Homecoming for Libyan Jews after 33 years

By Jennifer Lipman, September 2, 2010

Two Italian Jews are to return to their homes in Libya for the first time in more than 30 years.

The women, both of whom were born in Libya, emigrated with their families to Italy in 1967 as Jewish–Arab relations deteriorated in the wake of the Six Day War.

Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, known for his attacks on Israel, has reportedly agreed to let some Jewish people visit the country. In August the first Jew from Libya officially returned home. Raphael Luzon and his 87-year-old mother travelled to their former home of Benghazi as government guests.

Libya’s centuries-old Jewish community once numbered 20,000, but the population declined after Israel gained independence and it is believed the last Jewish person left in 2003.

When Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969, debts to Jews were cancelled Jewish property was confiscated.

Between the 1940s and 1970s an estimated 800,000 Jews fled their homes in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa because of persecution.

In August an Israeli-Tunisian photographer imprisoned in Libya for five months was released and flown to safety.

We survived, but we were penniless: A Libyan Jewish refugee shares her story

Last updated: 3:23pm, February 23 2011