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Arbib, Lillo

(674 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Lillo Arbib was born in Tripoli on April 14, 1911. His father, Simon Arbib, who was employed as first secretary in the Greek embassy in Tripoli, died in the cholera epidemic of 1910 before Lillo was born.After elementary studies in the Italian school in Tripoli, Lillo continued his education in Italy, first in Florence and later in the Oriental Institute of Naples, where he studied Oriental civilizations and Semitics. Already demonstrating a talent for leadership, he was elected chairman of the Jewish Student Association.Upon his return to Tripoli in 1929, he became the secretary of Dr. Al…

Nahum, Halfallah

(539 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Halfallah Nahum was born in 1879 into a prominent and well-to-do Jewish family in Tripoli, Libya. He received his primary and advanced technical-business education in Italian schools in Tripoli and in Manchester, England, where his uncle resided.In 1917, after renouncing the Dutch citizenship held for generations by his family, Halfallah became a naturalized Italian citizen and was elected the first president of the Jewish community of Tripoli, which had been reconstituted under the Italian colonial administration. Soon after, his leadership and the Com…


(3,340 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Under the official name of Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Libya is an Islamic state in North Africa bordering Egypt to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Algeria and Tunisia to the west, and Sudan and Chad to the south. With an area of 1,759,540 square kilometers (694,984 square miles), 90 percent of which is desert, Libya is the fourth-largest country in Africa. Its population is about 5,700,000, mostly concentrated in the northern coastal region, and almost three-quarters liv…

Tesciuba, Renato

(531 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Born in the Libyan city of Benghazi, Renato Tesciuba (1894–1976) founded the Herzl Association in 1919 and became its first president. He resigned in 1921, dismayed by the poor membership turnout for an election, but continued thereafter to be affiliated with the association as its honorary president. In 1926, Tesciuba became a member of the Community Council of Benghazi, then headed by Elia Fargion. He was elected vice-president of the council in 1929 and was put in charge of its charity portfolio. When Fargion resigned in 1935 because the Italian …

Associazione Concordia e Progresso

(420 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
The Associazione Concordia e Progresso (Association of Unity and Progress) represented the older, established leadership of the Community Council of Tripoli immediately before and after the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911. It was challenged by a newly founded organization of young Zionists, Circolo Sion, soon after the Italian occupation.The rift between the two factions, which degenerated into a crisis and paralyzed the Jewish community for almost a decade, was due to fundamental disagreements about the future of Libyan Jewry. The older o…

World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC)

(604 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) was an umbrella body founded in 1975 by the leaders of organizations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and overseas. It was headed by Mordechai Ben-Porat, an Israeli cabinet minister of Iraqi origin, and other Sephardi leaders.In the early to mid-1970s, Israel witnessed a proliferation of organizations of Jewish immigrants from Arab and Islamic countries demanding proportionate representation in public and governmental institutions. Around this time, the World Zionist Organization (WZO)established a departm…

Fellah, Raffaello

(582 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Raffaello Fellah was born in Tripoli in 1935. At the age of ten he lost his father, Moshe Fellah-Kish, who was murdered during the anti-Jewish riots of November 1945 (see Tripolitania Riots). Before long, and despite his youth, he began managing his father’s business and succeeded in expanding it. During the 1950s and the early 1960s, his business activities included state projects financed by King Idris and the Libyan government.In 1967, when Libya’s remaining Jews were expelled in connection with the Six-Day War, Raffaello Fellah went to Italy, as did many othe…

Circolo Sion (Tripoli)

(390 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Circolo Sion (Zion Circle) was established in Tripoli, Libya, in 1916, five years after the beginning of the Italian occupation, by Elia Nhaisi, a professional photographer and a correspondent for the Florence Jewish weekly newspaper Israel.  Its seventy founders drew up a statute of twenty articles which supported the Basle Program and requested that members donate the shekel for the Jewish National Fund in Palestine in addition paying to membership dues.  More important, Circolo Sion also advocated reforms in Jewish education and in the rabbinate: Jewish education was to espo…

Raccah, Masʿūd Ḥayy b. Aaron

(396 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
In the eighteenth century, under the Karamanli dynasty (1711–1835), the Community Council of Tripolitania consisted not only of a president and notables but also of rabbis and scholars. The latter were responsible for the education of the children and for the rabbinical court (Heb. bet din). The Tripolitanian community often looked to Palestine for teachers and rabbinic leadership, and that is how Rabbi Masʿūd Ḥayy ben Aaron Raccah came to settle in Tripoli. Born in Izmir, Turkey, in 1690, he studied under Ḥayyim ben Moses Abulafia and Isaac ben Judah ha-Ko…

Romano, Joseph

(474 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Joseph Romano, born in Libya in 1940 (where the family name was Roumani before they emigrated to Israel in 1949), was a member of Israel’s national weightlifting team and the first athlete killed in the Arab terrorist attack on the team’s quarters at the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, at 4:10 a.m., September 5, 1972. He was one of the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches killed in the raid, the first being the wrestling coach, Moshe Weinberg.The attack was carried out by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September, whose members came from refugee camps in Lebanon a…


(1,633 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Benghazi (Ar. Bin-Ghāzī), the largest city in the Libyan province of Cyrenaica, is located on the northeastern side of the Gulf of Sirte and served as a bridge between the Maghreb and the Mashreq. Cyrenaica, and Benghazi in particular, belongs culturally more to the Islamic East than to the Islamic West, and thus is differentiated from Tripolitania and Tripoli.1. Jewish Settlements in AntiquityCyrenaica (Cyrene) was founded by the Greeks in the seventh century B.C.E. The area later became known as the Pentapolis after its five cities, which included Bereni…

Tripoli, Libya

(1,906 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
1.    General Description and HistoryTripoli (Ar. Ṭarāblus, Iṭrāblus), located on the  Mediterranean coast of North Africa, is the largest city of Libya. It has 1.5 million inhabitants and occupies an area of 400 square kilometers (154 square miles).In antiquity, the name Tripoli referred to the three-city polis of Sabratha, Oea, and Leptis Magna. Although it was founded by the Phoenicians in the sixth century B.C.E., the name Tripoli does not appear in the annals of Rome until the third century C.E. In the year 643, Muslim armies …


(595 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Gharian is a town in northwestern Libya about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Tripoli in the Nafusa Mountains. It is considered to constitute a single unit with the nearby towns of Tighrinna and Banu Abbas. All three towns had Jewish inhabitants, but most of them lived in Tighrinna, just south of Gharian, which was referred to variously as ḥārat al-yahūd (the Jewish Quarter) and arḍ al-yahūd (Jewish Land). Gharian town had the smallest Jewish population of the three settlements. According to the 1944 census there were ninety Jews in Gharian, 343 in Tighrinn…


(479 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Yefrenis situated in the Jebel Nafusa mountains in the northwestern region of Tripolitania in Libya. Its name comes from the same Berber root ( afri, ifri; cave, grotto) as the town in Morocco called Ifrane and the name Africa itself.According to one tradition, the Jewish presence in Yefren was the oldest in Tripolitania, because in 70 c.e., after the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of the First Revolt, one of Titus’s generals sold thirty thousand Jewish captives to Bedouins in Yefren. Mordechai ha-Kohen (1856–1929), the chronicler of  Libyan Jewry, claimed that the J…


(964 words)

Author(s): Francesco Spagnolo | Maurice Roumani
Over the course of the twentieth century, Jewish immigration to Italy from the Islamic world mainly followed the stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict, beginning with the Israeli War of Independence (1948). Some movement of Jewish families from North Africa and the Middle East to Italy took place earlier, however, at the time of the Italo-Turkish War, also known as the Libyan War (1911–1912), and especially after the First World War. These developments served to revive the ties between Italian Jewry and …