to be around relieving himself was caught by the police and sentenced to three years in prison. Another explosion took place when police were following a car with emigrants which was heading to a meeting place on the beach where the ship was waiting; Telegram from 13 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129.

136. For a comprehensive report on these events, see Brigadier T.R. Blackley, Chief Administrator, Tripoli, to Director of CA, the War Office, London, 30 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129, including a list of eleven bomb incidents starting on 25 August 1948, mostly within the Old City. According to Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 134, 153-155, these activities were carried out by an independent four-man group, the “Liquidation and Revenge Group” (Hulyat ha-hisul veha-naqam), whose aim was to protect Jews and liquidate Arab rioters who murdered Jews.

137. On the finding of arms and ammunition, see report from 16 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129. One cache was in a well in the house of Lillo Mahluf. To that date, eleven explosions took place. al-Ahram, 17 and 25 November 1948 (translations by the Middle East Department, 21 December 1948 – CZA, file S20/555).

138. Extracts from the Monthly Political Intelligence Reports, Tripolitania – PRO, WO 230/130 (November 1948 – Jews); Report of 16 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129. The Jews suspected the owner of the bakery of the murder of a Jew during the 1945 riots. For a protest by the leaders of the Jewish community for police attempts to find out only Jewish culprits, see Giuseppe Habib, Vice President, Administrative Commission of the Jewish Community, Tripoli, to the Chief Administrator, BMA, Tripoli, 16 November 1948 – PRO, FO 371/69439. Habib claimed that the last explosion could not have been carried out by Jews because it happened on the night between Friday and Saturday, when Jews are forbidden to light fire. He complained that the police did not try to identify the perpetrators of the explosions at the Alitalia head office and the apartment of Prof. Ageli. For a reply, see H. Mercer, Chief Secretary, BMA, Tripoli to Acting President, Administrative Committee of the Jewish Community, Tripoli, November 1948 (day missing) – PRO, WO 230/129; Yahadut Luv, pp. 251-254 (Lillo Mahluf on the explosion at the bakery, his arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment).

139. Also known as Avraham Devash-Bislil. See Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 134, 154.

140. Later known as Shalom Mor. See Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 134, 154.

141. Telegram from 15 November 1948 and Report of 16 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129; Telegram from 26 May 1949 – PRO, WO 230/130. The report includes a list of the caches, the explosives and arms found there, including some eighty bombs; Yahadut Luv, p. 235 according to which Lillo Mahluf jumped when he could no longer suffer the interrogation; for his testimony, see Yahadut Luv, pp. 251-254.

142. Telegram from 26 May 1949 – PRO, WO 230/130. The three were Lillo Mahluf, Sion Buaron, and Scialom Fargion. They also had to pay court expenses and damages to the victims. It is interesting to note that the person suspected earlier of leading the organization (Berhani Roth) was not among them. Hamani Debash managed to provide an alibi and was acquitted and smuggled immediately to Israel. According to Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 134, 154-155, Mahluf headed this group which was previously trained by Roth. Mahluf was severely tortured and decided to take the blame on himself and provide a full confession. When parting from his friends on his way to the interrogation room he told them that he takes all responsibility on himself, pushed the interrogator aside, and jumped through a window on the third floor. When he recovered he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in 1953 and was smuggled immediately to Italy and then to Israel. Sion Buaron was sentenced to six years and was released in January 1952 following an amnesty by King Idris, and left immediately for Israel. Scialom Fargion served his full three-year sentence until late 1951 and left immediately for Israel. All three were recognized by the state of Israel as “Prisoners of Zion” and Fargion even received a medal (‘Aleh – “Itur Lohame ha-Medinah”).

143. Report of 16 November 1948 – PRO, WO 230/129.

144. Extracts from the Monthly Political Intelligence Reports, Tripolitania – PRO, WO 230/130 (March 1949 – Jews); Annual report, Tripolitania, 1949 – PRO, FO 371/80864.

145. FO Administration of African Territories, Cairo, to R.W. Parkes, Publicity Section, British Embassy, Cairo, 20 May 1949 – PRO, WO 230/130.

146. Me’ir Vardi, Be-tzet Yisra’el mi-Luv (Jerusalem: Merkaz ha-Tarbut li-Yehude Luv, 1986), p. 47; Yahadut Luv, p. 276.

147. Ha-Tzofeh, 25 October 1949 (on members of B’nai Akiva during the ceremony of “Pidyon Peter Hamor”).

148. Report on the Jewish Community of Tripolitania, January 1949 (apparently by the World Jewish Congress) – CZA, file S20/555. (In early 1949, Jewish peddlers of Tarhuna and Kusabat [Mislata] did not travel to Arab encampments to sell their wares following the murder of one of their number by Arabs a year before); Ha-Tzofeh, 18 November 1949 (Peddlers in the Gharian area were afraid to go to the villages and farmers were afraid to go to their fields); Ha-Tzofeh, 21 November 1949 (Two peddlers who left Khoms in mid-1949 were later found murdered near an Arab village); Ha-Tzofeh, 22 November 1949 (A peddler who left Misurata in August 1949 was found murdered in a pit. It turned out that he was killed by members of the family he had visited and done business with, and they were sentenced to periods of imprisonment).

149. On the transfer of the Jews from the countryside to Tripoli, see Yahadut Luv, pp. 309-310, 320-321. On small scale disturbances, see Tripoli Telegraph, 2 October 1949 (seen at the archives of JDC Geneva, Box 10C, C-56.506, located in Jerusalem): a Tripoli coffee house quarrel between Jews and Arabs which developed into a fracas, but put under control following swift police intervention. On deterioration of security in the Zuara region, see Ha-Tzofeh, 18 November 1949.

150. Ha-Tzofeh, 18 November 1949 (on meetings in the Gharian area).

151. Ha-Tzofeh, 21 November 1949.

152. Ha-Tzofeh, 22 November 1949.

153. Ha-Tzofeh, 21 November 1949.

154. De Felice, p. 388, n. 8.

155. Yahadut Luv, pp. 277, 312; Ha-Tzofeh, 13 November 1949; The British Legation in Libya, Tripoli to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, London and J.E. Chadwick, British Legation, Tel-Aviv to M.S. Comay, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tel-Aviv, 3 January 1952 – PRO, FO 371/97329 on discussions regarding remaining Jewish prisoners in Libya.

156. Middle East Record, 1967, p. 308; Avigdor Raccah, ed., Mi-Galut ‘Atiqah le-Yisra’el ha-Mithadeshet: Sipurah shel Yahadut Luv (Tel Aviv: Hit’ahadut ve-Irgun ‘Ole Luv be-Yisra’el, 1983), pp. 45-46 who describes some incidents; De Felice, pp. 274-279; Haggiag-Liluf, pp. 212-213.