Haggiag Family

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Prominent North African Jewish family.

The Haggiag family name has several probable origins. According to Mordechai Ha-Cohen, the family originated in Oran, Algeria. In 1555, the family fled to Gharian in south Tripolitania. Others claim the family to be of Berber origin, cave dwellers who inhabited the area of Jabal Nafusa and Gharian. The name may have derived from their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias, hence the Arabic haj, plural hujjaj, related to hajjaj or haggiag, meaning pilgrims. Once the Haggiag settled on the coast of Tripoli, they maintained the name as it is but added surnames, such as Pagani and Liluf: One finds, for example, Isacco and David Haggiag Liluf and Abramo Haggiag Pagani.

Hmani (Rahmin) Haggiag was head of the Jewish community of Gharian in 1837 and was a physician. Better known was Rabbi Khalifa Haggiag (died c. 1915). He presided over the Jewish community of Gharian in 1880, served as its spiritual leader, and was a poet and physician-surgeon. He is known to have written poems that appeared in the books of Nahum Slouschz.

Another branch may have come from Tunisia, where they lived as subjects of the bey of Tunis and held French citizenship. Notable were Rabbi Nessim and his son Simeone (born 1882). After the Italian occupation, Simeone's life became intertwined with the destiny of the Jewish community and the economic development of Tripoli. He acquired his education at the Italian school of the Franciscans, in addition to his Jewish studies. He went to the Italian advanced business school and upon graduation joined the company Vadala, which specialized in import/export and banking. He remained until 1911, when the company liquidated assets in Libya.

Simeone assumed the presidency of the Jewish community of Tripoli in the by-elections of 1924, replacing Halfallah Nahum. He was by then a prominent private banker. His tenure lasted until 1926, when disagreements among the council members brought about his resignation. He was then appointed by Italian authorities as commissioner; when in 1929 elections were called and the Haggiags' faction was defeated amid irregularities of voting procedure, the community grew tense and incidents erupted. This led the governor of Libya, Pietro Badoglio, to appoint a non-Jewish Italian, Dr. Alberto Monastero, as administrator of the community in 1929. Until 1938, the eve of World War II, the community was left leaderless.

See also nahum, halfallah.


Arbib, Lillo. "Unedited Studies of Surnames of Jews in Libya." Courtesy of the author, Tel Aviv, 1991.

De Felice, Renzo. Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 18351970, translated by Judith Roumani. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.

Ha-Cohen, Mordechai. The Book of Mordechai: A Study of the Jews of Libya, edited and translated by Harvey E. Goldberg. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1980.

Roumani, Maurice M. "Zionism and Social Change in Libya at the Turn of the Century." Studies in Zionism 8, no. 1 (1987).

maurice m. roumani