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

(Joyce) #1

188 · Rachel Simon

schools were afraid to demonstrate Hebrew identity and Zionism. As a
result, the Benghazi Hebrew School decided that pictures and maps with
Zionist connotations should be removed from the walls, the “Blue Box”
for the collection of donations to the Jewish National Fund disappeared,
and teachers forbade the students to sing Hebrew songs in the street. The
Arab teachers, who taught Arabic in the Hebrew schools, felt they were
setting the tone, and the Jews hesitated to respond to it.^45
Already in 1943, Libyan patriotism started to have implications on the
behavior of Libyan Jews. On Fridays and Muslim holidays, national flags
were raised in Benghazi on all shops, Arab and Jewish alike. The Jews
were afraid to raise Zionist flags or do anything that could be viewed as
separating them from the Muslim majority.^46 If one could interpret the
raising of local flags and the avoidance of Hebrew and Zionist manifes-
tations as a wish not to annoy the Muslims, this is not the case with the
clear support of the Jewish communal council of Tripoli—and especially
of its president, Zachino Habib—for the establishment of an indepen-
dent Libyan state.^47 In early 1946 Habib initiated Jewish support for the
“United Libyan Front,” which called for the unity and independence of
all Libyan provinces. Ex post facto it was realized that this move had
brought a temporary easing of the tension between Arabs and Jews. The
readiness of the official representatives of the Jewish community to ac-
cept the Arab demands for Libyan independence was manifested also
during the meetings of this leadership with the UN delegation of the
committee of inquiry which was sent to Libya. The representatives of
the Tripoli community stated in March 1948 that the community sup-
ported an independent Arab state in Libya.^48 The six representatives of
the Benghazi community stated on 30 April 1948 that the community
supported Libyan independence and keeping contact with the National
Arab Congress and emphasized their good relations with the Arabs.^49
These positions, though, did not represent the views of the majority of
the community, most of which wanted the return of the Italian regime.
But due to the feeling of increased insecurity, many preferred to leave
Libya immediately and permanently.
There was much nervousness in late 1947 in the Jewish community
due to the growing anti-Jewish atmosphere. Although there were no clear
signs of an organized movement against the Jews, the masses tended to
frighten them. In October 1947 announcements were distributed in Beng-
hazi, calling for the establishment of a conscription center for volunteers

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