The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Jewish-Muslim Relations in Libya · 181

the additional reminder of June 1948, coupled with the overall feeling of
insecurity due to the frequent attacks on Jewish peddlers and young Jew-
ish women, brought numerous Jews to the conclusion that they were not
safe under the BMA, not to mention an independent Libyan state under
Arab Muslim rule. The 1945 riots were a turning point in Jewish-Muslim
relations in Libya following which the Jews no longer regarded Libya as
their homeland, and many tried to leave clandestinely: some 2,500 Jews
left illegally before 1949.^26
Following the British recognition of the state of Israel in February
1949, Britain allowed free Jewish emigration from Libya to Israel.^27 Once
the news reached Libya, indigenous Jews started to organize mass Jew-
ish emigration. Within a very short period of time, Jewish emigration
from Libya was openly directed in Tripoli by officials of the Israeli Min-
istry of Aliyah (immigration), emissaries of the Jewish Agency and the
American Joint Distribution Board, working with numerous local Jew-
ish volunteers. Due to the atmosphere of insecurity in the hinterland,
the emigration officials decided to evacuate all the Jewish inhabitants
of the Tripolitanian and Cyrenaican hinterland. Consequently, within a
few months, thousands of Jewish evacuees moved willingly to Tripoli, in
preparation for emigration to Israel. Only a few hundred Jews remained
in Benghazi—all the rest of the centuries-old Jewish community of the
hinterland of Libya had willingly contributed to its peaceful liquidation.
Rural Muslims occasionally voiced their reservations and sorrow regard-
ing the departure of the Jews and at times had even put pressure and
economic boycott on the remaining Jews.^28 In some cases, the Muslims
stopped to trade with Jews and employ them. Furthermore, many Jews
had found it difficult to find buyers for their real estate properties even
when they were ready to sell them much below their market value. On
the other hand, some Muslims reminisced on the “good old days” while
others warned the Jews of the difficulties awaiting them in Israel. In some
villages, the Muslim population organized a farewell ceremony, in which
they tried to persuade the Jews to remain. During the legal, free, and di-
rect emigration operation (1949–51), over 31,000 Jews emigrated to Israel
in a well-organized fashion in Israeli ships and through Europe. Only
6,000 Jews remained in Libya, mainly in Tripoli with a few hundred in
Benghazi: some remained due to the enormous property they owned that
they could not take with them, while others stayed due to old age and

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