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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.

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