Gunmen barred Libyan Jew David Gerbi from entering the old central synagogue in Tripoli two days after he announced his intention to renovate the dilapidated building, media reported on Monday.
"A man came and said, 'You need to stop now. There are men coming with guns and you will be killed,'" said Gerbi, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "I Love Libya" and holding a scroll inscribed with "Yahweh", the Hebrew word for God.
A companion of Gerbi's said four men armed with rifles had come to the synagogue as he tried to enter.
On Saturday Gerbi ceremoniously broke down a barrier at the entrance to the building with a sledgehammer announcing his intention to renovate the dilapidated Jewish house of worship. "I plan to restore the synagogue," the Jewish psychologist, who fled Libya with his parents to Italy when he was 12, emotionally said.
"I plan to get the passport back, I plan to resolve the problem of the confiscated property, individual and collective. I plan to help rebuild Libya, to do my part.”
Jews had lived in Libya for millennia until they were forced to leave by a series of porgoms and anti-Semitic legislation enacted by the government. Leaders of the Libyan Jewish diaspora have been in talks with Tripoli for years over the return of their rights and property.