Jews came to Bahrain from Iraq, Iran, and India in The Late 19th Century and became active in commerce and handicrafts. In 1947, there were Anti-Semitic disturbances in which one Jew was killed and several injured. Religious services are conducted on holidays in a private home, and there is one Jewish cemetary.
Jews have lived in Lebanon since ancient times. According to tradition, King Herod had a temple constructed in the city of Tyre for his Jewish subjects living there and also supported the Jewish community in Beirut. The community grew, and by The 6th Century, synagogues had been built in both Beirut and Tripoli. In The Late 18th and 19th Centuries, Jews mainly settled in villages in Lebanon. Most Jewish communities were interspersed with those of The Druze.
During the first half of The 20th Century, the community expanded tremendously due to immigration from Greece and Turkey, and later from Syria and Iraq. This continued immigration resulted from Lebanon's fairly tolerant attitude. Lebanon granted residency permits and sometimes even Lebanese citizenship to Jews fleeing persecution in Syria. Nevertheless, there were incidents of rioting and incitement around the time of the establishment of The State of Israel. Only after The Six Day War and the outbreak of the civil war of 1976 did Jews feel compelled to emigrate in masses. Since then, the political climate has radicalized, and the remaining Jews are left in a tenuous and vulnerable position.
Nearly all of the remaining Jews are in Beirut. Because of the current political situation, Jews are unable to openly practice Judaism. There is a committee in Beirut that represents the community. Before 1976, there were two schools and two synagogues in Beirut, and a school in Sidon.
The Jews of Yemen trace their origins back to Biblical times, and the first recorded reference to Yemenite Jews appears in The 3rd Century C.E.. The community probably arose from the settlement of Jewish traders and merchants and from the arrival of Jewish forces with the Roman troops just before The Common Era.
Jewish planters and aritisans helped to bring wealth and prosperity to the land. In The 5th Century C.E., The King of Yemen converted to Judaism. The Jewish kingdom of Yemen flourished. In 525 C.E., the Jewish kingdom was destroyed by The Byzantines and The Abyssinians. Many Jews left Yemen, but a sizable Jewish community remained there. In 575, Yemen became part of The Persian Empire. The Jewish community never regained its former splendor.
Often there was bitter poverty and persecution. In spite of the hardships, The Yemenite Jews held strong to their beliefs and preserved their skills. Restrictions continued to be enforced in The 19th Century. These included laws forbidding Jews from riding animals, wearing bright colors, or building houses above a certain height. On the social ladder, Jews occupied the lowest rung as the only Non-Muslims in the country.
Due to the worsening conditions, successive waves of Jews began fleeing Yemen in 1882, mainly to The Land of Israel. Despite the fact that the Yemenite ruler, Imam Yahya, forbade emigration to Palestine in 1929, one third of the Jewish population, or approximately 16,000, made aliyah between 1919 and 1948. In 1948 Yahya's son and successor eased the ban on emigration and thus allowed for the massive airlift of Jews to Israel.
After intense rioting in which 100 Jews were killed in 1947, and continued persecution, most of the community of South Yemen also emigrated, many settling in Israel. The remaining members of the South Yemen community were evacuated to Israel and to The United Kingdom in June, 1967, as a result of rioting that followed The Six Day War.
The remaining community is concentrated in Northern Yemen. It is comprised of The Yahoud Al-Maghrib (Western Jews) and The Yahoud Al-Mashrag (Eastern Jews). These Jews mostly live in villages in the vicinity of Saada, which is located in Sa'ata Province, close to the Saudi Arabian border. The community is extremely insular.
The small community that remains in the Northern area of Yemen is tolerated and is able to practice Judaism. Its members are still treated as second-class citizens and can't own land, serve in the army, or be elected to political positions. Most work as artisans and small traders. During the past few years, about 400 Jews have also emigrated to Israel, despite the official ban on emigration.
The Jews are scattered and a communal structure no longer exists. Yemenite Jews have little social interaction with their Muslim neighbors and are largely prevented from communicating with World Jewry. It is believed that there are two synagogues still functioning in Saiqaya and in Amlah.
Religious life has not changed much in the past few centuries. Jews continue to maintain strict observance of Jewish tradition. To ensure that they adhere to the laws of kashrut, Jews are not allowed to eat meals with Muslims. Also, intermarriage is absolutely forbidden.
Since 1948, 52,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel from Yemen (including Aden), 48,315 of them between 1948 and 1951.
The Jewish community of Libya traces its origin back to The 3rd Century B.C.E.. Under Roman rule, Jews prospered. In 73 C.E., a zealot from Israel, Jonathan The Weaver, incited the poor of the community in Cyrene to revolt. The Romans reacted with swift vengeance, murdering him and his followers and executing other wealthy Jews in the community. This revolt was followed by one in 115 C.E., which broke out not only in Cyrene, but in Egypt and Cyprus as well.
With the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911, the situation remained good and The Jews made great strides in education. At that time, there were about 21,000 Jews in the country, the majority in Tripoli. In The Late 1930's, Fascist Anti-Jewish laws were gradually enforced, and Jews were subject to terrible repression. Still, by 1941, The Jews accounted for a quarter of the population of Tripoli and maintained 44 synagogues. In 1942, The Germans occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundered shops, and deported more than 2,000 Jews across the desert, where more than one fifth of them perished. Many Jews from Tripoli were also sent to forced labor camps. Conditions did not greatly improve following the liberation. During the British occupation, there was a series of pogroms, the worst of which, in 1945, resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Jews in Tripoli and other towns and the destruction of 5 synagogues.
A growing sense of insecurity and the establishment of The State of Israel led many Jews to leave the country. Although emigration was illegal, more than 3,000 Jews succeeded in leaving, and many went to Israel. When The British legalized emigration in 1949, more than 30,000 Jews fled Libya. Since 1948, 36,730 Libyan Jews have emigrated to Israel, 30,972 between 1948 and 1951.
At the time of Muamar Qaddafi's coup in 1969, some 500 Jews remained in Libya. Qaddafi confiscated all Jewish property and cancelled all debts owed to Jews. By 1974, there were no more than 20 Jews, and it is believed that the Jewish presence may have passed out of existence.
The Iraqi Jewish Community is one of the oldest in The World. It has a great history of learning and scholarship. Abraham, the first Jew and the father of The Jewish People, was born in Ur of The Chaldees, in Southern Iraq, around 2000 B.C.E.. The community traces its history back to The 6th Century B.C.E., when Nebuchadnezzar and The Babylonians, conquered The Kingdom of Judah, destroyed The First Temple, and sent most of the population into exile in Babylonia.
The community maintained strong ties with The Land of Israel. With the aid of rabbis from Israel, the community succeeded in establishing many prominent rabbinical academies. By The 3rd Century C.E., Babylonia became the center of Jewish scholarship. The community's most influential creation is The Babylonian Talmud.
Under Muslim rule, beginning in The 7th Century, the situation of the community fluctuated. Many Jews held high positions in government or prospered in commerce and trade. At the same time, Jews were subjected to special taxes, restrictions on their professional activity, and Anti-Jewish incitement among the masses.
The Baghdad Jewish Community was founded in The Mid 8th Century and it was the seat of The Exilarch (Resh Galutah) from The 9th Century to The 11th Century. During The Gaonate, The Jews lived in a special quarter called Dar Al-Yahud and "The Jewish Bridge" connected them to the rest of the city. The yeshivot of Sura and Pumbedita were established in Baghdad at the end of The 9th Century. The city played an important role in The Karaite Movement.
In The 12th Century, the community reached its peak and Benjamin of Tudela reported that it numbered approximately 40,000 Jews, 28 synagogues, and 10 yeshivot. Jews were active in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, goldsmelting, and trade. Under Mongol rule (1258-1335) the physician Sa'd Al-Dawla was appointed as director of the financial administration of Iraq, and Chief Vizier of The Mongol Empire. After the death of The Sultan in 1291, he was executed on the pretense of not having given The Sultan the appropriate medical attention.
After the conquerors changed their religion to Islam at the start of The 14th Century, they renewed all the decrees and heavy taxes which applied to all "unbelievers". With the conquest of Baghdad by Tamerlane in 1393, many Jews fled to Kurdistan and Syria and Baghdad remained almost without Jews until the end of The 15th Century.
During the first part of Ottoman rule (1534-1623) there was an improvement in The Jews' situation. There were 250 Jewish houses in the city, of a total of 25,000 houses. From 1623 to 1638, Baghdad was under Persian rule and The Jews were greatly relieved when Baghdad was once again conquered by Sultan Murad IV. 16 Tevet, 5399, the day of the conquest, was fixed as "yom nes" (A day of miracle.).
During the second half of The 18th Century to the beginning of The 19th Century, Turkish rule deteriorated and the attitude to The Jews became harsh. Many wealthy members of the community fled to Persia and other countries, among them David Ben Sasson, who moved his business to India. At that time 6,000 Jewish families were resident in Baghdad led by a Pasha known as "King of The Jews". With the opening of The Suez Canal in 1869, the situation of the city's 20,000 Jews improved - along with the general economic situation - and many Jews from other localities settled there. In 1884 there were 30,000 Jews in Baghdad and by the beginning of The 20th Century there were 50,000. The greatest of the Baghdad rabbis, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Ben Eliyahu Mazal Tov (1834-1909), never accepted public financial assistance. His name is famous in The Jewish World, especially among the Baghdad version (of prayer book) communities in Israel, England, India, Singapore, Manila, etc....
Until the British occupation of World War I, The Jews suffered from extortion and the cruelty of the local authorities. Many young men were recruited into the army service to serve in the murderous forces in The Caucasus Mountains. Under British rule, which began with the British entry to Baghdad on February 3, 1917, fixed as Yom Nes 17 Adar, there began a period of freedom for the Jews of Baghdad and many of them were employed in the civil service. Jews fared well economically, and many were elected to government posts. This traditionally observant community was also allowed to establish Zionist organizations and to pursue Hebrew studies. All of this progress ended when Iraq gained independence in 1932. There was an increase in Anti-Semitism especially after the appearance of the German ambassador A. Grobbe in Baghdad in 1932. Jewish clerks were dismissed and in 1936 Jews were murdered and their institutions bombed. In the days of the Pro-Axis revolution of Rashid Ali Al-Kilani on June 1-2, 1941, riots against the Jews took place with the passive support of both the army and police. Between 120 and 180 people were killed and more than 800 wounded. The value of the looted property was estimated at 4,000,000. Thousands left the city and only returned when they heard that the situation had improved.
In 1945 there were frequent demonstrations against The Jews and especially against Zionism, and with the proclaimed partition of Palestine in 1947, The Jews were in danger of their lives. Many received harsh legal sentences and were forced to pay heavy fines. Although emigration was prohibited, many Jews made their way to Israel during this period with the aid of an underground movement. The number of Jews in Baghdad decreased from 100,000 to 77,000. With the establishment of Israel hundreds of young Jews were arrested on charges of Zionist activity and 2 Zionist leaders were publicly hanged in Baghdad. In 1950, The Iraqi Parliament finally legalized emigration to Israel, and between May, 1950 and August, 1951, The Jewish Agency and The Israeli Government succeeded in airlifting approximately 110,000 Jews to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah and Operation Magic Carpet. This figure includes 18,000 Kurdish Jews from the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq, who have many distinct traditions. Altogther, since 1948, 129,557 Iraqi Jews made aliyah to Israel, 123,371 of them between 1948 and 1951. Thus a community that had reached a peak of 150,000 in 1947 dwindled to a mere 6,000 after 1951.
Persecutions continued, especially after The Six Day War in 1967, when many of the remaining 3,000 Jews were arrested and dismissed from their jobs. On January 27, 1969, 9 Jews were hanged on charges of spying for Israel. In recent years Jews in Iraq were permitted to live in only two cities: Baghdad and Basra. They numbered about 500 in total. During Gulf War I in 1991, Baghdad had a small Jewish community of some 150. The only synagogue of Baghdad stood in the center of the city, surrounded by a wall. The synagogue committee was the only organization serving the community. Two members of Iraq's dwindling Jewish community were murdered in the synagogue by a Palestinian in October, 1998. Contacts with Jews in other countries were sporadic. After Gulf War II, Jewish Agency officials spent several weeks looking for Jews in Iraq, and found 34. Six of them made aliyah in July, 2003. 17 more made aliyah in August, 2003, thus that only 11 Jews remained in what was once, some 1,500 years ago, the Torah center of the The World.
Until Operation Ezra and Nehemiah there were 28 Jewish educational institutions in Baghdad, 16 under the supervision of the community committee and the rest privately run. The number of pupils reached 12,000 and many others learned in foreign and government schools. About 400 students studied medicine, law, economics, pharmacy, and engineering. In 1951 the Jewish school for the blind was closed. It was the only school of its type in Baghdad. The Jews of Baghdad had two hospitals in which the poor received free treatment, and several philanthropic services. Out of 60 synagogues in 1950, only 7 remained in 1960.
From the end of The Ottoman Period until 1931 there was a "General Council" of 80 members, among them 20 rabbis. A law was passed in early 1931 to permit non-rabbis to assume the leadership. Despite this, in 1933 Rabbi Sasson Kaduri was elected and in 1949, Ezekiel Shemtov succeeded him. Kaduri returned to his position in 1953. In December, 1951, the government abolished the rabbinical court in Baghdad.
During The 10th Century, there were 2 distinguished Jewish families in Baghdad, Netira and Aaron. At the end of The 10th Century, Rabbi Isaac Ben Moses Ibn Sakri of Spain was the Rosh Yeshiva. In The 12th Century, the exilarch Daniel Ben Chasdai was referred to by The Arabs as "Our Lord, The Son Of David". The Baghdad community reached the height of its prosperity during the term of office of Rosh Yeshiva Samuel Ben Ali HaLevi, an opponent of Rambam, who raised Torah study in Baghdad to a high level. Rabbi Eleazar Ben Jacob HaBavli and Rabbi Isaac Ben Israel were Rashei Yeshivot during The Late 12th Century through The Mid 13th Century. Notable personalities in The 18th Century and 19th Century included Abdullah Somekh who founded a rabbinical college called Beit Zilkha, Rabbi Sasson Ben Israel, Jacob Tzemach, Ezekiel Ben Reuben Menashe, Yosef Gurji, Eliezer Kaduri, and Menachem Daniel. Until 1849 the community of Baghdad was led by a president (Nasi), who was appointed by the vilayet governor, and who also acted as his banker. The most renowned of these leaders were Sasson Ben Rabbi Tzalach, the father of The Sasson Family, and Ezra Ben Yosef Gabbai.
The first Hebrew printing press in Baghdad was founded by Moses Baruch Mizrachi in 1863. Other printing presses were founded by Rabbi Ezra Reuben Dangur and Elisha Shochet. A Hebrew weekly, Yeshurun, of which only five issues were published, appeared in 1920. This was the last attempt at Hebrew journalism in Baghdad.
Prior to 1947, there were some 30,000 Jews made up of three distinct communities, each with its own traditions. The three distinct communities are the Kurdish speaking Jews of Kamishli, the Jews of Aleppo with roots in Spain, and the original Eastern Jews of Damascus, called Must'arab. The last Jews who wanted to leave Syria departed with The Chief Rabbi in October, 1994. Only a tiny remnant of these communities remains today. Since 1948, 10,250 Syrian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
The Jewish presence in Syria dates back to Biblical times and is intertwined with the history of Jews in neighboring Eretz Yisrael. With the advent of Christianity, restrictions were imposed on the community. The plot of The Jews was greatly improved however, by the Arab conquest in 636 C.E.. Unrest in neighboring Iraq in The 10th Century resulted in Jewish migration to Syria and brought about a boom in commerce, banking, and crafts. During the reign of The Fatimids, the Jew Menashe Ibrahim El-Kazzaz ran the Syrian administration, and he granted Jews positions in the government.
The infamous Damascus Blood Libel of 1840 was the first of its kind in the Muslim Arab world. The Jews were accused of killing a Catholic priest who had disappeared and of using his blood for the Passover matzot. Only foreign political intervention and international Jewish advocacy liberated the Jews arrested on the false accusation.
Syrian Jewry supported the aspirations of both the Arab nationalists and Zionism. Syrian Jews believed that the two parties could be reconciled and that the conflict in Palestine could be resolved. However, following Syrian independence from France in 1946, attacks against Jews and their property increased, culminating in the pogroms of 1947, which left all shops and synagogues in Aleppo in ruins. Thousands of Jews fled the country, and their homes and property were taken over by the local Muslims.
For the next decades Syrian Jews were hostages of a hostile regime. They could leave Syria only on the condition that they leave members of their family behind. Thus the community lived under siege, constantly under fearful surveillance of the secret police. The conditions of The Jews somewhat improved due to an international effort to secure the human rights of The Jews, the changing World order, and the Syrian need for Western support.
Prior to the initiation of The Middle East Peace Process, The Syrian Jewish Community was deprived of many basic human and civil rights. Those who attempted to flee across the borders illegally were usually caught, arrested, and cruelly tortured in the dungeons of the secret police. The plight of Syrian Jewry became an international human rights issue in The Mid 1970's. The United States, Canada, and France played leading roles in the efforts to bring justice to the community. The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference was the turning point for The Jewish Community. American and Israeli pressure succeeded in convincing The Syrian government to declare that Jews could leave freely.
Despite the small gestures towards Syrian Jewry, ever since 1948, Syria has continuously led extreme Arab opposition to the existence of The State of Israel. Syria promotes and supports terrorist organizations concentrated in Lebanon, as well as Palestinian terrorist organizations. Syria has commited war crime attrocities against Israel and has compared Israel to The Nazis. Syria is still listed by The United States State Department as a terrorist sponsoring country.
Syria is home to The Yoav Ben Zeruiah Synagogue of Aleppo, also known as The Yellow Synagogue, which has a history spanning 1,500 years. The synagogue was built on the site of the holy cave of Elijah The Prophet and it is one of the few synagogues that has seven arks and a permanent outdoor bima (Called a tevah.) that was used for prayers in the courtyard. Although the synagogue was built by The Musta'arab Jews, when the refugees from Spain joined the community in The 16th Century, a separate, adjacent wing was constructed. Over the years, as the two communities integrated, the wings were combined. In the pogrom of 1947, the interior of the synagogue was severely damaged by fire. In The Mid 1970's, the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, was permitted to fund its restoration. However, in The Mid 1980's, as the community dwindled, the synagogue was closed down, and it remains locked to the present day.
Syria was home to The Aleppo Codex which is called Keter Aram Zobah in Hebrew. It is the earliest known manuscript comprising the full text of The Bible. The text was then verified and vocalized by Aharon Ben Asher. According to tradition, this was the manuscript consulted by Rambam when he set down the exact rules for writing Torah scrolls. According to recent research, it might very well be that he sanctified and codified everything he found in the Aleppo Codex. The Codex was copied by the scribe Shlomo Ben Buya'a in The Land of Israel over 1,000 years ago. Soon after, it was moved to Egypt and was finally deposited with The Aleppo Community at the end of The 14th Century. The Codex was kept in a vault in The Cave of Elijah, under The Yellow Synagogue of Aleppo, and closely guarded as the talisman of the community for over 600 years. When the synagogue was put to the torch in 1947, The Codex was saved and hidden for 10 years. In 1957, it was entrusted to Mordechai Faham who smuggled the remains out of Syria. In 1958, it was brought to Jerusalem and was presented to President Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi. Today it is housed in The Ben-Tzvi Institute. Of the original 487 leaves of The Codex, only about 295 remain. They are a priceless heirloom of The Jewish People. Probably it is the most authoritative, accurate, and sacred source document, both for the Biblical text and for its vocalization and cantillation. It has greater religious and scholarly import than any other manuscript of The Bible.
There has been a virtually continous Jewish presence in the vicinity of Cairo for more than 2,000 years. An even more ancient Jewish presence in Egypt is recounted in The Bible. After the Biblical Exodus from Egypt, Jews started coming back over the years, when many Jews in Eretz Yisrael who were not deported to Babylon sought shelter in Egypt, among them the prophet Jeremiah. More Jews arrived during the time of Alexander The Great and at that time, The Ben Ezra Synagogue was built. During this period, The Bible was translated into Greek for Egyptian Jews who spoke Greek.
In The 1st Century C.E., the Jewish presence declined but a renaisssance occured Rambam arrived in Egypt in The 12th Century. He wrote most of his books in Cairo and his yeshiva still exists in The Jewish Quarter. From then on, The Jewish Community expanded and florished.
Over the years, refugees from pogroms arrived in Egypt. By 1897, there were more than 25,000 Jews in Egypt, concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria. More refugees arrived during World War I. In 1937, the population reached 63,500. Refugees again arrived during World War II. In 1945, with the rise of Egyptian nationalism and the cultivation of Anti-Western and Anti-Jewish sentiment, riots erupted. In the violence, 10 Jews were killed, 350 injured, and a synagogue, a Jewish hospital, and an old-age home were burned down. Before 1948, there were about 70,000 Jews in Egypt. The establishment of The State of Israel led to still further Anti-Jewish feeling. 2,000 Jews were arrested and many had their property confiscated. Rioting over the next few months resulted in many more Jewish deaths. Under these circumstances, most Egyptian Jews fled the country, and the majority settled in Israel. In the wake of The Sinai Campaign, a war that again resulted in rioting and the arrest of Jews, the community declined considerably. By 1957 it had fallen to 15,000. In 1967, after The Six Day War, there was a renewed wave of persecution, and the community dropped to 2,500. Both wars encouraged Jewish emigration. By The 1970's, after the remaining Jews were given permission to leave the country, the community dwindled to a few families. Jewish rights were finally restored in 1979 after President Anwar el-Sadat signed The Camp David Accords with Israel. Only then was the community allowed to establish ties with Israel and World Jewry.
Today, the majority of Jews reside in Cairo, but there are still a handful in Alexandria. In addition there are about 15 Karaites in the community. Nearly all the Jews are elderly, and the community is on the verge of extinction. The community is small but the Jewish herriatge, mostly synagogues classified as antiquities, represent an inestimable treasure worth visiting. The 800 year old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, the site of the famous Cairo Genizah, has been restored to its former grandeur. Shaar Hashamayim is the only functioning synagogue in Cairo. Of the many synagogues in Alexandria, only The Eliyahu Nanavi Synagogue is open for worship.
Since the signing of the peace treaty in 1979, Israel and Egypt have maintained diplomatic relations with an Israeli embassy in Cairo and a consulate general in Alexandria. Since 1948, 37,518 Egyptian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
The first documented evidence of Jews in Tunisia dates back to 200 C.E. and demonstrates the existence of a Jewish community in Carthage when it was under Roman rule. Carthage contained a significant Jewish presence, and several sages mentioned in the Talmud lived in this area from The 2nd Century to The 4th Century. The community was successful and was left in peace.
During the Byzantine period, the condition of the community started to became bad. An edict issued by Justinian in 535 excluded Jews from public office, prohibited Jewish practice, and resulted in the transformation of synagogues into churches. Many fled to the Berber communities in the mountains and in the desert. After the Arab conquest of Tunisia in The 7th Century, Jews lived under satisfactory conditions, despite discriminatory measures such as a poll tax. This was when "the golden age" of Tunisian Jewry occured. There was prosperity and many centers of learning were established.
Conditions worsened during the Spanish invasions of 1535-1574, resulting in the flight of Jews from the coastal areas. The situation of the community improved once more under Ottoman rule. During this period, the community also split due to strong cultural differences between The Touransa (Native Tunisians.) and The Grana (Those adhering to Spanish or Italian customs.). Improvements in the condition of the community occurred during the reign of Ahmed Bey, which began in 1837. He and his successors implemented liberal legislation, and a large number of Jews rose to positions of political power during this reign.
Under French rule, Jews were gradually emancipated. However, beginning in November, 1940, when the country was ruled by the Vichy authorities, Jews were subject to Anti-Semitic laws. From November, 1942, until May, 1943, the country was occupied by German forces. During that time, the condition of the Jews deteriorated further, and many were deported to labor camps and had their property seized.
Jews suffered once more in 1956, with Tunisian independence. The rabbinical tribunal was abolished in 1957, and a year later, Jewish community councils were dissolved. In addition, The Jewish Quarter of Tunis was destroyed by the government. Anti-Jewish rioting followed the outbreak of The Six Day War. Muslims burned The Great Synagogue of Tunis. While the community was compensated for the damage, these events increased the steady stream of emigration. Since 1948, 53,068 Jews from Tunisia have immigrated to Israel. Many Jews also immigrated to France. The community is still shrinking.
Today, the largest communities are in Tunis and on the island of Djerba (Hara Keriba and Hara Sghira). There are also approximately 200 Jews living in the Sousse-Monastir region on the Gulf of Mammamet. All together, there are about 2,000 Jews in Tunisia.
Each community is headed by a committe appointed by the government. The community also has two homes for the aged. There are officiating rabbis including The Chief Rabbi in Tunis, a rabbi in Djerba, and 4 others in Tunis and other communities. There are also several kosher restaurants. The majority of the community observes the laws of kashrut.
Many tourists come to visit Djerba's El Ghirba Synagogue in the village of Hara Sghira. Although the present structure was built in 1929, it is believed there has been a continuously used synagogue on the site for the past 1,900 years.
Tunisian Jews have many unique and colorful rituals and celebrations, including the annual pilgrimage to Djerba which takes place during Lag B'Omer. The Bardo Museum in Tunis contains an exhibit dealing exclusively with Jewish ritual objects.
Jews first settled in Algeria soon after the beginning of The Diaspora following the destruction of The Second Temple. Later, Jews escaping Visigothic Spain arrived.
In The 12th Century and 13th Century, Jews were forced to convert to Islam. More Jews came to Algeria from Spain during the time of The Spanish Inquisition in The 14th Century. Among them were a number of outstanding scholars, including The Ribash and The Rashbatz. After the French occupation of the country in 1830, Jews gradually adopted French culture and were granted French citizenship.
In The 20th Century, Algerian Jews suffered Anti-Semitism from both the local Muslim population and the the wartime Vichy government. The Anti-Jewish laws were slowly lifted after the Allied landings in 1942.
In The Late 1950's, there were some 130,000 Jews in Algeria, approximately 30,000 of whom lived in the capital. Nearly all Algerian Jews fled the country after the civil war which resulted in Algerian independence from France in 1962. Most of the community moved to France and some moved to Israel. Since 1948, a total of 25,681 Algerian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
Most of the remaining Jews live in Algiers, but there are individual Jews in Oran and Blida. A single synagogue functions in Algiers, although there is no resident rabbi. All other synagogues have been taken over for use as mosques.
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