views updated May 29 2018


TRIPOLI , port city of *Libya. Tripoli was built by the Phoenicians in the seventh century b.c.e. They called the town Wiat (Latin Oea). Together with its two neighbors, Sabratha and Leptis (Homs), the town was included in the Greek designation Tripolis (i.e., three towns); they all paid tribute to Carthage. There is little information available on the Jews of Tripoli during the Roman and Byzantine periods. A Roman road map from the fourth century indicates a Jewish locality named Scina (or Iscina) Locus Judaeorum Augusti ("Scina, locality of Jews belonging to the emperor") in the vicinity of Oea. They were probably captives. Converts from Libya are mentioned at the end of the fourth century (tj, Kil. 8:3). There was also a Jewish community in Oea during the fifth century.

The sources for the Arab period are also very scarce. During the second half of the 11th century, there was a bet din in Tripoli which was independent of the Palestinian one. The Jewish community suffered greatly under the rules of *Spain and the Knights of Malta (1510–51), but prospered again with the Ottoman conquest (1551) when many Jews from the small rural communities settled in Tripoli. It seems that at the end of the 16th century descendants of the Spanish Jews expelled from Christian Europe settled in Tripoli; during the 17th century they were joined by Jews from *Leghorn (Livorno, referred to as Gornim) most of whom were merchants of Sephardi origin. During the reign of the Turkish Qaramanlī dynasty (1711–1835), Tripoli became a haven for Jewish refugees from *Tunis (1756) and *Algiers (1805). Jews played an important role in the Trans-Saharan trade with Europe and the African continent, while others held diplomatic and consular positions. In 1705 and 1793 the Jews of Tripoli were saved from the danger of extermination by foreign invaders and two local Purim days were fixed to commemorate these events: Purim ash-Sharif on 23 Tevet and Purim Burgul on 29 Tevet, respectively.

In 1835, when Tripoli once more came under the direct rule of the *Ottoman Empire, there was a further improvement in the social and legal status of the community. The kingdom of *Italy – from its establishment in 1861 – attempted to wield its influence in Tripoli, especially among the Jews, many of whose big traders had strong economic and social ties with Italy. The community was divided between the traditionalist conservatives, who generally supported the Muslim authorities, and those who favored European culture and consequently Italy. The Italian influence increased during the period of Italian rule (1911–43), when the Jews enjoyed complete emancipation except for the World War ii period. They engaged in the crafts and commerce as builders, carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, cobblers, and wholesale and retail merchants. The gold- and silversmith crafts, as well as the textile trade, were entirely controlled by the Jews. In 1943 the Jews of Tripoli numbered about 15,000 (for the World War ii period, see *Libya). In November 4, 1945, riots broke out with the Arabs attacking their Jewish neighbors while the British authorities were slow to intervene. During these riots 120 Jews were murdered in Tripoli and its vicinity, hundreds were injured, and a great deal of property was looted. As a result of these events, a secret Jewish defense organization was formed with covert help from Palestine and small arms were acquired. When riots again occurred in June 1948, there were some Jewish victims, but the Jews were ready, fought back, and killed many of their attackers.

Religious and Communal Life

The community of Tripoli held the exclusive leadership over the Jews of the country. From the middle of the 18th century the presidents of the community represented Libyan Jewry before the government and were empowered to inflict corporal punishment and imprisonment. During the second period of direct Ottoman rule (1835–1911), these presidents attended the council meetings of the governor.

The revival of Jewish learning and the establishment of community takkanot (regulations) are attributed to R. Simeon *Labi (mid-16th century). In 1663 Abraham Miguel *Cardozo, who was later one of the leaders of the Shabbatean movement, settled in Tripoli. From the middle of the 18th century several dayyanim and prominent ḥakhamim of Tripoli came from *Turkey and *Palestine, returning home after a period of office in Tripoli. In 1749 R. Mas'ūd Hai Rakah, an emissary from Jerusalem, arrived in Tripoli. He was joined by his sonin-law R. Nathan Adadi, who was born in Palestine and returned there in his old age. His grandson, Abraham Ḥayyim Adadi, settled in Tripoli after the earthquake in *Safed in 1837 and accomplished a great deal as dayyan and ḥakham of the community. He also retired to Safed in his old age. After his death, the Ottoman government in Istanbul appointed Elijah Ḥazzan as ḥakham bashi (chief rabbi) (1874–88) by royal firman (order). The latter was also the representative of Tripolitanian Jewry before the government. The Italian government at first continued this tradition and appointed R. Elia Samuele *Artom to this position (1920–23).

Jews lived in two exclusively Jewish neighborhoods within the walled old city of Tripoli, though many carried out their business in trade in specific streets in the Muslim parts of town. With the establishment of new neighborhoods outside the walled city, wealthier Jews moved there and lived in mixed neighborhoods with Italians and Muslim Arabs.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg /

Rachel Simon (2nd ed.)]

Contemporary Period

Approximately 20,000 Jews lived in Tripoli in 1948. Following mass immigration to Israel in 1949–52, only 6,228 Jews remained, comprising 3% of the town's population of 198,000, according to the 1962 census. The majority of the Jews who remained after 1962 were wealthy merchants who were closely connected with Italy and spent part of the year there. After the riots that occurred in Tripoli during the Six-Day War in 1967 (see *Libya), most of the Jews immigrated to Italy and some to Israel. In 1970 there were only several dozen Jews living in the town and none by the end of the century.

The Tripoli community was headed by a committee, whose subcommittees provided services such as aid for paupers and dowries for brides (to help poor girls marry). The committee's incomes derived from the gabelle (Qābilah), a tax on kosher meat, the sale of unleavened bread, and from community dues. In 1916 the Zionist organization gained 11 out of 31 seats in the committee. Due to internal conflicts, the Italian authorities dispersed the committee in 1929 and appointed an Italian non-Jewish official to administer the affairs of the community. Only 700 paid dues in 1948, their number having fallen from 2,300 in 1944. Spiritual affairs were conducted by the chief rabbi, who also headed the rabbinical court of three members. The first European school in Tripoli was established in 1876 by Italian Jews in response to the local initiative of Jews with economic contacts with Italy. This was followed by a school run by the Paris-based *Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1890. The latter was attended by 70 pupils in 1949 with the number of pupils rising to 601 in 1951, but after the mass immigration to Israel, enrollment fell to 129 in 1953 and to 38 in 1960 when the Alliance school closed down. In addition, in 1950 the town possessed a talmud torah, with 371 pupils, a Youth Aliyah school with 68 pupils, and a school with 300 children of Jews who had moved from villages to Tripoli. A total of 1,800 Jewish children attended Italian schools. Emigration reduced the number of synagogues from 30 in 1948 to seven in 1951. The branch of the Maccabi Zionist sports and culture organization, which functioned in Tripoli from 1920, was closed in December 1953, as was the bureau of the Jewish Agency for Israel in January 1953, after having functioned there for four years.

For further information, see *Libya.

[Haim J. Cohen /

Rachel Simon (2nd ed.)]


Scholem, in: Zion, 19 (1954), 1–22; Yahadut Luv (1960); Hirschberg, Afrikah, index; Attal, in: Sefunot, 9 (1964), 398 (index); H. Goldberg, in: jjso, 9 (1967), 209–25. For additional bibliography, see *Libya.


views updated May 08 2018


TRIPOLI , port in N. *Lebanon (Ar. Tarabulus al-Sham ; called in Hebrew sources Sinim, on the basis of Gen. 10:17). From the seventh century there was a Jewish community in the town, although it never was large. At the beginning of the Arab conquest, Muʿāwiya, the *Umayyad governor of *Syria, established a garrison of Jewish troops in the harbor fortress to guard it against Byzantine attacks. At the beginning of the 11th century – after Syria came under *Fatimid rule – the caliph al-Ḥākim imposed severe restrictions on non-Muslim communities; as a result the Tripoli synagogue was turned into a mosque and several Jewish houses were destroyed. When the decrees were abolished, the Jews asked for the return of the synagogue; the Tripoli Muslims, unlike those in other towns, refused their demand, claiming that the place had already become a Muslim sanctuary. The Jews in turn asked for a royal permit to build a new synagogue. A document from the community, dated 1079, and which is signed and witnessed by the local bet din, has been preserved. There were Jews from Tripoli who immigrated to *Egypt in the Arab period. During the First Crusade, R. *Abiathar b. Elijah Ha-Kohen, the Ereẓ Israel rosh yeshivah, took refuge in Tripoli and sent a letter from there.

After its conquest by the crusaders in 1109, Tripoli became the capital of an independent principality, but remained a busy port and industrial center. The Jewish community continued its existence throughout the period of crusader rule. *Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler, reported that there were many Tripoli Jews among the victims of the earthquakes that struck Syria in the middle of the 12th century. In 1289 the town was captured by the *Mamluks, who razed it and built a new town on a nearby hill and at its base. The Jewish community reestablished itself on the new site. During Mamluk rule there were *Karaites and Samaritans in the town, in addition to the Rabbanite Jews. In a letter written in 1489 R. Obadiah of Bertinoro reports that there were 100 Jewish families living in Tripoli at the time, but this figure seems exaggerated. At the end of the 15th century the Spanish scribe Abraham ha-Sefaradi lived in the city. In the 16th century Sephardi Jews came to settle in Tripoli and some became wealthy merchants. According to R. Moses Basola there were 100 Jewish households (400 people) in Tripoli in 1521, some of which were Musta'arabs and the others immigrants from *Spain and Sicily. The Jews owned shops and many of them were merchants and workmen. They had one synagogue. Tripoli rabbis are mentioned in the responsa dating from this period. In mid-16th century Isaac Mishan was the rabbi of the town and was followed by R. Samuel ha-Kohen and by the latter's son, R. Joseph ha-Kohen, who officiated until 1590. At the beginning of the 17th century Tripoli Jews suffered from the oppressive rule of Yūsufoglu Seyf Pasha and many left. A small community remained and is mentioned in the diary of a Hebron emissary who visited the town in 1675. The community went into a further decline during the 19th century due to the economic decline of the city and the emigration from Tripoli of many local Jews heading for *Beirut, *Aleppo, and other cities. In 1824 the traveler David D'Beth Hillel visited the city and found there 15 Jewish families who had a little synagogue. Yehoseph Schwarz noted 112 Jewish families in Tripoli. In 1843 there were only 11 Jewish families in the city, numbering 50 people. The head of the community at that time was Isaac, an oil merchant. The majority of the Jews were poor. Eliezer L. Frenkel visited the city in 1856 and found 17 families (80 people) there. The older graves survived 400 years. The Jews of Tripoli spoke Arabic. The community had no talmud torah. There were a few merchants who participated in international trade. On the eve of World War ii only four Jewish families were left.

add. bibliography:

E.L. Frenkel, Yerushalayma (1860), 142–146; Rosanes, Togarmah, 2 (1937–382), 145f.; Ashtor, Toledot, 1 (1944), 274–5; 2 (1951), 121, 427, 445. add. bibliography: A. Yaari, Masot Ereẓ Israel, 527; B. Dinur, Israel ba-Golah, 1:104, 199, 274, 298, 331; 2:337, 427, 428, 441, 448, 463, 525; S.D. Goitein, Ha-Yishuv be-Ereẓ Israel be-Reshit ha-Islam u-va-Tekufah ha-Ẓalbanit (1980), 278–284, 302; M. Rozen, in: Pe'amim, 14 (1982), 32–44; M. Gil, Ereẓ Israel baTekufah ha-Muslemit ha-Rishonah (6341097), 1–3 (1983), index; N. Shor, in: Pe'amim, 24 (1985), 117, 136–38; I. Abramsky-Blei, in: Pe'amim, 28 (1987), 131–57; H. Gerber, Yehudei ha-Imperiyah ha-Otmanit ba-Me'ot ha-Shesh-Esrie ve-ha-Sheva-Esrei: Ḥevrah ve-Kalkalah, 172; E. Bareket, Shafrir Miẓrayim (1995), 17, 154.

[Eliyahu Astor /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 29 2018


City on the Mediterranean coast of northwest Libya.

Tripoli is the capital, largest city, and chief seaport of Libya. The city was founded by the Phoenicians on a small, rocky promontory. Known by the Romans as Oea, it formed (with Sabrata and Leptis Magna) the tripolis (Greek, three towns) from which its modern name derives. (In Arabic Tripoli is known as Tarablus al-Gharb Tripoli of the Westto distinguish it from Lebanon's Tripoli.) Tripoli owed its preeminence to a fair harbor on the short sea route to Malta, Sicily, and Italy; to good water supplies and a moderately productive oasis and hinterland; and to domination of the northern ends of the shortest trade routes from the Mediterranean to central Africa via Fezzan.

After a history of foreign and local rule, prosperity declined by the end of the nineteenth century with the demise of Barbary Pirates and Mediterranean corsairing as well as the collapse of the transSaharan trade system. In 1911, the population was estimated at some 20,000, when Tripoli was the prime objective of the Italian invasion. It remained in Italian hands throughout the varying fortunes of Italy's presence in Libya. Under Italian rule, and especially during the post-1922 Fascist era, Tripoli was developed outside the walled Old City and acquired modern municipal services and the appearance of an Italian provincial town. In 1934, it became the capital of the colony of Libya, combining Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. During World War II, Tripoli fell, with little damage, to the invading British Eighth Army in January 1943 and became the seat of the British military administration that ruled Tripolitania until Libya's UN-supervised independence in 1951. On independence, Tripoli became joint capital of the Libyan federal kingdom, with Benghazi.

The oil boom of the 1950s and 1960s brought commercial expansion and increased population, with development into the outlying villages of the oasis. Shantytownswhich housed migrants from the countrysideproliferated on the outskirts. The United States had a large air base at Wheelus (alMallaha) to the east of the city, and the international airport was developed at the Royal Air Force base at Idris, near Gasr ben Gashir to the south. After the 1969 revolution, Tripoli became the sole capital of Libya and, following expulsion of its remaining Italian and Jewish communities, took on a more overtly Arab and Muslim character. Shanty towns were cleared and large public-housing schemes and commercial developments spread in a six-toten mile (1015 km) radius from the city center. The population doubled between 1973 and 1984.

Attempts by the royalist regime to create a new capital at Baida and move the central administration to the central Libyan oases did little to diminish Tripoli's political, commercial, and social preeminence. It dominates one of Libya's main agricultural and industrial regions, and its port, airport, and roads to Tunisia, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica make it a key communications and transshipment center.

In 1986 the United States bombed Tripoli because of Libya's involvement in international terrorism. Some of the city was destroyed. Its population in 2003 was estimated at 1,775,000.


Wright, John. Libya. New York: Praeger, 1969.

john l. wright


views updated May 23 2018

Tripoli (Tarabulus) Mediterranean port and second-largest city in Lebanon. Tripoli was an important city of the Seleucid and Roman Empires. In ad 638, it was captured by the Arabs. In 1109, the city was conquered by the Crusaders, who developed the city's fortifications. In 1289, Tripoli returned to Islamic rule under the Egyptian Mamluks. The Turks held the city until the arrival of the British in 1918, and in 1920 it became a Lebanese city. It suffered severe damage during the 1975–76 Lebanese civil war. The city remains an important centre for trade between Syria and Lebanon, and is the terminus of the oil pipeline from Iraq. Industries: oil refining, textiles, food processing. Pop. (2002 est.) 208,700.


views updated May 23 2018

Tripoli (Tarabulus) Capital and chief port of Libya, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city was founded as Oea in the 7th century bc by the Phoenicians and was developed by the Romans. From the 7th century ad, the Arabs developed Tripoli as a market centre for the trans-Saharan caravans. In 1551, it was captured by the Ottoman Turks. In the 17th century, Tripoli was a notorious base for pirates. In 1911, it was made capital of the Italian colony of Libya, and during World War 2 it functioned as an important base for Axis forces. After intensive Allied bombing in 1941–42, Britain captured the city in 1943. In 1986, the US Air Force bombed Tripoli in retaliation for Libya's alleged support of worldwide terrorism. The city is the commercial, industrial, transport and communications centre of Libya. The oases comprise the most fertile agricultural area in n Africa. Pop. (2002 est.) 1,223,300.