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Ancient Libyan synagogue being converted into Islamic center, Jewish group says

Sla Dar Bishi in Tripoli is now in the hands of local militias amid the chaotic civil war; World Organization of Jews in Libya hopes it will be restored one day

A picture shows the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 28, 2011. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
A picture shows the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 28, 2011. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — An abandoned and ancient synagogue in Libya is being turned into an Islamic religious center without permission, the World Organization of the Jews of Libya said.

David Gerbi, a Libya-born Italian Jew, and member of the organization, which promotes the interests of people belonging to the Libyan Jewish Diaspora, wrote about the Sla Dar Bishi in Tripoli last week in a report published by Moked, a Jewish publication in Italy.

“Since there is now no Jew living in Tripoli and since the power is in the hands of the local authorities (read: militias) it was decided to violate our property and our history,” he wrote. “The plan clearly is to take advantage of the chaos and our absence.”

Gerbi said The World Organization of Jews in Libya “calls for this transformation to be stopped immediately and to leave the Tripoli synagogue intact with the hope that one day it will be restored.”

Contacts on the ground provided Gerbi with pictures and videos over the past three months that have convinced him that the synagogue is being taken over illegally, he said

The central government in Libya, a former colony of Italy in northern Africa, has collapsed since the 2011 overthrow and execution of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country with an iron fist since 1969. The revolution sparked intermittent fighting between clans and militias with competing claims to leadership.

Libya once had about 40,000 Jews, who left following the establishment of the State of Israel.

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