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Raccah, Masʿūd Ḥayy b. Aaron

(405 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
In the eighteenth century, under the Karamanli dynasty (1711–1835), the Community Council of Tripolitania consisted not only of a president and notables but also of rabbis and scholars. The latter were responsible for the education of the children and for the rabbinical court (Heb. bet din). The Tripolitanian community often looked to Palestine for teachers and rabbinic leadership, and …

World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC)

(616 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) was an umbrella body founded in 1975 by the leaders of organizations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and overseas. It was headed by  Mordechai Ben-Porat, an Israeli cabinet minister of Iraqi origin, and other Sephardi leaders. In the early to mid-1970s, Israel witnessed a proliferation of organizations of Jewish immigrants from Arab and Islamic countries demanding proportionate representation in public and governmental institutions. Around this time, the  World Zionist Organization (WZO)established a departm…

Associazione Concordia e Progresso

(431 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
The Associazione Concordia e Progresso (Association of Unity and Progress) represented the older, established leadership of the Community Council of Tripoli immediately before and after the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911. It was challenged by a newly founded organization of young Zionists, Circolo Sion, soon after the Italian occupation. The  rift between the two factions, which degenerated into a crisis and paralyzed the Jewish community for almost a decade, was due to fundamental disagreements about the future of Libyan Jewry. The older o…


(492 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Yefrenis situated in the Jebel Nafusa mountains in the northwestern region of Tripolitania in Libya. Its name comes from the same Berber root ( afri, ifri; cave, grotto) as the town in Morocco called Ifrane and the name Africa itself. According to one tradition, the Jewish presence in Yefren was the oldest in Tripolitania, because in 70 c.e., after the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of the First Revolt, one of Titus’s generals sold thirty thousand Jewish captives to Bedouins in Yefren. Mordechai ha-Kohen (1856–1929), the chronicler of  Libyan Jewry, claimed that the J…

Nahum, Halfallah

(552 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Halfallah Nahum was born in 1879 into a prominent and well-to-do Jewish family in Tripoli, Libya. He received his primary and advanced technical-business education in Ital…


(3,383 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Under the official name of Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Libya is an Islamic state in North Africa bordering Egypt to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Algeria and Tunisia to the west, and Sudan and Chad to the south. With an area of 1,759,540 square kilometers (694,984 square miles), 90 percent of which is desert, Libya is the fourth-largest country in Africa. Its population is about 5,700,000, mostly concentrated in the northern coastal region, and almo…

Tesciuba, Renato

(541 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Born in the Libyan city of Benghazi, Renato Tesciuba (1894–1976) founded the Herzl Association in 1919 and became its first president. He resigned in 1921, dismayed by the poor membership turnout for an election, but continued thereafter to be affiliated with the association as its honorary president. In 1926, Tesciuba became a member of the Community Council of B…


(606 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Gharian is a town in northwestern Libya about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Tripoli in the Nafusa Mountains. It is considered to constitute a single unit with the nearby towns of  Tighrinna and Banu Abbas. All three towns had Jewish inhabitants, but most of them lived in Tighrinna, just south of Gharian, which was referred to variously as ḥārat al-yahūd (the Jewish Quarter) and arḍ al-yahūd (Jewish Land). Gharian town had the smallest Jewish population of the three settlements. According to the 1944 census there were ninety Jews in Gharian, 343 in Tighrinn…


(1,660 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Benghazi (Ar. Bin-Ghāzī), the largest city in the Libyan province of Cyrenaica, is located on the northeastern side of the Gulf of Sirte and served as a bridge between the Maghreb and the Mashreq. Cyrenaica, and Benghazi in particular, belongs culturally more to the Islamic East than to the Islamic West, and thus is differentiated from Tripolitania and Tripoli.…

Arbib, Lillo

(687 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Lillo Arbib was born in Tripoli on April 14, 1911. His father, Simon Arbib, who was employed as first secretary in the Greek embassy in Tripoli, died in the cholera epi…

Romano, Joseph

(483 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Joseph Romano, born in Libya in 1940 (where the family name was Roumani before they emigrated to Israel in 1949), was a member of Israel’s national weightlifting team and the first athlete killed in the Arab terrorist attack on the team’s quarters at the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, at 4:10 a.m., September 5, 1972. He was one of the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches killed in the raid, the first being the wrestling coach, Moshe Weinberg. The attack was carried out by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September, whose members came from refugee ca…

Fellah, Raffaello

(594 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Raffaello Fellah was born in Tripoli in 1935. At the age of ten he lost his father, Moshe Fellah-Kish, who was murdered during the anti-Jewish riots of November 1945 (see Tripolitania Riots). Before long, and despite his youth, he began managing his father’s business and succeeded in expanding it. During the 1950s a…

Tripoli, Libya

(1,932 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
1.    General Description and History Tripoli (Ar. Ṭarāblus, Iṭrāblus), located on the  Mediterranean coast of North Africa, is the largest city of Libya. It has 1.5 million inhabitants and occupies an area of 400 square kilometers (154 square miles). In antiquity, the name Tripoli referred to the three-city polis of Sabratha, Oea, and Leptis Magna. Although it was founded by th…


(976 words)

Author(s): Francesco Spagnolo | Maurice Roumani
Over the course of the twentieth century, Jewish immigration to Italy from the Islamic world mainly followed the stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict, beginning with the Israeli War of Independence (1948). Some movement of Jewish families from North Africa and the Middle East to Italy took place earlier, however, at the time of the Italo-Turkish War, also known as the Libyan War (1911–1912), and especially after the First World War. These developments served to revive the ties between Italian Jewry and …