Lebanon Table of Contents

Lebanese Jews historically have been an integral part of the Lebanese fabric of confessional communities. In 1947, they were estimated to number 5,950. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Lebanese Jews did not feel compelled to emigrate because they enjoyed a prosperous status in Lebanese society and had been granted equal rights by law with other citizens. Moreover, they suffered no harm during the anti-Zionist demonstrations of 1947 and 1948. However, the intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict politicized attitudes toward local Jews, who were often associated with the policies of Israel. In the early 1950s their synagogue in Beirut was bombed, and the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies witnessed heated debates on the status of Lebanese Jewish army officers. The discussions culminated in a unanimous resolution to expel and exclude them from the Lebanese Army.

During the June 1967 War, Lebanese authorities stationed guards in Jewish districts, when hostility toward Lebanese Jews became overt. Several hundred chose to leave the country; until 1972 Jews were free to leave the country with their money and possessions. During the 1975 Civil War, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Lebanese leftist-Muslim forces posted militia in the Jewish neighborhood of Wadi Abu Jamil, that housed what remained of the dwindling Jewish community, estimated to number less than 3,000. Nevertheless, the rise of Muslim fundamentalists, especially in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of 1982, constituted a real threat to Lebanese Jews. Organizations such as the Khaybar Brigades and the Organization of the Oppressed of the Earth claimed responsibility for kidnapping and killing several Lebanese Jews between 1984 and 1987. As of 1987 it was estimated that only a dozen Jews remained in West Beirut, and some seventy others in the eastern sector of the city.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress