The last Jews of Lebanon

June 8, 2009 03:33


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The Lebanese Jewish community, once a vibrant and active group, has largely left the country in the wake of various bouts of Arab-Israeli and internal Lebanese fighting over the past 60 years. It now numbers just a few dozen members, largely huddled around the decrepit Maghen Avraham Synagogue in Beirut's formerly Jewish Wadi Abu Jamil area. During the 1950s and 1960s, the community numbered between 17,000 to 22,000 people, and boasted 17 synagogues, a plethora of communal institutions and even Zionist movements. The Jews were politically and socially active, and most were highly educated. Though the community remained largely intact after 1948, when many other Muslim-world Jewish communities were being expelled, it soon succumbed to the pressures of Lebanon's internal dissolution. The first large emigration came during the first Lebanese civil war in 1958, followed by additional waves after the Six Day War. The final death-knell to the community was sounded during in the 1975-1990 civil war. By the time the IDF invaded the country in 1982, perhaps 1,000 Jews remained in the country, a figure that continued to drop as more and more left for the US, Canada, Brazil, Italy and elsewhere.

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