October 2nd, 2011
02:34 PM ET

Libyan Jew returns from exile to restore synagogue

Libyan Jew David Gerbi on Sunday hammered down the brick wall blocking the entrance to the rundown Dar Bishi Synagogue in Tripoli on what he called a “historic day.”

Flanked by journalists and curious residents from the neighborhood, Gerbi, dressed in an “I love Libya” T-shirt, collapsed as he yelled, “This is for all those who suffered under Gadhafi."

With a U.S. security contractor accompanying him, Gerbi continued to strike the wall until it was destroyed.

“I could not have done it without the permission of three local sheikhs living in the neighborhood and the protection of the rebels,” Gerbi told CNN as he pointed to the faded Hebrew letters meaning  “Hear, O Israel" engraved on the wall above the Torah scroll.

The dusty floor of the scarred building was littered with dead pigeons, clothes, flea-ridden mattresses and syringes that may have been left behind by drug users and prostitutes who used to take refuge in the abandoned building, according to the testimonies of the local residents.

“I will paint the walls and restore the building, but will keep it simple and functional because it’s a place for God and prayers,” Gerbi said as he mopped the floor.

“I feel proud. My smile is back and my dream is fulfilled, and I want tourists to come see this place in a month’s time,” Gerbi told a room full of journalists.

Gerbi fled Tripoli with his family when he 12 years old in 1967.  After 44 years of exile in Italy, he returned this year as a representative of the World Organization of Libyan Jews.

Gadhafi had expelled the remaining 38,000 Jews in 1969 and converted most of the synagogues to mosques.

“I am the only Jew in Libya, but I have the support of the 200,000 Libyan Jews and their descendants living abroad,” Gerbi told CNN.

In 2007, Gadhafi invited Gerbi to Libya, but he claims that he was tricked, questioned and detained for attempting to restore the synagogue.

During the revolt against Gadhafi that started in February, Gerbi assisted the injured in Benghazi and promoted the National Transitional Council in South Africa until it was recognized in August.

Gerbi’s years of experience as a psychotherapy professor in Italy and Israel may come in handy in his difficult mission of winning the hearts and minds of the Libyans in a society known for its anti-Semitism.

“I don’t know what is behind this move, but I don’t trust the Jews, and there will be problems if they come back,” said Ayaad Mohamed, a man living across from the synagogue.

Gerbi and residents of the neighborhood said Gadhafi had visited the old city and fired two bullets at the Ten Commandments inscribed on the exterior of the synagogue.

Gerbi may face challenges in his return to Libya, but he remains defiant and insists on inviting more Jews in the near future.

“To those who don’t welcome me, I tell them, I am not leaving. My parents were not buried here because Gadhafi razed the Jewish cemeteries, but I will be buried here.”

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Filed under: Libya
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Andreas Moser

    Shana tova!
    http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/happy-new-year-5772/

    October 2, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RUFFNUTT

    i knew a jew named boo , he liked to play a new blue kazoo at the new zoo even when he had the flu..

    October 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RUFFNUTT

    maybe these jews could restore my camaro?

    October 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    This gentleman has a long row to hoe ahead of him.
    I wish him the best of luck.

    October 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I know quite a few Palestinians living far from the home of their ancestors.

    October 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bimbo the Birthday Clown

      Are you suggesting Palestinians are unique in that regard?

      October 3, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. WAHOOPPYPDINDLDOOBERG

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw OR http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec

    Make sure to play one from beginning as youtube is censoring proofs of genocide against whites by either playing video in the middle or blocking one entirely from play

    Just in case or if not functioning, please use either http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xleq3o OR http://www.vidup.de/v/9dNJo/
    VISIT ALL NEW “OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION”
    http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    IS IT INDEPENDENCE THAT WE CELEBRATE OR DEPENDENCE (what are your credit card bills or alimony saying about it) !!? HOW IS YOUR DIABETES AND LOST MARRIAGES !!? FORECLOSURES AND JOB SEARCH !!? THAT IS THE QUESTION TO BE OR NOT TO BE !!! IS IT LAND OF THE FREE OR STATE OF TERROR AGAINST OWN WHITE POPULATION !!? IT IS TIME TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT COLOR ARE THE STRIPES ON OUR STAR SPANGLED BANNER !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who wants to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!! IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHOM WE ADDRESS WITH "PRESIDENT" (STOP HUMILIATING YOURSELF) !!!

    911(TWIN TOWERS) = NORWAY BOMBING OR STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM !!

    ARIZONA = UTOYA = THERE WAS NO SHOOTING EITHER IN NORWAY OR ARIZONA, BUT “AFTERLIFE” FLASH MOB INSTEAD !! Tear gas and theater were used on faces of multiculturalism maniacs while calling YOU a terrorists !! Guilt or blame and shame weapon against us and our families in our own countries during bogus “economic crises” while importing here non white third world foreigners !!!
    MULTYCULTURALISM = TERRORISM !! OBAMA = OSAMA !!!
    http://stateofterror.blogspot.com/ http://stateofterror.wordpress.com/

    October 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hebrew

    Maybe even as lucky as the most famous Jew. No, not the one in prison for fraud. The one who wore sandals.

    October 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. HABEEB

    Goddam jews there goes the nieghborhood.

    October 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RUFFNUTT

    I just can't get over just how far the right-wing news media is willing to go just to discredit Mohammar Qadaffy. Now we're going to hear a lot of sob stories like the above to show just how much the Jews have suffered under Qadaffy's rule. Enough is enough!!!

    October 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HABEEB

    Yeah those Goddam jews!

    October 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hebrew

    Ruffnutt, if you had any idea of what you're talking about, you'd almost look intelligent...as it is, all you are is an anti-semitic troll.

    October 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Wrong, Hebrew. RUFFNUTT is not al all anti-semitic, just not anti-arabic. Moreover, just like me and many other of us liberal freethinkers here, he is, however, anti-right-wing and anti-Tea Party!

      October 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fernace

    I wish David Gerbi Masel Tov & Good Luck! He will need it! Right now he's 1 of the very few (if not the only) Jews in Libya, & as the world is so aware, Jews & Muslims don't really get along! Let's hope it's a learning experience for all & not a negative 1!

    October 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. HABEEB

    Goddam those jews.

    October 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. little David

    If only Israel were as mighty as my sling.

    October 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. HABEEB

    Dam jew.

    October 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
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