The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict 1902210646, 9781902210643

This text tells the story of the Lebanese Jews in the 20th century. It challenges the prevailing view that all Jews in t

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The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict
 1902210646, 9781902210643

Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Avi Shlaim
Note on Transliteration
1 A Voyage through History
2 Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality
3 Lebanese and Israeli Independence: Questions of Identity
4 The First Civil War: Conflict of Identities
5 The Beginning of the Exodus
6 The Israeli Invasion and Beyond: Renaissance or Decline?
7 Conjectures, Considerations, and Conclusions:
A Sentimental Journey

Citation preview

T H E JEW S O F LEBA N O N Between Coexistence and Conflict

To R ona Bar Isaac M indy Blackstock A bigail M ann D eborah M yers-W einstein Cheryl Rivkin

The Jews of Lebanon Between Coexistence and Conflict



B righ ton • P ortland

Copyright © Kirsten E. Schulze 2001

The right of Kirsten E. Schulze to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 2468 109753 1 First published 2001 in Great Britain by SUSSEX ACADEMIC PRESS PO Box 2950 Brighton BN2 5SP and in the United States o f America by SUSSEX ACADEMIC PRESS 5804 N.E. Hassalo St. Portland, Oregon 97213-3644 All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. British Library Cataloguing in Publication D ata A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library o f Congress Cataloging-in-Publication D ata Schulze, Kirsten E. The Jews of Lebanon: between coexistence and conflict / Kirsten E. Schulze. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-902210-64-6 (alk. paper) 1. Jews—Lebanon—History. 2. Lebanon—Ethnic relations. I. Title. DS135.L34 S38 2001 956.92*004924—dc21 00-140215

Printed by TJ International, Padstow, Cornwall This book is printed on acid-free paper


L ist o f Illustrations Forew ord by Avi Shlaim Acknowledgem ents L ist o f Abbreviations N ote on Transliteration M aps Introduction Jew ish life in the A rab M iddle East Jew ish life in Lebanon A literary survey

vii viii x xii xiii xiv/xv 1 1 5 8


A V oyage through H istory The historical legacy Lebanon under O ttom an Rule The Lebanese Jew ish comm unity Culture» education and religion

12 12 15 16 25


Lebanese Jew s under the French M andate: Liberty, Fraternity and Equality Grand Liban and the m andate M erchants and financiers Inter-communal relations and comm unity life The Lebanese Zionist project and contacts with the Yishuv The Palestine question W orld W ar II and the Vichy regime

31 31 35 37 47 53 59


Lebanese and Israeli Independence: Q uestions o f Identity Lebanese independence and the N ational Pact The Jew ish comm unity and the political situation, 1943-1948 Two women remember: a privileged life in Lebanon

63 63 65 66



Contents The establishm ent o f the State o f Israel Jew ish refugees and unavoidable changes Syrian refugees

69 75 81

The First Civil W ar: C onflict o f Identities D ual loyalties The Jew ish comm unity and the political situation, 1949-1957 Com munity life, 1943-1958 The first Lebanese civil w ar Political and cultural identification

84 84 86 88 95 97


The Beginning o f the Exodus The Chehabist “ m iracle” Jew ish em igration The Six-D ay W ar and beyond The C airo Agreement: the road to disintegration The second civil w ar

99 99 101 110 112 121


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond: Renaissance or Decline? O peration Peace for G alilee Renaissance in Beirut The w ar continues, 1985-1989 The end o f the civil w ar

130 130 136 141 147


Conjectures, Considerations, and Conclusions: A Sentimental Journey The comm unity in history The Arab-Israeli conflict A history o f Lebanon

151 151 153 155

Appendix 1 Jew ish Com munity Presidents, 1910-1999 2 Chief R abbis, 1908-1978


Notes Bibliography Index

160 181 188

List o f Illustrations

1 Chief R abbi Shabtai Bahbut, 1920-1950. 2 Selim Zeitoune in traditionàl Druze dress. 3 R abbi Benzion Lichtm an leading a M accabi parade through Beirut, 1947. 4 Joseph A ttie, Sam i Sulh, R abbi Benzion Lichtm an and H abib Abi Chahla, 1946/7. 5 N ino Behar, Joseph Attie, Pierre Gem ayel, R abbi Benzion Lichtm an, Y acob Safra, R abbi O bersi, Isaac Sutton and M urad Chayo. 6 The Com m unity Council and Chief R abbi Benzion Lichtm an and his w ife. 7 T raditional com m em orative dinner, 1946/7. 8 W edding at M agen Avraham , 1947. 9 W edding in Bham doun synagogue, 1950s. 10 Public lecture at M agen Avraham , 1951. 11 W adi Abu Jam il, 1955. 12 Summer in the m ountains. Bham doun, 1964/5. 13 A Bar M itzva in the Spanish synagogue in W adi Abu Jam il, 1967. 14 M agen Avraham , Summer 1995. 15 The Jew ish cemetery, Summer 1995. 16 View o f the gallery o f M agen Avraham , Summer 1995. 17 The m ain entrance to M agen Avraham , Summer 1995. 18 Inside M agen A vraham , before the rubble o f the w ar w as cleared, Summer 1995. 19 Inside M agen Avraham , 1996.

Foreword by Avi Shlaim

Alm ost anything connected with the Arab-Israeli conflict or with the history o f the Jew s in the Arab countries is susceptible to intense passions and partisanship not only on the part o f official spokespersons and propa­ gandists but, only too often, on the part o f scholars as well. Over the last decade or so, a group o f “ new” or revisionist Israeli historians have been challenging, with the help o f official docum ents, the traditional Zionist version o f the birth o f the State o f Israel in 1948 and o f the fifty years' conflict between Israel and the Arab w orld. The response o f the orthodox historians and the keepers o f the Labour Z ionist flam e w as not long in com ing and it gave rise to a fierce and ongoing debate. This is the m ost em otionally-charged but also one o f the m ost interesting debates in the entire field o f m odem M iddle Eastern studies. Related to this debate, and scarcely less heated, is the controversy surrounding the history o f the Jew s who lived under A rab rule before and after the creation o f the Jew ish state. N early all o f the existing literature on the subject is written by Jew ish scholars and much o f it is perm eated by a pro-Jew ish and anti-Arab bias. This literature dwells at length on the hardship, discrim ination and humil­ iation that the Jew s are said to have endured in the M iddle East through­ out the ages. It also em phasizes the second-class status o f the Jew s, the legal restrictions im posed on them, the officially-sponsored persecution and the pogrom s. The emergence o f Zionism in the early part o f the twen­ tieth century is said to have triggered particularly vicious Arab responses all around Palestine. In addition, this literature stresses the intolerance o f Islam tow ards other religions in general and tow ards Judaism in partic­ ular. The general picture that em erges from these accounts is not a balanced one with lights alongside the undoubted shadow s but a one­ sided one, focusing alm ost obsessively on the hatred and on the suffering visited upon the Jew s by Arab society. In this respect, conventional accounts o f Jew ish life under A rab rule fit neatly into w hat the AmericanJew ish historian Salo Baron once called the lachrym ose version o f Jew ish history: a history o f misery and degradation, o f oppression and harass­ ment, o f trials and tribulations, all culm inating in the H olocaust.

Foreword by Avi Shlaim


Kirsten Schulze does not subscribe to the traditional version o f Jew ish history. She notes that the literature on the Jew s in the M iddle East is seri­ ously flaw ed and she sets out to redress the balance. Redressing the balance does not mean going to the other extrem e o f painting a rosy picture; it m eans avoiding bias, prejudice, and political agendas, and striving to provide a fair and comprehensive account o f the life o f Jew ish com m unities in the A rab w orld which includes the positive as well as the negative aspects. The specific subject o f Dr Schulze's book is the history o f the Jew s o f Lebanon in the twentieth century. On this subject she is eminently well qualified to write. She is well versed in the history and politics o f the M iddle East and she has a com m and o f Arabic and Hebrew. She has published extensively on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including a book on Israel’s Covert Diplomacy in Lebanon. In this book she argues that Israel has pursued an active policy o f intervention in the dom estic politics o f Lebanon through the alliance with the M aronites from 1920 until 1985. T his challenges the conventional view that Israel only acts in self-defence against external threats and that she refrains from interfering in the internal affairs o f the neighbouring A rab states. The book before us focuses on the history o f the Jew s within Lebanon rather than on the country’s external relations, though Israel does feature in the story to the extent that its actions im pinged on the position o f the Jew ish comm unity in this deeply divided country. The book has many m erits. First, the research effort that went into the m aking o f this book is really im pressive: Dr Schulze has collected a vast am ount o f inform ation from archives, private papers, new spapers, and other sources, and she has m ade a valuable contribution o f her own by conducting interviews with a number o f prom inent Lebanese Jew s. Second, she uses this rich panoply o f sources to brilliantly illum inating effect. Third, her account is pretty com prehensive, ranging over the social, econom ic, political, cultural and religious aspects o f the life o f the Jew s o f Lebanon. Fourth, she succeeds in placing the Jew ish comm unity in the broader context o f Lebanese and M iddle Eastern politics. L ast but not least, D r Schulze has m ade a highly significant and substantive contribution to the study o f m inorities in the M iddle East. H er m ost interesting conclusion is that Lebanon's treatm ent o f its Jew s w as no w orse, if it w as no better, than its treatm ent o f its other 2 2 m inorities. Avi Shlaim St Antony’s College, O xford


This book could not have been written w ithout the contribution o f a large number o f people, all o f whom I wish to thank. For their tim e, patience and support I wish to thank N adim Shehadi, Fuad D ebbas, Eugene R ogan, Joseph M izrahi, R abbi Elbaz, R obert O . Freedm an, G ad Barzilai, Raghid el-Solh, D ouglas K rikler, T udor Parfitt, G ary D avis, Avraham Sela, Uri Lubrani, M ichael G latzer, Shimon Rubinstein, Boutrus Labaki, Theo H anf, T arif K halidi, M enachem K lein, Eyal Z isser, Zahavit and R afi Cohen-Alm agor, Antoine B assil, Fouad Abu N ader, and Joseph Abu K halil. The financial support for the research w as provided by the British Academ y, the Lucius N . Littauer Foundation, the Ben Zvi Institute, and the N uffield Foundation. W ithout their contribution, publication o f this book w ould not have been possible. M ost im portantly I w ould like to thank those Lebanese Jew s who shared their treasured m emories and photographs with me: Stella Levi, Vikki Angel, Joseph Lichtm an, Shula Kishek Cohen, Shlom o Leviatan, Z aki Levi, Ezra T am ir, T oufic Yedid Levy, Charles R aidibon, M oni Sfinzi, Cam ille Cohen Kichek, Itzhak Levanon, Jacques N eria, N athan Sofer, Alex Sofer, O dette O zon, M arcel N ahon, N issim D ahan, and the Jew s still living in Beirut who will rem ain unnamed but not forgotten. G ratitude is extended to the Central Zionist Archives, the Israel State Archives, the H aganah Archives, the Public Record O ffice, the N ational Archives and Record Adm inistration, the archives o f the Centre for Lebanese Studies, the Ben Zvi Archives, the archives o f the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and specifically to R obert and Elliot Stam bouli who perm itted me to see the papers o f their father Jacques. I also w ant to thank Elizabeth Elbaum and Daniel Todm an for their assistance with the task o f translating docum ents and transcribing tapes, and to Ian Jackson who in his spare time at the Public Record O ffice com piled a very helpful and tim esaving list o f files on Lebanon for me. And finally, I w ould like to extend my deepest appreciation to Catherine M outell and Rona Bar Isaac for their com m ents on the first



d raft; to Anthony G raham e, Editorial D irector at Sussex Academ ic Press, fo r his assistance in seeing the book through the press; to my m other for proof-reading the text; and above all to Avi Shlaim for his suggestions, support and, o f course, w riting the forew ord.



Alliance Israélite Universelle Archives Ben Zvi Archives Central Zionist Archives H aganah Archives Israeli Air Force Israel Defence Forces Israeli-Lebanese M ixed Arm istice Com m ission Jacques Stam bouli’s Private Papers Palestine Armed Struggle Com m and Popular Front for the Liberation o f Palestine Palestine Liberation O rganization Public Record O ffice N ational Archives and Record Adm inistration N ational Liberal Party United A rab Republic United N ations United N ations Security Council

Note on Transliteration

The transliteration o f A rabic and Hebrew w ords is based upon the system used by the International Journal o f Middle E ast Studies with the excep­ tion o f proper nam es and personal nam es. Proper nam es appear in their fam iliar latinized form found in W estern literature on the M iddle East. Personal nam es appear in the form used by the individuals them selves, or as they appear in archival docum ents.

Jewish settlement and migration in nineteenth-century Lebanon

Mediterranean Sea

The Jewish Quarter in the Civil War, 197 5 -6


Cèdre mes yeux las de pleurer Ne veulent que jouir de la beauté Je puiserai en ton nom mille et une énergies Car ma foi reste entière en notre paradis. A lberto Sidi D elburgo


The Lebanese Jew ish comm unity has occupied an obscure place in the history o f Lebanon, where, as one o f the sm aller m inorities am ong twentythree ethno-religious groups, it has received little attention in studies o f state and society. M uch o f this obscurity is due to the size o f the com m u­ nity which at its largest never numbered m ore than an estim ated 14,000. Another reason can be found in the nature o f m ost scholarly w ork on Lebanon itself, which has been preoccupied with civil strife and the M uslim -C hristian division. Lebanese Jew s who were predom inandy apolitical, who tried to nurture good relations with all confessional groups, who were rarely represented in the arm y or m ilitias, did not fit into the analytical fram ew ork im posed on Lebanon’s twentieth-century history. Yet one can clearly say that Lebanese Jew s were no less Lebanese than their Christian or M uslim counterparts. They too had a vested interest in the identity o f the state, and w hilst not prom oting a political project o f their ow n, these Jew s shared the vision o f Lebanon as an inde­ pendent, m ulti-com m unal, Levantine country as advocated by many o f the M aronite notables as well as the Lebanese m erchant and banker com m unity. Indeed, it could be claim ed that from a socio-econom ic perspective the Jew s em bodied the Levantine stereotype.

Jew ish Life in the A rab M iddle E ast The conventional im age o f Jew ish life in the M iddle East focuses on the dhimmi status in society, legal restrictions, degrading treatm ent, and persecution. While this im pression m ay, in fact, be supported by a number o f historical accounts it is equally not borne out by others. Yet, it is this im age that has captured the im agination o f those interested in the subject. Consider Saul Friedm an’s account o f Jew ish life during the time o f the Fatim ids: The attempt to isolate, ridicule, and debase Jews was carried to an extreme


Introduction in the reign of Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim in Egypt (966-1021). A selfdeluded fanatic who considered himself the redeemer of mankind, al-Hakim maintained that the Jews still worshipped the golden calf, and he required them to wear little images of this animal around their necks. When this humiliation failed to induce conversion to Islam, the monarch decreed they should wear cowbells around their necks. This device also failed; therefore, the caliph ordered the Jews to wear six-pound wooden blocks about their necks. Finally, on Passover in the year 1012, al-Hakim ordered the destruc­ tion of the Jewish quarter of Cairo with all its inhabitants.1

The Bulletin de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1885 g av e th is account o f Jew ish life in Yem en: The Jews of Sanaa complain of the humiliations which they are obliged to bear: they are made to clean the sewers and they take them in gangs to do this forced labour and they force money out of them by obliging them to buy foodstuffs which have gone off. Jews are not allowed to walk on the right hand side of an Arab; they must only wear black clothes and they can only make their purchases in the market once the Arabs have made theirs. They ruin the Jews with taxes and treat them in the vilest manner.2

As M aurice Roum ani stated in The Case o f the Jew s from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue : “ not only did Jew s suffer oppression - including discrim ination and pogrom s which bring to mind the w orst medieval Europe - their entire existence in lands under M uslim rule w as based on sufferance, not rights, this despite the fact that Jew s had lived in those lands long before” .3 D egradation, second-class status, restrictions, and hatred are all evident. W hat is m issing, however, is a deeper analysis o f the situation, one which gives a com prehensive picture o f both positives and negatives. In a sim ilar m anner, the Farhud is often singled out as the essence o f Iraqi Jew ish life. As the m ost traum atic event o f m odem Jew ish history in Iraq the pogrom o f the Jew s o f Baghdad on 1-2 June 1941 could not but leave a lasting im pression. In Daphne Tsim honi’s description o f the Farhud M uslim m asses “ for tw o days . . . m assacred, w ounded, raped, and looted, while the British forces, inform ed about these horrible events, abstained from intervening. . . . The casualties numbered 160 Jew s m urdered, hundreds wounded as well as enorm ous destruction o f Jew ish property. N early every Jew ish home in Baghdad w as affected by this pogrom .” 4 The excerpts above all give a sim ilar im pression o f Jew ish life in the A rab w orld. The themes o f discrim ination, oppression, and persecution are prom inent. An additional factor in the twentieth century is the advent o f Zionism which is often seen as triggering particularly vicious A rab responses. G eneralizations such as all Jew s were either forced out o f A rab



countries after the creation o f the State o f Israel, or left because the situ­ ation became so intolerable, are central to this argum ent. Indeed, M orroe Berger claim s that 96 per cent o f A rab Jew s were forced to leave.5 Statem ents such as Egyptian Prime M inister Fahmi al-N uqrashi, who, upon the arrest o f a number o f Egyptian Jew s in 1948, said that “ all Jew s were potential Z ionists, all Z ionists were com m unists and that the com bi­ nation o f those tw o with the situation in Palestine presented a danger to all non-comm unist states” 6 support this im age. Given the conflicting accounts and contradictory evidence o f Jew ish life under Islam , ranging from persecution to equal rights, the question rem ains as to w hat extent each o f these accounts holds true and to w hat extent this paradigm is applicable to the Jew ish experience in Lebanon.

A complex mosaic T his book tells the story o f the Jew s o f Lebanon in the twentieth century. It provides a com plex m osaic o f intra- and inter-communal relations reconstructed from archives o f the com m unity, archives o f the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the Israel State Archives, the Central Zionist Archives, and the Public Record O ffice, as well as private papers and a substantial am ount o f oral history from Lebanese Jew s who have rem ained in Beirut as well as those who chose to leave. W hat becom es clear is that this account does not fit the stereotype o f Jew s in many other A rab countries, namely that o f a fifth colum n or the enemy within. R ather, Lebanese Jew s were a m inority am ong m any. Interestingly though, this is not how they generally have been perceived by outsiders. For instance, a feature-length article in the Jerusalem Post Magazine on 20 August 1982, after the Israeli invasion o f Lebanon which inevitably sparked interest in the com m unity, states that Palestinians occupy the former Jewish quarter today, as they have since 1948 when the Jews fled. The government confiscated all abandoned Jewish property for ‘the Palestinian Arab refugees.* These Palestinians still live in houses with mezuzah niches on the doorposts and work in shops once owned by Jews. The former beit midrash is now a Palestinian carpentry shop. The synagogue stands empty, although in an apartment on the roof lives a Palestinian family.7

T his Jerusalem Post article refers to the Jew ish quarter o f Saida, a city which had a comm unity o f 3,500 Jew s. Closer inspection reveals that the Jew s fled only tem porarily in 1948; in fact, it w as the Lebanese govern­ ment which protected their property and restored it to the Jew s upon their return. The comm unity did not leave until the second civil w ar. Even then,



Jew ish property w as not confiscated by the Lebanese state. Although som e o f the abandoned houses were taken over by Palestinians, these Palestinian fam ilies becam e the closest friends o f the rem aining Jew s. The Jerusalem Post article proceeds with an interview with one o f the last rem aining fam ilies in Saida: “ Ask the Levys why they rem ained and you will hear a fam iliar litany o f reasons why Jew s remain anywhere in the D iaspora. We had a business to m aintain. The children are in school. The grandm other is too aged and infirm to face m oving. And anyway our situ­ ation isn 't bad. And it's alw ays been our hom e.” * Such a patronizing attitude does not reveal a true understanding o f the situation faced by Jew s in Lebanon. An even m ore glaring exam ple o f m isconception and overgeneraliza­ tion o f the experience o f Jew s in the M iddle East is contained in Saul Friedm an's book Without Future: The Plight o f Syrian Jewry , which begins with a chapter on the “ M yth o f Islam ic T oleration ,’’ setting the tone for the rest o f the book. The section on Lebanon is a particularly crafty m ix o f half truths. Friedm an selectively using a bom bing incident which killed 14 Jew s in T ripoli (Lebanon) in 1945 as his point o f depar­ ture, claim s that Jew ish students were dism issed from schools9 in 1947/8, and that 10,000 Jew s fled Lebanon after riots - 10,000 from a com m u­ nity which, according to the table on the next page, only com prises 5,000 m embers. Then he jum ps to the 1980s and the kidnappings, creating the im pression that the comm unity reeled from one traum a to another. H is account is seriously flaw ed. It com pletely discards the tolerance o f Lebanese society, the protection the Lebanese government afforded the Jew s, the equal rights o f Lebanese Jew ry, and the fact that they did not leave during any o f the Arab-Israeli w ars. M oreover, the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity increased rather than decreased after 1948 - so much so that it caused many lam ents in the Jew ish Agency in Jerusalem which had been trying to m otivate Lebanese Jew s to m ove to Israel to no avail. The above cited accounts on Lebanon fit neatly into the general picture created o f Jew ish life in the M iddle East. C loser analysis, however, show s that the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity and its relations with Lebanese M uslim s and Christians contradicts the prevailing view that Jew s every­ where in the M iddle East were second-class citizens and that after the establishm ent o f the State o f Israel in 1948 they becam e the target o f 'antiSem itism ' and persecution. Unlike the Jew ish com m unities in many other M iddle Eastern countries, the Jew ish comm unity in Lebanon grew after 1948 and it w as not until the civil w ar o f 1975 that the community started to m igrate and to em igrate. The Jew s o f Lebanon were just one o f Lebanon’s 23 m inorities, with the sam e rights and privileges and subject to the sam e political tensions o f m inority infighting. The creation o f the State o f Israel in 1948 did not change this situation. The 1982 Israeli inva­



sion o f Lebanon, however, did. And the 1985 w ithdraw al o f the Israel Defense Forces left the Jew s vulnerable.

Jew ish Life in Lebanon The developm ent o f m odem Lebanon in the twentieth century w as accom ­ panied by population movem ents within the Jew ish comm unity. In 1911 Jew s from Syria, Iraq ,10 Turkey, and G reece,11 as well as som e fam ilies o f Persian origin, settled in Lebanon. The number o f Jew s in Beirut alone increased to 5 ,0 0 0 .12 Conversely, in 1913, with Jew ish settlem ents increasing in Palestine, the Jew ish fam ilies horn H asbaya13 m oved to the G alilee settlem ent o f Rosh Pina on the initiative o f Baron R othschild.14 Only three fam ilies stayed behind. In 1926 the French M andate pow ers drew up a constitution which provided the basis for a m ulti-confessional dem ocratic political system based on the French values o f liberty, equality and fraternity. When Lebanon gained independence in 1943 a N ation al Pact w as concluded between the principal confessional groups based on a census conducted in 1932 and the constitution. Lebanon becam e a consociational dem oc­ racy in which political representation w as allocated on a 6:5 C hristian-M uslim proportional basis. The presidency went to the M aronites, the prem iership to the Sunnis, and the speaker o f the house to the Shi‘a and so on. The Jew s along with the Latin C atholics, Syrian Jacob ites, Syrian C atholics, N estorians, and Chaldeans shared a m inority seat in the parliam ent. The rights o f the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity had been recognized in a civil constitution in 1911. This m ade them one o f the m ore progressive m inorities. In com parison, M uslim s and Christians at that tim e were recognized only on a religious basis. Recognition on a civil as well as a religious level m eant effectively that the head o f the Jew ish comm unity w as its president rather than the chief rabb i.15 The Jew ish comm unity president dealt with inter-com munal relations, representing the com m u­ nity politically, socially and econom ically. In keeping with Jew ish tradition, intra-com m unal relations were guided by Jew ish law . Indeed, personal status law s in Lebanon were in the hands o f all o f the respective com m unities. Accordingly, the Jew ish comm unity had a R abbinic Tribunal which dealt with m arriage, divorce, and other personal status issues. By the tim e o f independence in 1943 the Jew ish comm unity had become concentrated in Beirut with only a few fam ilies rem aining in and around Saida and T ripoli. The number o f Lebanese Jew s increased dram atically with the influx o f thousands o f refugees from Iraq and Syria



in 1948 as a result o f the first A rab-Israeli w ar. These refugees were granted the right to stay in Lebanon. They did not, however, receive Lebanese citizenship. The 1948 w ar did not have a disastrous effect on the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity. The Lebanese government actively protected the comm unity from A rab nationalist and Palestinian elements in Lebanon - but even A rab frustration over the situation in Palestine rarely m anifested itself in aggression against the local Jew s. Lebanese Jew s themselves did not consider the w ar to directly affect them as they saw them selves clearly as Lebanese nationals - so much so that there were Jew ish soldiers in the Lebanese Army fighting in the w ar o f 1948. Lebanon, com pared to its imm ediate neighbour Syria and indeed m ost other Arab states, had a m ore tolerant and liberal attitude tow ard its own Jew s and tow ard Jew ish refugees seeking asylum in Lebanon. Thus, in 1948 the number o f Jew s had increased to 5 ,200 and by 1951 to 9,000, 6,961 o f whom were Lebanese citizens.16 Indeed, Lebanon w as the only A rab country in which the number o f Jew s increased after the first ArabIsraeli w ar. Syrian and Iraqi Jew ish refugees settled in Beirut’s W adi Abu Jam il while at the sam e time the established Lebanese Jew ish bourgeoisie started to m ove out o f the Jew ish quarter to Q antari and to M ichel Chiha Street.17 The upper m iddle-class Jew s living in m ore fashionable areas were engaged in commerce and finance. M ost notably am ong these are the tw o banking fam ilies - Sa fra and Zilkha. The poorer Jew s in W adi Abu Jam il w orked in the garm ent, soap, and glass industries or as peddlers. R elations between the Jew ish comm unity and the other Lebanese m inorities rem ained am icable. Characteristic o f cross-com m unal interac­ tion and friendship were celebrations o f religious festivals to which Jew s, M uslim s and Christians invited each other. Lebanese Jew s today cherish the memory o f their non-Jewish neighbors bringing bread into the quarter at the end o f Passover. The tradition o f sharing each other’s religious festivals continued after the first A rab-Israeli w ar. In 1951, during the Passover celebration, the president o f the Jew ish comm unity, Dr Joseph Attie, held a reception at M agen Avraham synagogue which w as attended by Sam i Sulh, Abdallah Y afi, Rachid Beydoun, Joseph Chader, H abib Abi Chahla, Charles H elou, Pierre Gemayel and M sgr. Ignace M oubarak, the M aronite Archbishop o f Beirut.18 The Jew s were patriotic, seeing themselves as Lebanese nationals, and they also were perceived as Lebanese by the other com m u­ nities. T acit alliances were created with Christian leaders, such as head o f the M aronite K ata’ib party Pierre Gem ayel, as both Lebanese Jew s and many M aronites advocated the strengthening o f Lebanon’s Christian character which w as seen as a guarantee o f keeping Lebanon a refuge for m inori­



ties in the M iddle E ast.19 Indeed, Pierre Gem ayel from 1948 onw ards stressed on many occasions that his party considered the Jew s to be fullyfledged Lebanese citizens and that Lebanon w as "ab o u t all m inorities living peacefully together” / 0 A number o f Jew s were K ata’ib party m em bers, and the comm unity as a whole supported Gem ayel in the elec­ tions. An interesting side note to K ata’ib-jew ish relations are K ata’ib-lsraeli relations which were secretly conducted from the 1920s up to 1984.21 The K ata’ib and later Lebanese Forces leadership m ade a conscious decision not to involve the local Jew ish comm unity in order not to endanger their status am ong Lebanon’s m inorities.22 The Israelis after the invasion o f 1982 were not so sensitive. Friendships with prom inent Lebanese politicians and good business relationships in addition to the governm ents’ dedication to religious toler­ ance ensured that the Jew ish comm unity had government protection in troubled tim es. During the 1948, 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli w ars the Lebanese Army posted guards to the entrance o f the Jew ish quarter.23 During the civil w ars o f 1958 and 1975 the M aronite K ata’ib party and later the Lebanese Forces protected Jew ish interests m ilitarily, the Jew s not having their own m ilitia. The liberal atm osphere in Lebanon had encouraged the growth o f the comm unity to 14,000 by the tim e o f the onset o f the first civil w ar in 1958. The instability created by the hostilities led to em igration from Lebanon by all com m unities. H ow ever, it affected the Jew s quite drastically since the general instability follow ed by the crash o f the Intrabank in 1966, and the burden o f the Palestinian refugees from the 1967 w ar, had an adverse effect on the econom y and finance sector which the Jew s so heavily depended upon. Thus, by 1967 the comm unity had decreased to 7,000, falling to less than 4 ,000 in 1971.24 The 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-D ay W ar also left its m ark on Lebanon leading to an overall decline in the security for all com m unities. In Decem ber 1970 a bom b exploded in the Jew ish Selim T arrab school.25 T his w as such a departure from the co-existence between Lebanon’s Jew s and other Lebanese m inorities that the M inister o f the Interior, K am al Jum blatt, publicly apologized. Yet, this bom b w as a sign o f what w as to com e in Lebanon’s imm ediate future as the security situation in the country deteriorated, the governm ent o f Suleim an Franjieh lost its credi­ bility, and inter-com munal tension rose. M any Jew s as well as many Christians and M uslim s started to leave their disintegrating country. In line with their self-definition as Lebanese citizens, the Jew ish fam ilies im m igrated to Europe and the United States and settled am ong other Lebanese ém igrés; only a few decided to settle in Israel. Then, in 1975, the second Lebanese civil w ar broke out. W adi Abu Jam il, being very much in the center o f the city found itself on the greenline between the



pro-status quo m ainly Christian forces and the anti-status quo coalition o f Sunni, Shi‘a, Druze and Palestinian forces. A s a result o f the w ar, the synagogues and the Jew ish school were closed and econom ic activity w as severely restricted.26 M any buildings, including the m ain synagogue and the Talmud Torah , were dam aged.27 Only 4 5 0 -1 ,0 0 0 out o f the 4 ,0 0 0 -6 ,0 0 0 Jew s were still in Lebanon in 1978.2< By 1980 this number had further decreased to 2 0 0 -3 0 0 with only 20 rem aining in Beirut.29 Along with Christian and M uslim Beirutis, many Jew s had fled to the m ore peaceful countryside; m ost, however, left Lebanon. Jew ish lives were, for the first tim e, in serious physical danger - not from Palestinian radicalism , A rab nationalism or anti-Sem itism , but from an ethnically divided society at w ar with itself. An estim ated 200 Jew s were killed in the cross-fire between w arring filerions in 1 975-6.30 The on-going Lebanese civil w ar entered a new phase with the Israeli invasion o f Lebanon in 1982. The Jew ish comm unity benefited from the Israeli presence which guaranteed their safety and opened access across the border to relatives living in Israel. M any Lebanese Jew s took this opportunity and left Lebanon, a few settling in Israel and many m ore trav­ elling via Israel to Europe or the United States. In 1984, with the Israeli w ithdraw al from Beirut, the situation o f the rem aining Jew ish fam ilies deteriorated rapidly. Up to the Israeli invasion the relations o f the Jew s with Christians and M uslim s had rem ained good despite the w ar.31 H ow ever, from 1982 onw ard, the Jew s in the m inds o f som e Islam ist m ili­ tias had become associated with Israel and the darkest period o f Lebanese Jew ish history began. Eleven leading personalities were kidnapped and killed. O thers were evacuated overnight from W adi Abu Jam il by the K ata’ib and m oved to the safer area o f the Christian enclave where they rem ain until the present day.

A Literary Survey Som e references to the Lebanese Jew ish community have appeared in a limited number o f books on Lebanon and books on Jew s in the M iddle E ast. Through these references it is possible to obtain a fleering im pres­ sion o f w hat Lebanese Jew ish life w as like in the past. In many accounts, however, these references do not extend beyond a paragraph and thus, while providing relevant inform ation, they are only indicative o f a subject which has been hitherto neglected. This book aim s to situate Lebanon’s Jew s in Lebanese history and thus fills a gap in the existing literature while also presenting a new angle on both the history o f Lebanon and the ArabIsraeli conflict. H elena Cobban in The M aking o f M odem Lebanon m entions that the Jew ish comm unity during the upheavals o f the 1970s



shrank from around 2,000 to near extinction.32 M ichael W. Suleim an’s book on Political Parties in Lebanon: The Challenge o f a Fragmented Political Culture com m ents in passing upon the Jew ish element in Lebanon’s business comm unity as well as their political insignificance, while focusing on the larger m inorities. Elizabeth Picard’s excellent book Lebanon: A Shattered Country gives a very brief overview o f the position o f the Jew ish comm unity, ending with an accurate analysis when she says that “ belonging neither to Islam nor Christianity, the Jew ish comm unity had chosen to inscribe its history in that o f a m odem Lebanese state, thus reflecting the country’s dynam ism and w eakness - and particularly its vulnerability to its surroundings” .33 Probably the m ost comprehensive contribution on this subject is that by Luc Henri de Bar in his book Les Communautés Confessionelles du Liban which includes a full chapter on the Jew ish comm unity. M oreover, Bar has an interesting take on the Jew s describing them as “ well integrated into their environm ent” . H e raises the question whether this w as purely the result o f Lebanon being Christian as well as M uslim which provided the space for the Jew s to contribute to the country’s prosperous econom y. They were never draw n to either pole, “ didn’t ally them selves with one or the other, against one or the other” .34 M ost other authors w riting on Lebanon, however, ranging from Theodor H a n fs sem inal w ork Coexistence in Wartime Lebanon: Decline o f a State and Rise o f a Nation, K am al Salibi’s House o f Many M ansions: A History o f Lebanon Reconsidered , W illiam H arris’ Faces o f Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and G lobal Extensions to Stephen Longrigg’s Syria and Lebanon under French M andate neglect the Lebanese Jew ish community com pletely. A little m ore inform ation can be gathered from those books dealing with Israel’s 1982 invasion o f Lebanon and Israeli-M aronite relations, often m aking references connecting Lebanese Jew s to both Israel and to the Lebanese M aronites. Laura Zittrain Eisenberg’s outstanding w ork My Enemy’s Enemy: Lebanon in Early Zionist Imagination, 1900-1948 and Zeev S ch iffs and Ehud Y a’ari’s Israel’s Lebanon War fall into this category. Yet, altogether, the inform ation on the sm all Lebanese Jew ish comm unity in books on Lebanon’s com plex history is scant, a situ­ ation this book aim s to redress. The place o f Lebanese Jew ry in the greater history o f Judaism and Zionism has been equally one that could be at best described as m arginal. The com parative absence o f persecution and anti-Sem itism plays a signif­ icant role. Another reason is the comm unity’s proxim ity to both Palestine and Syria, which has often led to the Jew s o f Lebanon being mentioned but not studied in academ ic w orks on those respective com m unities. This has occasionally resulted in the denial o f the existence o f a Lebanese Jew ish identity and claim s that Jew s living in Lebanon were actually Syrian Jew s. A closer look at the historical origins o f the Lebanese Jew ish



com m unity, however, reveals that the Jew ish presence not only dates back to biblical tim es, but also that Jew s living in Lebanon were not just Syrian m igrants. In fact, an analysis o f the genealogical com position o f the Lebanese Jew ish community reveals Spanish, M aghrebi, Turkish, G reek, and Persian roots over many centuries as well as Syrian, Iraqi and European backgrounds over the course o f the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In keeping with other Lebanese ethnic com m unities the Jew ish comm unity w as com prised o f refugees which had left other parts o f the M iddle East to find safety in Lebanon's geographic position and in a m ore tolerant society. W alter P. Zenner's chapter on “Jew s in Late O ttom an Syria: External R elation s"35 in Shlom o Deshen's and W alter P. Zenner’s edited volume Jewish Societies in the Middle East: Community, Culture and Authority is one exam ple o f seeing Lebanon’s Jew ish comm unity within the context o f a greater Syria. H e m akes references to both the Jew s o f Saida and Beirut as well as their agricultural roots in Deir al-Q am r. Unfortunately for those interested in Lebanon, there is no more than a glim pse o f Lebanese Jew ish life under O ttom an rule. Raphael Patai’s tw o books The Vanished Worlds o f Jewry and Tents o f Jacob: The D iaspora Yesterday and Today as well as Hayyim J . Cohen’s The Jew s o f the Middle East 1880-1972 and J . J . Benjam in’s travelogue Acht Jahre in Asien und Afrika von 1846 bis 1855 fall into the sam e category. N orm an Stillm an’s The Jew s o f Arab Lands in M odem Times and the The Jew s o f Arab Lands: A History and Source Book add to the subject o f Lebanese Jew ry in the form o f published docum ents including a report on the Jew ish com m u­ nity in Saida (1902), a com plaint by the Jew s o f Beirut about their Chief R abbi (1909), the Chief R abbi’s defense (1910), and Abraham Elm aleh’s attem pt to spread Zionism (1927) - just to name a few. They are an excel­ lent source from which to gain an insight into the dynam ics o f the com m unity, its socio-political position, as well as conveying an im pres­ sion o f the tim e. Another interesting piece o f w ork is P. C. Sadgrove’s inquiry into the “ Beirut Jew ish-A rab T heatre” raising the issues o f culture and identity at the end o f the nineteenth century. A further contribution on the wider subject has com e from Joseph B. Schechtman who in his book On Wings o f Eagles: The Plight, Exodus, and Homecoming o f Oriental Jewry has a full chapter on the Jew s o f Lebanon in which he attem pts to balance Lebanon's special status am ong A rab and M iddle Eastern states with the status o f M iddle Eastern Jew s in society. Accordingly he does point to the “ peaceful and uneventful life" o f the com m unity, but then follow s with an alm ost stereotypical statem ent for the region, saying that events in Palestine ended this idyll.36 The rest o f his account, up to 1959, does not change this picture. S. Landshut's brief overview o f Lebanese Jew ry in his book on Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries o f the



M iddle E ast m akes only references to the situation in 1948, but m anages to capture the com plexity o f events nevertheless. An interesting, more substantial, and highly relevant contribution on the subject o f the Jew s o f Lebanon is Abraham Elm aleh’s edited volum e In Memoriam: Hommage à Joseph D avid Farhi which gives an account o f the life and achievements o f one o f the m ost distinguished presidents o f the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity, Joseph Farhi, as well as an im pression o f this particular time in Lebanese history as viewed by Farhi’s contem poraries, who all played prom inent roles in the community. Altogether, it can be said that inform ation on the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity has been sketchy at best, leaving room for a much m ore com prehensive account which this book aim s to provide. It will be essen­ tially a political history o f the comm unity as it will focus on the position o f this m inority within the broader socio-political system o f the state. This does not m ean that econom ic, cultural, and religious aspects will not be touched upon, but they w ill play a com paratively m inor part. Focal points in this study w ill be identity, nationalism , Zionism , inter-communal inter­ action, and the involvement o f the Jew ish comm unity in Lebanon’s civil w ars as well as the A rab-Israeli w ars. Related questions that will be explored are the relationship between Lebanese Jew s and other Jew ish com m unities such as those in Syria, Palestine under the British m andate and later Israel; whether the creation o f the state o f Israel changed life for the Jew s o f Lebanon; and, finally, whether the history o f the Lebanese Jew s throw s a different light on the A rab-Israeli conflict.

------------- 1 -------------A Voyage through History

Little is known about the Jew ish experience in the area o f present-day Lebanon before the twentieth century. O ccasional references in travelogs and history books provide only an im pressionistic glim pse o f this sm all comm unity. Yet this Lebanese m osaic o f Jew ish life, while fragm ented, provides another dim ension to the general experience o f the Jew s in the M iddle E ast. The history o f Lebanon and its Jew s is one which has alw ays had elements o f distinctness and autonom y which produced a society with different inter-com munal relations other than its neighbours. For the Jew s o f Lebanon neither the myth o f a golden age o f Islam ic tolerance, nor the im age o f Christian bigotry, nor the picture o f M uslim fanaticism hold true. The pre-twentieth century experience o f the Jew s o f Lebanon w as char­ acterized by centuries o f safety, hospitality, and tranquillity. The fates o f the Jew ish com m unities were interwoven with the rises and falls o f the cities in which they lived. Follow ing the w ar o f 1860 the Jew s were sw ept up by the tides o f m odernization, inter-com munal m igration, and the restructuring o f Lebanese society. By the turn o f the century the com m u­ nity had developed from one that w as A rabized, rural, geographically fragm ented, and relatively obscure to one that had become centered around Beirut and Saida, had become urbanized, and that had adopted a distinctly francophile Levantine identity - a comm unity which tied its future to the em erging m odem m ulti-cultural state.

T he H istorical Legacy The presence o f Jew s in Lebanon dates back to biblical tim es when the ancient cities o f Tyre and Saida were known as wthe crow ned” and "m erchant to many nations” . The arrival o f the first Jew s in Lebanon is said to have been 1,000 bce.1 Under Solom on (9 7 0 -9 3 0 bce ) Lebanese cedars were used for the construction o f the tem ple in Jerusalem and influ­ ence w as exerted through trade connections with K ing H iram o f Tyre.2 It

A Voyage through History


is also said that as a sign o f his love King Solom on built a palace for the Queen Sheba in Baalbek. Further testim onials to the existence o f Jew ish com m unities date from the period o f the H asm oneans with references in the M ishnah and the Talm ud to villages and settlem ents in the Lebanese m ountains and M ount H erm on.3 During the reign o f A ristobulus (104-105 bce ) som e areas around M ount Lebanon were conquered and forcibly Judaized.4 In the chronicles o f the Jew ish com m unities, the comm unity o f H asbaya stood out for preserving the tradition o f its fore­ fathers. D uring the Rom an period, the H ouse o f H erod ruled over parts o f Lebanon. An increase in the Jew ish population in that region w as regis­ tered after the Bar Kochva revolt in 132 ce . The Jew s who had m igrated to w hat is now Lebanon were m ainly agriculturalists from Judea and the G alilee. They found refuge in the villages at the foothills o f M ount H erm on. They did not consider them selves to be living in exile as the agri­ cultural com m andm ents, such as those relating to the sabbatical year, extended geographically to just south o f Saida.5 In 502 ce it is reported that the Beirut synagogue w as destroyed in an earthquake.4 Under the reign o f the KhalifXimzr (634-644 ce ) Lebanon becam e part o f the expanding A rab Em pire. As the Em pire contained large Christian and Jew ish populations the previously harsh policy o f Islam tow ards the Jew s (in A rabia) changed to one m ore tolerant in order to avoid a w ide-spread exodus. Tolerance, however, did not mean an absence o f restrictions. Jew s were allow ed to live under M uslim rule on paym ent o f a poll-tax. Traditionally, rich Jew s had to pay a specified sum each year, the well o ff paid h alf and the poor a quarter. They were also forbidden to carry arm s, testify against M uslim s, or m arry M uslim s. W hile a specific dress code w as the norm in many places, this w as not enforced in Lebanon.7 M oreover, these restrictions did not prevent Jew s in Lebanon from holding positions o f authority such as m edical or finan­ cial advisers at the courts o f the khalifs.8 The A rab author al-Baladhuri relates that the K halif M u‘aw iya (6 6 1 -6 8 0 ce ) settled Jew s in T ripoli. A Jew ish comm unity also existed in Baalbek in 9 22.9 R abbi Saadia G aon, who lived there, w rote that he had students from “ Baal G ad” , the biblical name for B aalbek.10 The Palestinian academ y established its seat in Tyre in 107111 and Itzhak Ben Zvi during one o f his travels noted that the sm all Jew ish comm unity in Tyre dated to 117012 and consisted o f fam ilies integrated into the local m ilieu. They were Arabized or m usta'aribin - loosely translated as those who adopt A rab m anners.13 They were engaged in glassm aking and inter­ national com m erce.14 The com m unities in Lebanon were not isolated either. The C airo Geniza recorded a number o f inter-m arriages between Jew s from Lebanon with those Egypt, Syria and Palestine in the eleventh


A Voyage through History

century.” Benjam in o f Tudela, in the twelfth century, claim s that Jew s lived in the sam e area as the Druze with whom they traded and engaged in crafts.” They were well integrated into their environment and the m ajority o f them were A rabized.17 In 1173 Benjam in o f Tudela found 50 Jew s in Beirut, while local Jew ish tradition holds that the synagogue and the cemetery dated from 1300.1* The traveller R abbi M oshe visited Saida som e 450 years ago and found 20 fam ilies o f "Jew s acting like A rabs” living there.19 In the fourteenth century references to the Jew s o f H asbaya were m ade in a m anuscript describing them as the “ Levites o f H asban ” . A book o f responsa by R abbi Yom T ov Sahalon, one o f the great sages o f Safed, during the time o f Joseph ben Efraim C aro (1488-1575), m akes it clear that the Jew s o f southern Lebanon clearly looked tow ard Safed for spiritual guidance. As is evident from the responsa , R abbi Sahalon w as asked by the Jew s o f H asbaya about the law regarding a resident who sow ed his field during the sabbatical year. H is response provides som e interesting insights into the H asbaya comm unity at that tim e: A rabbi served in the com m unity, known as the Sage R abbi D avid; the com m u­ nity w as led by Sheikh Y osef M enashe; and H asbaya w as ruled by Em ir A li, presum ably a Druze. But it also m akes it very clear that rulings handed down by the sages o f Safed were legally binding for the area o f H asbaya. Holy congregation, may the Protector of the Eternal truth protect every sacred thing in Hasbaya. Regarding that which we have heard, that one man who lives there among you has done w rong. . . that he has sown in the sab­ batical y ear.. . . Perhaps he thought that since (the village of Hasbaya) is not the Land of Israel it is permissible to plant there in the sabbatical. . . Maimonides wrote . . . that the sabbatical is observed in Transjordan and in Syria as commanded by the scribes, so we find that he has transgressed the words of the sages and his sin is too great to bear. . . . And the law should be that he must uproot all that he has sown, even though he did it unknowingly. . . we have thus seen it fit to decree upon him that he give it to the poor of Hasbaya like the Sage Rabbi David, who is a disseminator of Torah, a teacher, a slaughterer and a leader of prayer ser­ vices, shall give him a generous portion . . . And if he turns a rebellious shoulder, we decree upon the wise and elevated Sheikh Yosef Menashe that he should go to Emir Ali. . . and tell him: the sages of Israel send you regards and tell you that so-and-so has violated the prohibition of the sabbatical year according to our faith, and if he does not act in accordance with the Torah you should take from him all the grain produced from his field.20

Evidence such as this illustrates aspects o f Jew ish life in Lebanon in the period prior to the O ttom an Em pire. And even though inform ation is scant, it bears testim ony to the existence o f long established Jew ish com m unities in w hat is present-day Lebanon, including the cities o f T ripoli and Beirut which had 1,535 Jew ish residents between 1570 and

A Voyage through History


1590,21 as well as Saida, Tyre, and the Druze areas o f the Shouf and H asbaya.

Lebanon under O ttom an Rule The O ttom ans conquered Lebanon in the sixteenth century in their drive fo r territorial expansion from Turkey through Syria, ending ultim ately in the defeat o f the A bbasid Caliphate in C airo. The inclusion o f M ount Lebanon into the O ttom an Em pire had a number o f im portant repercus­ sions for the predom inantly D ruze-M aronite area. M aronites from the northern region o f M ount Lebanon began to m igrate to K israw an, am ong them the Khazin fam ily, which settled in Balluna and the Gem ayel fam ily which settled in Bikfaya.22 Both fam ilies played a leading role in the M aronite com m unity, the form er in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the latter in the emergence o f the m odern Lebanese state. In the Druze com m unity, after a number o f local rebellions led by the chief­ tains o f the H ouse o f M aan, the Fakhr al-Din fam ily, follow ed by their Sunni relatives o f the Shihab fam ily from W adi al-Taym , becam e the leading dynasty. Both played an im portant role in D ruze-Jew ish relations. The Shihabs reigned until 1841, falling victim to the deteriorating M aronite-D ruze relations and Lebanon’s encounter with m odernity. Until this point M aronites, D ruze, and the sm all Jew ish comm unity lived am icably in the sam e area. “ They had seen the ascent and fall o f dynasties arising from each or any o f their com m unities, had acted as close and accepted neigh­ bours, had been indifferently landlord or tenant or w orker on estates o f every ow nership; they had sustained, in comm unity o f interest, scene, language, livelihood, and fam iliar friendship, a scarcely troubled sym biosis.” 23 The precarious inter-com munal dynam ics o f M ount Lebanon were adversely affected by the ten years o f Egyptian occupation under M oham m ed Ali, changes in M aronite society, the destruction o f the old feudal leadership, and grow ing O ttom an jealousy o f suspected foreign “ interference” , prim arily French. The result w as a social fracturing o f the M ountain, which turned into a bloody civil w ar in 1860. The Druze m assacre o f an estim ated 11,000 local Christians triggered the landing o f French expeditionary forces in Beirut, as France had traditionally consid­ ered itself to be the protector o f the M aronites.24 It also gave birth to a new O ttom an statute, known as the règlement, in 1861 and instituted in 1864, which institutionalized the com m unitarian political system which has characterized Lebanon ever since. The M ountain w as directly adm in­ istered fo r the O ttom an Sultan by a governor aided by an elected council


A Voyage through History

representing the local com m unities. The system stipulated that the governor be a Christian appointed by the Sublim e Porte but effectively chosen by the European pow ers. It further stipulated that the council have twelve m em bers, tw o for every principal com m unity, dividing the council confessionally into six M uslim and six Christian representatives.25 Thus, the result o f Turco-European negotiations to resolve the strife w as the establishm ent o f an autonom ous regim e for M ount Lebanon, lasting until 1915. This autonom y w as strengthened by the fact that the C ourts o f Justice after 1879 were based on the O ttom an m odel, the law w as Turkish, a custom s barrier now separated Lebanon from Syria, taxes were collected and paid to Istanbul, and schools were the concern o f the local comm u­ nities. Autonom y, however, while cherished, w as not the solution to M ount Lebanon’s com m unal tensions. "A lthough the regime from 1864 to 1915 prevented recurrence o f the horrors o f 1860, and secured a halfcentury o f tranquillity, the position w as not w ithout its defects, which tim e w as not dim inishing. It had been installed in the sole interests o f a sin g le . . . com m unity, the Catholic and French-protected M aro n ites.. . . The pow er o f the clergy am ong the M aronites, which during the nine­ teenth century had replaced that o f the old feudal leaders, w as unchecked and, for the comm unity as citizens, m ust be counted unfortunate. A due balance o f pow er as between the central and local governments w as never established, suspicion and m utual aversion alw ays prevailed."26

T he Lebanese Jew ish Com m unity The O ttom an approach tow ards ethno-religious m inorities w as em bodied in the millet system which guaranteed comm unity autonom y in the areas o f som e civil and all personal status law s, the full control over property and schools, and the right to be heard by the Sultan through their appointed leaders, as well as exem ption horn m ilitary service. Christian and Jew ish com m unities becam e virtually states within the state.27 This w as the case particularly in Lebanon where secular and religious affairs o f the comm unity were often in the hands o f the sam e person who conse­ quently assum ed an alm ost autocratic position o f pow er. The O ttom an reform s, according to N orm an Stillm an, contributed to the undoing o f the Jew s o f A rab lands in the long run. "T h e large, newly em ancipated and more assim ilated Christian m inority in the Levant cam e into fierce com petition with the J e w s . . . . In their struggle with the Jew s, the Levantine Christians also helped introduce and dissem inate W estern anti-Sem itism in the Arab w orld ."28 C lear evidence o f this for the broader region were the blood libel accusations in the 1840s, but

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these were m ore o f a Dam ascene phenomenon than a Lebanese one. The first m ajor influx o f Jew s to Lebanon cam e in 1710 when a signif­ icant number o f A ndalusian Jew s fled from the Spanish Inquisition to the safety o f the Shouf m ountains.29 The Shouf held particular appeal to these A ndalusian and Maghrebi Jew s as they were told that the m ountains were inhabited by neither Christians nor M uslim s. The Druze welcomed the Jew s for they as a comm unity in the M iddle East had also suffered from Sunni intolerance, thus preferring dhimmi neighbours on the w hole.30 Under the protection o f the Druze emirs they settled in the villages o f Deir al-Q am r, Ba’qlin, M ukhtara,31 Ayn Q aniya and Ayn Z ah lata.32 In fact, Fakhr al-Din provided the Jew ish refugees with a room for prayer signalling both welcome and a notion o f perm anence. Deir al-Q am r is said to have numbered 80 fam ilies at the beginning o f the 19th century.33 D eir al-Q am r had been the adm inistrative and political center o f the M an asif district since the seventeenth century. It w as a sm all village at that tim e, in the heart o f the m ountain, when it became the capital o f the M aan dynasty. D uring Fakhr al-Din’s reign it acquired its distinct fountains, m arble courts, m ansions, and a serait o f Italian inspiration. M ore and m ore buildings were constructed and Deir al-Q am r to many becam e a “ paradise” . By the nineteenth century it had become the trade center o f the region with a population o f 4 ,0 0 0 , and one o f 7 ,0 0 0 -1 0 ,0 0 0 by the late 1850s. It w as the m ost urbane town in the m ountain.34 In addition to its “ o ld” agricultural Jew ish com m unity, it soon acquired a “ new” one o f m erchants, money lenders, and peddlers centered around the town bazaar. Unlike Jew s in other M iddle Eastern countries, the Jew s in the Shouf were predom inantly agriculturalists. Like their Druze neighbors they becam e involved in Lebanon’s silk production, cultivating m ulberry trees and breeding silk w orm s. O thers were olive and wine grow ers.35 Indeed, the agricultural occupations are still reflected in Lebanese Jew ish nam es such as D iam é (“ D eir” al-Q am r), Zeitouné (olives) and Khabié (vessel for olive oil).36 The name D iam é is further connected to the C haabans, the D an as, the H anans, the H asbanis, the M akhloufs, and the Srours. In addi­ tion to agriculture, som e Jew s engaged in comm erce, the m anufacture o f so ap , and the extraction o f iron from the surrounding ore deposits.37 As a com m unity they were known for their courage, and legends were told about their heroism and the exploits o f their brave daughters who knew how to defend their lives and their honour.38 The longing for Jerusalem w as never far from the surface in this sm all com m unity. Shortly after their arrival in the Shouf som e Jew s planted a sm all forest o f cedars in the area o f the village o f al-Barouk, eleven kilo­ m etres from D eir al-Q am r. The Jew s in this village were engaged in the cultivating o f vineyards and olive groves, and the raising o f goats. A fam ily which is still linked with al-Barouk is that o f the Anzaruts. Legend holds


A Voyage through History

that the cedars were planted by the Jew s o f al-Barouk to provide the tim ber for rebuilding the Tem ple in Jerusalem . In fact, until today, there is a forest in the Shouf known as al-arz al-yahud - or the cedars o f the Jew s. Under the reign o f Bashir II (1788-1841) the Jew ish comm unity flour­ ished. In M ukhtara the Jew ish comm unity had its own synagogue and cem etery. An estim ated 15 fam ilies were there in the first h alf o f the nine­ teenth century. During this period the M aronite claim to the territory in the Shouf increased and caused M aronite-D ruze tensions. Added to this were regional tensions including the 1840 hostilities against Syrian Jew s as a result o f blood libel accusations.39 They had been accused o f killing a m onk. The sam e year the Jew s o f Rhodes were blam ed for the death o f a ten-year-old Greek boy. In 1848 the Dam ascene Jew s were further accused o f the ritual m urder o f a disappeared infant.40 Anti-Jewish feeling in the area w as high and did not leave the Lebanese com m unities untouched. In 1848 the disappearance o f another child led to a ritual m urder accu­ sation which shattered the peaceful life o f the Jew ish comm unity in the Shouf. “ A Christian boy nam ed Y usuf, son o f A ssad Abu Shakr from Deir al-Q am r, disappeared on the eve o f Passover. A horrible blood libel w as brought upon the Jew s. N ine respected members o f the comm unity were arrested and the sm ell o f a pogrom w as in the air . . . In the end the boy w as found dead in a field and neither the identity o f the m urderer nor the cause o f the death were determ ined.” 41 The hostilities spread and the Jew s o f Beirut were only saved from physical harm because o f the intervention o f the Dutch and Prussian consuls.42 In many w ays, these incidents were indicative o f the tension leading to the 1860 w ar. The blood libel accusation did not find sym pathy with the Druze and, in that sense, it rem ained a single incident w ithout lasting im pact. It did, however, fall into a broader regional upheaval characterized by rising ethnic nationalism , em erging econom ic com petition between local Jew s and Greek O rthodox newcom ers, and general insecurity which adversely affected a number o f Jew ish com m unities in the Levant. The prime im pact o f this wave o f anti-Jew ish sentim ents in the Levant w as an increase in Jew ish im m igrants to Lebanon which w as still more tolerant than the neighboring areas. Thus the number o f Jew s in Lebanon, which had already expanded through an influx o f Turkish and Spanish Jew s, grew further in 1848 when Jew ish fam ilies from D am ascus fled to Lebanon. Yet while the Jew ish com m unities in the Shouf and Beirut had encountered som e problem s, the sm all com m unities in other parts o f Lebanon rem ained virtually untouched by events. For exam ple, a travelog description by J. J . Benjamin gives the follow ing im pression o f Lebanese Jew s (probably referring to H asbaya) in January 1848:

A Voyage through History


In some villages there are Jewish families which are popular with the Druze and who like the indigenous (people), are farmers . . . They are very reli­ gious, but uneducated. Their children, namely the girls, take the herds out in line with patriarchal custom as the bible tells of Rachel. I was told a story which took place a couple of years ago, that a young girl was attacked by a Druze, who wanted to rape her. The girl warned him that violence would be met with violence. The Druze ignored her pleading and her threats and accosted her, which is when she pulled out a pistol and shot him. When this case came to trial, the girl was not only not punished, but was praised for her courage.43

The next m ajor upheaval in the history o f Lebanese Jew ry cam e with the com plete disintegration o f M aronite-D ruze relations in the Shouf, resulting in the w ar o f 1860. M any M aronite and Druze villagers were forced to flee the area and m igrated to the coastal region around Beirut. The on-going hostilities m eant that the Jew s who had settled in the Shouf also started m igrating from 1850 onw ards, especially when the Druze abandoned D eir al-Q am r. The Jew s o f D eir al-Q am r decided to leave with them as relations with M aronites had been strained through the blood libel accusations,44 while the Druze protected the Jew s during the w ar and helped them leave the m ountain.43 Thus the year 1893 signalled the end o f the Jew ish presence in the Shouf. At this point the comm unity split into three sm aller groups. Between 1850 and 1860 the first group, m ainly o f M aghrebi origin settled, in the area o f Saida in South Lebanon,4* which had had a sizeable Jew ish com m unity since 1522.47 In 1738 R abbi H aim Y osef D avid Azulai encountered a flourishing Jew ish comm unity in Saida.48 The second group settled in the area o f H asbaya on the slopes o f M ount H erm on. The third and largest group settled in Beirut, not only because o f the econom ic opportunities the coastal city offered but also because o f the already existing Jew ish comm unity. Beirut at that time w as in the process o f transition from a sm all port town to a bustling city. Located on the northern end o f hills, bordered to the north and w est by the M editerranean, and to the south by the M ount Lebanon range, it natu­ rally drew Lebanese o f all com m unities to it. In the center o f the city the streets were narrow and w inding. The houses had thick stone w alls, surrounding courtyards hiding them from the view o f the casual passerby. They were cram m ed together, flat roofed terraces touching. In the heart o f the city w as the lively bazaar with num erous shops, booths, inns, and coffee houses.49 It w as around this area that the ancient Jew ish com m u­ nity had m ade its hom e and to which the Jew ish m igrants flocked. The head o f the Dam ascene Jew ish comm unity R abbi M oses Farhi, during one o f his journeys in the 1830s, described the Beirut Jew ish comm unity as “ fifteen native fam ilies” (m aking it clear that they were not recent Jew ish


A Voyage through History

im m igrants) who had “ a neat little synagogue” which had its own large garden, planted with lime and citron trees.50 R abbi D avid d’ Beth H illel, who travelled the region over the period 1 824-32, provides a sim ilar description: Beirut is built at the foot of Mount Lebanon which is on the Mediterranean; it is a large town and has some very fine houses and chans for travellers, but the streets and markets are narrow after the ancient customs . . . The town abounds with every kind of trade because it is the entrance to Damascus from the sea. This place manufactures a great quantity of silk, as there are an abundance of trees for the support of the silkworm . . . There are about 15 families of native Israelite merchants speaking Arabic; they have a small synagogue and have customs similar to those of Judea.51

Other sources estim ate the size o f the comm unity to have been 25 fam i­ lies in 1840,52 and 1,000 in 1850, further increasing after I8 6 0 .53 Later on som e o f the Beiruti Jew s also moved north to T ripoli, which according to R abbi D avid had "ab ou t 15 fam ilies o f native Israelites who have a neat little synagogue in which are written in Hebrew characters the w ords ‘the synagogue o f Sinim’. Behind it is a garden o f lime and citron trees.” 54 In 1881/2 there were 3,541 Jew s in Beirut and T ripoli,55 rising to 5,000 alone for Beirut in 190156 with 1,908 pupils in the vilayet o f Beirut.57 In 1914 there were 4,568 in Beirut, 72 in T ripoli, 6 in H asbaya and one in Baalbek.58 Thus, in essence, the Jew s in Lebanon were living am ong the D ruze, Christians, Shi‘a and Sunnis, reflecting not only Lebanon’s multicom m unal identity, but also that the Jew s were widely accepted as just another o f the country’s 23 m inorities. The town o f Saida in the 1830s w as surrounded by a "little w all in which are very good streets and houses built o f hewn stones, and the clim ate is wholesome. There are o f native Israelites about 25 fam ilies, principally m erchants; they have a sm all synagogue, they speak Arabic and have the sam e custom s as the Israelites o f Ju d ea.” 59 The comm unity o f Saida had been em bellished by mainly Maghrebi Jew s from the Shouf who brought with them rural traditions which they im planted onto the terrain around this predom inantly Sunni city. This w as m ost noticeable in the Jew ish ownership o f som e o f the citrus groves and plantations around the fertile coastal city. By 1860 the comm unity in Saida had grown to such an extent that it called for the form al construction o f a synagogue, rather than the use o f prayer room s in a comm unity member’s home. In 1902 Saida w as a city o f 15,000-18,000 residents. There w as no significant comm erce or industry and m ost residents m ade a living o ff the gardens outside the city or were fishermen. O verlooking the M editerranean Sea the sm all buildings were m ade o f stones gathered from the fields. The alleys between the cram m ed houses were narrow and

A Voyage through History


w inding. The entrance to the Jew ish quarter o f Saida w as through a low narrow gate. “ Im agine a long courtyard, narrow and dark, a sort o f corridor, as sinuous as can be, w hose w idth is never m ore than tw o m eters. O n either side are tw o and three storey houses - or rather cells cut into the w alls, not receiving even a little o f the dim light from the side o f the narrow passage that form s the street.” 60 In a sm all square stood the main synagogue and the Talmud Torah. The Jew s o f Saida, at the turn o f the century, were described as generally poor. They were predom inantly peddlers with a few owning citrus groves outside the city. M ost o f the landow ners were M uslim . Since the region itself w as not particularly pros­ perous, peddling m eant leaving the home and fam ily after Shabbat and returning the follow ing Friday before sunset. In the nineteenth century the poll-tax for Jew s w as abolished.61 And in 1911 the O ttom an governm ent officially recognized the Jew s as one o f Lebanon’s confessional groups and conferred upon the comm unity the sam e rights other confessions had already received. T his, in essence, m eant that not only were the Jew s generally perceived as equal by other ethno­ religious com m unities in Lebanon, they also had the sam e rights and responsibilities under the law . In addition, under O ttom an law , the Jew ish com m unity had juridical autonom y in the areas o f m arriage, divorce, inheritance, all business law , certain aspects o f housing, and ritual law . Jew ish authorities were able to im pose fines, ostracize, mete out corporal punishm ent, and even carry out capital punishment indirectly through the organs o f the state.62 The southern Lebanese village o f H asbaya, situated on the gentle slopes o f M ount H erm on, also had a sizeable Jew ish comm unity. H asbaya featured much m ore prominently am ong Jew s and non-Jews from outside Lebanon than any other comm unity. This is partly due to the geographic proxim ity and thus accessibility to those visiting Palestine. There exists, how ever, evidence that the attention this community received w as due to the am biguity over whether they were not in fact Palestinian Jew s, as som e definitions o f biblical Palestine included that part o f South Lebanon. The latter is based on an ancient tradition regarding the boundaries o f the Land o f Israel including Sefanta as a border point. Sefanta is generally considered to be synonym ous with al-Safna which lies to the north o f H asb ay a.63 The book o f responsa by R abbi M . G alanit from 1777 discusses the case o f a H asbani Jew w ho w as im prisoned by the Druze emir. And the day came to pass when imprisoned under him were gentiles and a few Jews who the Emir decreed should be imprisoned, and among them was one Jew named Mourad Siher Al-Rodisli who with one of the gentile pris­ oners . . . dug a tunnel. . . and escaped with all the Emir’s prisoners who


A Voyage through History had been imprisoned there.. . . After time passed, one gentile came, a Druze from Hasbaya, whom the Emir sent on a mission from Hasbaya to another place.

Based on this testim ony R abbi G alanit released a Jew ess from the status o f aguna. Am ong the w itnesses mentioned in this episode were N issim Bechar, Yitzhak M aatik and R abbi Y osef Zerahia - all from estabUshed H asbaya fam ilies.64 In 1835, the traveller R abbi Y osef Schw artz visited Lebanon and related the follow ing about the 30 Jew ish fam ilies o f H asbaya: “ They were very much loved by the Druze and they were strong men, men o f valour and w orkers o f the land___ Even their daughters tend sheep with bow and spear in their hands to fight with w ild beasts and am bushers.” The Jew s o f H asbaya cultivated grain and vineyards, and tended to sheep and cattle. The Hermon Jew s had a m onopoly on producing soap from olive oil, m arketing and selling in all o f Lebanon. They also raised silk­ w orm s and dyed clothes.63 Church o f Scotland m issionary John W ilson encountered the H asbaya comm unity during his travels in the region after hearing about them in Jerusalem . H is diary entry o f 15 April 1843 gives an im pressionistic account o f Passover: We arrived in Hasbaya at six thirty, and we found the lodgings which Mordechai our Jewish guide who accompanied us from India procured for us in the house of the Jew Moshe Ben Yosef Valido, more accurately, a temporary dwelling in his courtyard. We were not allowed to sleep or eat inside in case we would being in chametz and desecrate Passover, which the family were busy preparing for. We received all the attention we expected from these simple people. They gave us shelter, and of course, on our part we did not interfere with them in any way in their carrying out religious duties. Mordechai joined them in the reading of the Passover H aggadah, the Passover service which is held by the family. They maintained a festive mood during the reading or during the ceremonies which included a cup of wine, bitter herbs, matza and meat that was placed before them.

W ilson's account continues with a brief history o f the com m unity in the entry o f the follow ing day (16 April 1843). He states that all fam ilies w ere Sephardi and that there were approxim ately twenty households com prised o f an estim ated 100 people. They were all Lebanese w ith the exception o f one Palestinian from Acco. Their ancestors had settled in W adi al-Taym one hundred years ago and m ost o f them traced their origins back to N orth A frica. Only a sm all number, tw o or three, w ere professional traders. The others all seemed to be involved in agriculture to som e extent, as can be gathered from sim ilar references by Schw artz,

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w ho w riting at the sam e time as W ilson, tells o f thirty fam ilies in H asbaya. H e describes them as “ strong people, brave men, and they w ork the land ju st like the gentiles o f the m ountain, and their daughters are also shep­ h erdesses".“ W ilson’s diary gives yet further insight into the sm all comm unity: They have a small synagogue, but no beit midrash. They have no inclina­ tion for study. But a few of them understand Hebrew, and about eight to ten read and write Arabic. They very much need the holy scriptures in Hebrew and we were very sorry that we could not fulfil their request. Their hakim Avraham Ben David, who is the governor, the butcher, the teacher and the cantor, said that he is prepared to work as a headteacher of a school, if they will appoint him to such a post, aside horn teaching Talmud. They complained that the demands of the Turkish government places a great burden on them, and that under the rule of Ibrahim Pasha they would pay only 450 Grush per annum, and now they are required to pay 3,200 Grush.67

T h is diary entry raises a number o f interesting points. The comm unity like m uch o f its Christian and M uslim counterparts had an illiterate m ajority. It can also be assum ed that the structure o f the comm unity w as essentially as tribal and patriarchal as the other Lebanese com m unities. This is supported by the fact that there w as one Jew ish leader who much like a village mukhtar represented his people on secular m atters, attended to their religious needs, educated their children, and adjudicated disputes. The H asbaya Jew ish comm unity attracted attention again a couple o f years later in 1859, when a rather curious letter appeared in the journal H am aggid . It w as a letter from a father to his son in which he recounts the abuse he received from the Druze sheikh o f H asbaya. H aving been asked by the sheikh to cure his possessed wife and unwilling and unable to com ply, the Jew Shalom w as beaten, stabbed with a sw ord, and thrown into a pit. After the local Jew s, Christians and the regional governor as w ell as som e twenty Druze clerics intervened, Shalom w as released. He fled to Beirut where he w as welcomed by the local Jew ish comm unity. He ended the letter by begging his son to come to him before he died.68 T his letter seem s to be at odds with the idyllic picture o f H asbaya painted in books, diaries and travelogs o f the 1840s and 1850s. It is diffi­ cult to say retrospectively to what extent this letter characterizes a decline in the inter-com munal relations o f the village ten years later. It is a confusing, alm ost inconsistent docum ent within itself, show ing, on the one hand, the brutality o f the Druze sheikh , but, on the other hand, the successful intervention o f a substantial number o f non-Jews - Christian and Druze - to rectify the situation. M oreover, the Jew Shalom did not flee across the close border to Palestine but instead travelled the much


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longer distance to Beirut. In many w ays it w ould be easy to dism iss this letter com pletely on the basis o f the Druze sheikh *s “ derangem ent” as a result o f the grief over his ill w ife, or even seeing it as a rather elaborate ploy by a father to get his tw o adult children to move back home and take care o f him. The main argum ent against this is a reference in an account by the m other o f a Lebanese Jew by the name o f Salim H asbani who spent m ost o f her life in H asbaya even though she w as originally from M ukhtara. She rem embers that a number o f fam ilies left H asbaya tem porarily during the D ruze-M aronite W ar o f 1860. These fam ilies went to D am ascus, but decided to return to H asbaya h alf a year later.69 This suggests that there were indeed upheavals in the H asbaya com m u­ nity with the arrival o f Jew ish fam ilies from the Shouf, the departure o f som e H asbaya fam ilies to D am ascus, and others to Beirut and Saida. As a m ixed village o f D ruze, C hristians, M uslim s and Jew s the D ruze-M aronite tensions had m ade them selves felt. Indeed, the 1860 civil w ar which had started in the M aronite district o f K israw an, spread from the m ountain onto the plains and to the anti-Lebanon range, including H asbaya.70 On the other hand, these inter-communal tensions were not characteristic o f H asbaya and should thus not be taken out o f context. The geographic proxim ity o f the slopes o f M ount Herm on and the em erging Jew ish settlem ent in Palestine were, no doubt, the largest factor in the dissolution o f the H asbaya Jew ish comm unity. There had alw ays been m ore o f a spiritual link o f this comm unity with Zion which can be gathered from the tradition o f burying their dead in nearby Abel al-Saki believed to be in the Land o f Israel.71 W ith Jew ish im m igrants acquiring land in the G alilee and the increasingly active Zionist movement, the H asbaya Jew s started being drawn m ore and m ore tow ards their co-religionists across the border. A visit o f Baron Rothschild features quite prom inently in the local history. O ral history holds that in 1887 Rothschild passed through the area and aroused the curiosity o f the H asbaya Jew s who had never seen a “ w ealthy” Jew before. They climbed down from the slopes o f M ount Hermon to greet him. H e w as surprised to see Jew s living in the m ountains in Lebanon and asked them who they were and how they lived. Then he asked whether they needed anything, at which point they asked for a new synagogue and school. All that w as left o f the old synagogue w as the southern w all. Rothschild paid for a new synagogue to be built at the expense o f 170 Lira and provided the com m u­ nity with a hacham.71 Trade links, religious ties, and econom ic and financial opportunity opened the w ay for the eventual m igration o f m ost o f the fam ilies to nearby Rosh Pina in Palestine, a move that had been encouraged and financed by Baron Rothschild.73 The m igration started in 188874 and by 1913 only three fam ilies still rem ained in the Lebanese village on the

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slopes o f M ount H erm on. R othschild’s other "contributions” to H asbaya were o f a less perm anent nature. The ancient w all o f the original syna­ gogue is still standing, while the w alls o f Rothschild’s new building collapsed long ago.

C ulture, Education and Religion Lebanese Jew s after their interlude in M ount Lebanon becam e an urban population w ho were Arabic-speaking and French educated. In that sense, they lagged behind other M iddle Eastern Jew s who tended to have ceased to be an agricultural people during the seventh and eighth centuries, but unlike other ancient populations, returned to life as a nation o f m erchants and artisan s.75 They have been described as assim ilated into the A rab population save in greater W esternization o f mind and habit.76 They m anaged their own comm unity within the millet system with their own schools as well as those o f the Alliance Israélite Universelle. In addition to the schools o f the Alliance, m issionary schools started to attract more Jew ish students from the mid-nineteenth century onw ards. The Church o f Scotland had three schools in Beirut alone. Generally these schools were unsuccessful in their proselytizing efforts. In the case o f Lebanon, m ost m issionary schools were French and this specifically m eant that classes taught on Saturdays resulted in Sabbath desecration for the children o f the m ainly upper m iddle class Lebanese Jew ish fam ilies.77 Lebanese Jew s like other M iddle Eastern Jew s participated in the country’s culture as well as that o f their own comm unity. With Beirut em erging as an intellectual and literary center within the region in the nineteenth century, it is not surprising that Beirut’s Jew s were included am ong the playw rights. M ost prom inent were the lawyer and busi­ nessm an Antun Y usuf Shihaybar and his brother Ilyas, a school teacher at the Jew ish school in Beirut, as well as Z aki Cohen and his son Selim. The Shihaybar brothers’ plays which were written and perform ed in A rabic and are currently in the possession o f the A bulafia fam ily in Israel include dhabihat ishaq (the sacrifice o f Isaac), al-marid al-wahmi (the im aginary invalid), m udda'i al-sharaf (the w ould-be gentlem an), and intisar aUfadila (the victory o f virtue). Z aki Cohen’s plays were written and perform ed in Hebrew - m aking them the first plays in Hebrew perform ed in Beirut in 1876 - and his son Selim’s plays were in A rabic. The latter's included intisar al-haqq (the victory o f truth), 'aw d al-sa‘ada (the return o f happiness), khashf al-hijab (the unveiling), al-muqamir (the gam bler), Badr wa ikhwanuha (Badr and her brothers), and al-m usrif (the profilgate). In addition, there were a number o f unknown plays by Salim D haki perform ed in M arch 1882, April 1894 and April 1895.78


A Voyage through History

These plays provide an interesting insight into the extent o f A rabization o f the Beiruti Jew s. With the exception o f Z aki Cohen's plays, they were written and perform ed in A rabic. They featured characters whose Jew ish identity w as clear, em phasized by the use o f som e H ebrew w ords and the discussion o f questions o f the Jew ish faith, history, and persecution.79 They also m ade allusions to Arabic history, Q uranic verses, classical Arabic poetry, and European literature. Thus they com bined Jew ish, Arabic and European elements - in many w ays a classic Levantine m ixture. The broader im pact o f these plays on Beiruti society is indicative not only o f the w ay the Jew s fram ed their own identity as Jew ish, A rab and Levantine/Lebanese but also o f their acceptance within an equally m ixed-identity M uslim -Christian comm unity. The plays were appreciated by high officials and notables from all com m unities. N iqula Fayyad, wellknown physician, poet and w riter, once said that the "m o st fam ous plays were those perform ed in the school o f Z aki Cohen in al-Ashrafieh. I used to attend them clandestinely and envied those who had received an official invitation.” 80 The exam ple o f the emerging Jew ish-A rab theatre in Beirut highlights som e o f the links between cultural expressions o f the Jew ish comm unity and its educational establishm ents. Indeed, much o f the Jew ish theatre tradition w as linked to the Jew ish school which in the 1870s and 1880s presented plays at the beginning or end o f the academ ic year.81 Both the Shihaybar brothers, the Cohens, and Dhaki taught at the Tiferet Yisrael school which w as, in fact, established by R abbi Z aki Cohen in 1874. The school w as unique in the sense that in addition to educating Lebanese Jew ish children, it also becam e a private boarding school for the children o f prosperous Jew ish fam ilies from D am ascus and Aleppo only a year after its establishm ent and rem ained so until its closure in 1904. It com bined religious subjects with a very high standard o f secular studies, boasting a wide range o f languages including H ebrew , A rabic, Turkish, French, English, and Germ an. Despite the entry o f the Alliance Israélite Universelle onto the educational scene in Lebanon, Tiferet Yisrael w as the center o f both educational, literary and cultural activities o f the sm all Jew ish comm unity, which in 1856 had numbered only 500, doubling by 1880, and tripling by 1889. With its language o f instruction being Arabic it w as an exception within the greater Jew ish education establishm ents in the M iddle East. The Alliance Israélite Universelle established a prim ary school for boys in Beirut in 1869 and a prim ary school for girls in 1878. A co-educational prim ary school w as also founded in Saida in 1902.82 Unlike Tiferet Yisrael the schools o f the Alliance were exclusively secular in orientation and the language o f instruction w as French. The Alliance Israélite Universelle as a movement w as founded in Paris in 1860. Its aim w as to w ork

A Voyage through History


throughout the w orld for the em ancipation and the m oral progress o f the Jew s.83 The underlying principles o f the movement were those o f liberty, equality and fraternity o f the French Revolution.84 The interest o f W estern Jew s in the fate o f their co-religionists in the M iddle East w as sparked by the 1840 D am ascus blood libel case. So when the Alliance w as created it pursued the fight for Jew ish rights w orld w ide under the talm udic m otto “ all Jew s are responsible for each other” .83 Added to the classic spirit o f em ancipation w as a liberal doses o f the classic (colonial) French civilizing m ission. In order to be able to extend equality and em ancipation a concerted am ount o f regeneration o f Jew s living in “ backw ard” societies w as needed. Thus, w hat the Alliance as an institution em bodied and sought to instil in the Lebanese Jew s w as a French value system , the French language, French appreciation o f literature, m usic and culture. These ideological underpinnings were, on the one hand, linked to the integra­ tion o f the M iddle E ast into the w orld capitalist m arket and, on the other hand, based on general perceptions that M iddle Eastern Jew s w ithout distinction were unenlightened, ignorant, superstitious and fanatic. In short, they were a source o f deep em barrassm ent to their enlightened European (French) brethren.84 T o the chagrin o f the em erging Z ionist movement the Alliance had an alm ost anti-Zionist stance. M oreover, its assim ilationist approach angered the traditional religious establishm ent. Yet, it has been pointed out that to see the Alliance purely within the French colonial context is also incorrect. M iddle Eastern Jew s were not the classic “ other” in the perception o f French Jew ry which w as part o f the great French civiliza­ tion, but an extension o f it.87 T hus, through the Alliance French Jew ry sought to draw M iddle Eastern Jew s into civilization. W hat is present in the relationship between French Jew s and M iddle Eastern Jew s, lacking in other French m issionaries and their colonial subjects, is a real sense o f eventual equality rather than mere likeness. The im pact o f the Alliance on the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity cannot be overestim ated as it profoundly added to their identity, and, in the em erging national divide, placed them clearly in the francophile and proW estern cam p. It also m eant that the French m andate w as yet another period in which Lebanese Jew ry flourished - at least until the Vichy regime. Religion com prises the final element within the triangle o f Lebanese Jew ish social life, interacting with both culture and education in the form ulation o f Jew ish identity in nineteenth century O ttom an Lebanon. The synagogues filled their traditional roles not only as vehicles for religion and culture but also for social integration, stratification, and control. The construction and location o f synagogues in many w ays docum ents the developm ent o f the Lebanese Jew ish comm unity.


A Voyage through History

The first m odem synagogue in Beirat w as located in the area o f the Place de l'Étoile and al-Ahdab Street where it stood until 1922. The tradi­ tional quarters at that time placed the G reek-O rthodox comm unity to the east around Ashrafieh and the Sunni M uslim s to the w est around Basta. M ost o f the Jew s who had settled in Beirut lived in the area o f Souk Sursock and D alalin next to the Rom an C atholic Church o f M ar Elias. In the late nineteenth century they started m oving tow ards W adi Abu Jam il, along the O ttom an government buildings in the serail and along Bab Idriss and into the valley. As tim e went on W adi Abu Jam il became the religious, social and econom ic centre o f the comm unity. T o im agine the Jew ish quarter as a ghetto w ould be a m istake. It w as a section o f Beirut which had taken on distinct com m unal characteristics, no m ore and no less than the Armenian quarter, M aronite, G reek-O rthodox, or Sunni parts o f the city. W adi Abu Jam il did not receive its first synagogue until long after the settlem ent o f the comm unity in that area. Tw o grand "p riv ate" synagogues were built in the m ountain resorts o f Aley and Bham doun. This w as a response to the traditional seasonal m igration o f many m iddle class Lebanese urbanites to the m ountains during the hot and humid sum mer m onths. M iddle class Jew ish fam ilies in accordance with this tradition decided to build a synagogue in Aley in 1890 and in Bham doun in 1915. Between 1850 and 1860 a synagogue w as also built in Saida. R eligious and comm unity life in Beirut as well as that in Aley and Bham doun w as a com bination o f “ Levantineness” with Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi minhagim .** M uch o f religious tradition w as transm itted orally rather than through learned texts as Lebanese Jew ry w as only slightly m ore literate than its other M iddle Eastern counterparts at that tim e. This resulted in the notion o f the "sain tly " rabbi who w as able to solve all prob­ lems w ithout consulting texts right up to the twentieth century. A prom inent factor within Lebanese Jew ish religious expression w as popular religion or popular m ysticism . Like their M uslim neighbours who pilgered to tom bs o f saints, the Jew s also practised both "h igh " and "lo w " Judaism . One such m anifestation o f "lo w " or popular religion w as the pilgrim age to the reputed tom bs o f the sons o f Jaco b , said to buried in Lebanon.89 The tom b o f R abbi Reuven near H asbaya had sim ilar im por­ tance. Salim H asbani recalled that this particular tom b w as also visited by gentiles. There is an interesting tale connected with R abbi Reuven's tom b: Next to the tomb there are four olive trees and a piece of land. It happened 80 or 90 years ago (Salim Hasbani recalls in 1929) that the tombstone was destroyed. One of the Emirs ruled the land. At the same time there was a well-respected Druze whose name was Salim Bek Shams. The Druze told

A Voyage through History


the Jews that the Rabbi (Reuven) came to him in a dream at night and said to him: “ You should know that I am destroyed, if you don’t undertake repairs I will strangle you.” And he (the Druze) did not heed it (the dream). On the second night the dream recurred, and it was so on the third night. The Bek became alarmed and started building a mausoleum for him (the Rabbi).»0

The m ausoleum subsequently becam e a prom inent locality o f pilgrim age draw ing not only Jew ish w orshippers, but also Christians and Druze. N ear the tom b o f R abbi Reuven there w as also a sm all cemetery in addi­ tion to the official one in Abel al-Saki. Another exam ple o f m ystical popular religion and its appeal across the com m unities is the assem bly o f the religious leaders o f all com m unities at tim es o f crises for joint prayers. A Lebanese Jew recalls there w as a time o f drought. M uslim and Christian leaders were praying for rain. They cam e to the local rabbi and asked him to join them in prayer and blow the shofar. The rabbi declared a fast for the whole comm unity and took the children from the Talmud Torah to the cemetery. Before they finished the fast, the rain cam e pouring dow n. The rabbi w as honoured by the M uslim and Christian leaders. And years later, after his death, they still went to the rabbi’s grave.91 Lebanese Jew s like other M iddle Eastern Jew ish com m unities had links with the Jew s in Palestine. The geographic proxim ity m eant that these reli­ gious ties which evolved around pilgrim ages to Jerusalem , Safed, H ebron and T iberias were well developed.92 Palestinian Jew ish em issaries, such as V ictor Jacob son , also travelled to Beirut on a regular basis.93 Religion becam e a central issue for the Beirut comm unity at the turn o f the century as it underwent a spiritual crisis caused by the lack o f a chief rabbi. This w as follow ed by a scandal in connection with the rabbi they then had em ployed to fill the vacancy. The comm unity had appealed to Chief R abbi N ahoum in Constantinople to send an appropriate person for the position o f Chief R abbi o f Lebanon, and R abbi Danon w as despatched to Lebanon to fill this post in 1908. But "th e m an who should have sought to unite the hearts o f all (did) everything to divide th em .. . . By his inconsistent character and lack o f dignity, he has done everything to discredit him self in the eyes o f the people and, w hat is w orse, to discredit his o ffic e .. . . Blinded by pow er which he exaggeratedly thought he w ielded, he threatened at every turn the newcomer and notable alike.” 94 The comm unity at that tim e levied its own tax on m eat in order to fund its institutions. Apparently, R abbi Danon m isappropriated these funds. H e also took control o f the locks o f the cemetery in order to personally collect tax on burials. The tax had up to that point been collected by the comm unity com m ittee, and the revenues had been


A Voyage through History

deposited in accordance with the statues o f the comm unity in the AngloPalestine Bank. It w as used for the burial o f the poor free o f charge. The patience o f the comm unity m embers with R abbi Danon reached breaking point when a member o f the Greenberg fam ily died and the rabbi w ould not allow them to bury him before the tax had been paid. “ He haggled at 2 a.m . over this issue with the dead body on the floor and the fam ily struck by grief.” 95 After this incident the notables o f the comm unity petitioned the Chief R abbi in Constantinople to remove R abbi D anon. The action against the rabbi w as initiated by the then comm unity president Ezra Anzarut and the com m ittee. In his defense R abbi D anon claim ed that the opposition w as down to Y aacov Semach who w as a veteran Alliance teacher and the director o f the schools. Sem ach, according to Danon, turned the notables against him .96 Danon w as not able to keep his post in face o f the com m unity’s action. H e w as succeeded by Chief R abbi Jaco b M aslaton who held this post from 1910 to 1921. At the sam e time a shift also took place in the secular leadership o f the comm unity with Anzarut being succeeded by Joseph Farhi as the president o f the Jew ish com m u­ nity until 1924.

2 Lebanese Jew s under the French M andate: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality

The period o f the French m andate is one that left a distinct and often contradictory im print on the m inds o f all Lebanese com m unities. The French presence w as perceived as an impediment to independence by many Christian politicians. These sam e politicians, however, also saw French influence on the area as a welcom e check on A rab nationalism in the region. In the eyes o f m any Lebanese M uslim s the French m andatory pow er w as blam ed for the separation o f Lebanon from Syria and the creation o f G rand Liban. Thus the French had hindered legitim ate M uslim A rab aspirations for a united A rab state. The conflict in Palestine also affected the situation in neighboring Lebanon, placing som e M aronite politicians in an uneasy alliance with the Yishuv, M uslim nationalists in occasionally hostile opposition, and the Jew s in a position which w as not alw ays as clear-cut as they m ight have w ished. Yet at the sam e tim e M uslim s, C hristians, D ruze, and especially the Jew s remember the m andate as another golden age in Lebanon’s history, a tim e characterized by the pursuit o f culture, literature, and the art o f living - a time when there w as inter-com munal cooperation despite differing views on the state.

Grand Liban and the M andate The First W orld W ar heralded the dismem berment o f the O ttom an Em pire. In the spring o f 1920 France and Britain agreed on the exact divi­ sion form ula for the A rab territories o f the form er O ttom an Em pire at the San Rem o conference. The principal consideration underlying this form ula as in the earlier Sykes-Picot Agreement w as oil and com m unica­ tion s.1 France w as aw arded the m andate for Lebanon on 28 April 1920,


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

giving the French the duty o f fram ing a constitution, protecting the rights and interests o f the population, as well as encouraging local autonom y.2 The direct im plication for Lebanon w as the creation o f the Republic o f Lebanon in its “ G reater Lebanon” territorial configuration. With the arrival o f colonial rule cam e a general abandonm ent o f reli­ gious traditions for all urban com m unities and a tendency to an often superficial form o f W esternization. For the Jew s this m eant a lapse in ritual im m ersion, ignorance o f H ebrew , and adoption o f W estern dress. The entry of the Alliance Israélite Universelle educational system into the lives of the Jews in the Muslim countries turned out to be a distinctly mixed blessing. It was a good thing in the sense that it laid the foundations for the emergence and growth of a Western oriented intelligentsia. At the same time, however, the Alliance also paved the way for a gradual alienation horn Jewish tradition and Jewish nationalism, and for the perception of Western lands - rather than the land of Israel - as objects of migration.1

The latter held particularly true for the Jew s o f Lebanon. The departure o f the O ttom an governors and the entry o f French troops into Lebanon in 1919 gave rise to the long-sim mering and still unresolved debate over the identity o f Lebanon as a state. In 1919 there existed three key conceptions com peting with each other: Arab unity, G reater Syria, and an independent Lebanon. A rab unity w as supported by som e Greek O rthodox notables as well as M uslim political circles. The G reater Syria option w as cham pioned by the secular intellectual estab­ lishment which considered Syria, Lebanon and Palestine as one “ natural” political unit and secularism as the only answ er to m inority-m ajority inte­ gration in the region. M ost Lebanese, however, supported the notion o f an independent Lebanon - including Lebanon’s Jew s. Supporters o f the third option, am ong them the M aronite hierarchy and the Adm inistrative Council o f pre-w ar M ount Lebanon, were divided with regard to the borders o f this independent state. The rival territorial units were Petit Liban , effectively the m utasarrifiya (governorate) o f M ount Lebanon, and Grand Liban , adding to M ount Lebanon the qazas (districts) o f Baalbek, the Bekaa, R ashayya and H asbaya. The latter w as essentially the area once ruled by Fakhr al-Din and Bashir II reaching from T ripoli and the A kkar plain in the north to the Bekaa in the w est, to Jebel Amel in the south. The French who had been given the m andate over Syria and Lebanon by the League o f N ation were lobbied with great efficiency by the G reater Lebanon supporters, many o f whom were Lebanese em igrants in Paris. The final decision in favor o f Grand Liban w as ultim ately m oti­ vated by tw o factors: the M aronites who w ould have been the prime beneficiaries o f a sm aller state actually wanted a larger one, and within the context o f m andate responsibilities Grand Liban w as a much m ore

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


econom ically viable unit with a stronger basis for independence. Thus, on 1 Septem ber 1920, G reater Lebanon w as proclaim ed by the French H igh Com m issioner General Henri G ouraud - a picturesque, gallant, distin­ guished m ilitary figure and devout Catholic4 - from the porch o f the residence o f the French high com m issioner in Beirut. For the M aronites the new state w as the culm ination o f centuries o f striving for liberty and independence. For the m ajority o f the Lebanese M uslim s this new state m eant no longer being part o f the ruling group but being a m inority am ong m any. The Jew s o f Lebanon em braced this inde­ pendent m ulti-cultural Levantine state with alm ost as much enthusiasm as the M aronites, for their religious, social, political and econom ic posi­ tion had not only been safeguarded but enhanced. The political system negotiated between Lebanese politicians and French adm inistrators w as in many respects sim ilar to the règlement after the 1860 w ar. The fundam ental rights o f the individual ethnic and reli­ gious com m unities that had evolved over the previous centuries were fiercely protected.5 Under the m andate the confessional system w as perpetuated as an acknowledgem ent o f inalienable rights and recognition o f the strongest social bonds. Yet at the sam e time a vocal m inority pressed for its abolition, exalting national over archaic sectarian loyalties.4 The struggle between the tw o, hitherto unresolved, w as reflected in the 1922 Electoral Law which decreed that every representative, on the one hand, represented the whole nation rather than his specific com m unity, but, on the other hand, the seats were distributed confessionally on a proportional b asis.7 The census conducted prior to the elections counted 3,500 Jew s, 330,000 C hristians, 2 75,000 M uslim s and 43,000 D ruze,* numbers which the historian Stephen Longrigg considered to be highly inaccurate for reasons o f "concealm ent, m isunderstanding, falsification, conjecture, and m otives peculiar to the com m unities which in such countries alw ays prevent accurate personal registration” .9 Longrigg highlights som e o f the problem s with population statistics which need to be kept in mind and which also account for the variance in the numbers used here. N evertheless, the census numbers are sufficient to provide a general esti­ m ate o f the size o f the Jew ish comm unity. In 1926 Grand Liban w as reconstituted as the Lebanese Republic, the Lebanese Constitution defining the state as unitary. Articles 9 and 10 o f the Constitution were particularly im portant for the Jew ish community as seen within the broader context o f Jew ish experience in the M iddle E ast. Article 9 guaranteed the freedom o f conscience, the freedom o f religion, and provided the com m unities with the right to legislate on m atters o f civil status. Article 10 granted the com m unities the right to their own educational system , subject to state supervision. Thus the Jew s o f Lebanon had become one o f the few, and perhaps the only one o f the


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

Jew ish com m unities in the M iddle E ast which had its religious equality constitutionally protected. This m ade it very clear that they were regarded as one m inority am ong m any, rather than second-class citizens or even the enemy within. The Lebanese Constitution provoked fierce Syrian and unionist oppo­ sition as it effectively enshrined the territorial integrity o f the Lebanese state as unalterable. The French, however, saw to it that the effectiveness o f the M uslim boycott o f the state over this issue w as eroded. They im pressed upon the M aronite leadership the vital necessity o f giving the M uslim comm unity enough stake in the country to encourage them to help m aintain the state.10 Once the Constitution had been adopted, an assem bly created, and a state bureaucracy established, a change o f atti­ tude am ong several M uslim leaders began to em erge.11 The idea o f an independent Lebanon becam e reality as the Lebanese M uslim population, despite its initial resistance, started to participate in the new system . They took part in the 1932 census, and in the sam e year, a M uslim stood for the presidency for the first tim e,12 and from 1934 onw ards a Sunni M uslim has alw ays held the prem iership. This m ove tow ards full participation w as enhanced by the fact that the creation o f a united A rab state in the region had been deferred until the w ithdraw al o f the m andatory pow ers. Yet, while inclusive state-building took place during the m andate, inclusive nation-building rem ained elusive. O r, as the eminent Lebanese historian K am al Salibi asked: “ Are adm inistrative bureaucracies, flags and national anthem s sufficient to m ake a true nation-state out o f a given territory and the people who inhabit it?” 13 The vague notion o f a truly m ulti-cultural Lebanon in which all com m unities were afforded parity o f esteem w as forced to com pete with much m ore concise form s o f nationalism such as the “ Lebanonism ” or political M aronitism espoused by the K ata’ib party, the G reater Syrianism pursued by the Parti Populaire Syrien (PPS), or the m ilitant A rab nation­ alism o f the N ajjadeh. Even though these parties were unable to attract broad support during the tim e o f the French m andate, they contributed to the failure to create an overarching Lebanese national identity, leaving com m unity, religion, region, and fam ily as the prim ordial identity. D uring this period, Lebanese Jew s unlike Jew s in other A rab countries were not particularly active in the budding com m unist m ovements. While Jew s had been in leading positions in the Palestinian, Iraqi and Egyptian com m unist parties, they did not play an im portant role in the Lebanese com m unist m ovem ent.14It has been claim ed that this conspicuous absence m ay be attributed to the fact that Lebanese Jew s, though fairly w ell-off econom ically, have not felt them selves to be an integral part o f the popu­ lation and, consequently, have not developed a social conscience in regard to the ills o f Lebanese society.15 While the econom ic aspect should not be

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


underestim ated, the lack o f interest in the Lebanese com m unist movement lies elsewhere. It lies in the lack o f discrim ination and oppression. The attraction o f com m unist parties in other countries to Jew s w as that comm unism strove for equality regardless o f religion or ethnicity. It thus served as an equalizing m echanism . In Lebanon the Jew s were equal and they were, like m ost o f their Christian and M uslim neighbors, capitalists through and through, hence the absence o f Jew s in Lebanon’s sm all com m unist movement. Politics in Lebanon rem ained essentially tribal with the Jew s having tied their future to a m ulti-cultural independent state. Society’s progress, in com parison, w as one o f leaps and bounds. By the end o f the m andate Lebanon had, at least to outside appearances, become a shining exam ple o f a liberal dem ocracy and o f general social advancem ent.16

M erchants and Financiers By 1914 Beirut had an estim ated 2 00,000 inhabitants com pared to only 6 .000 at the beginning o f the nineteenth century. It had developed horn a port town to a m ajor capital city with a cosm opolitan atm osphere. References to the size o f the Jew ish comm unity during the French m andate vary widely: Pierre R ondot establishes the number o f Jew s in M ount Lebanon in 1913 at 86, expanding to 3,588 in 1932.17 The Encyclopedia Judaica estim ates the Jew ish population o f Beirut alone to have reached 5 .000 by 1929.1* The French governm ent in 1923 counted 3,303 Jew s in G reater Lebanon, and the 1932 census registered 3,588 Jew s. By the late 1930s the comm unity is said to have numbered 6,0 0 0 , the vast m ajority o f whom were living in Beirut. Albert H ourani even places their number as high as 9 ,9 8 1 .19 W ith the growth o f the city cam e significant infrastructural develop­ ment which benefited all com m unities alike: drinking w ater, gas street-lighting, tram s, postal and telegraphic services, schools, h ospitals, as well as printing and publishing houses. The port city becam e the center for m anufacturing and trading com panies which, unlike those in other M iddle Eastern cities, were owned by Lebanese and not foreigners.20 These Lebanese entrepreneurs were predom inantly Greek O rthodox and Greek C atholic C hristians, but the Jew s o f Lebanon also played a signif­ icant role. In the nineteenth century, Beirut had been one o f the m ost im portant ports on the eastern M editerranean. During this time the m ajority o f Jew s were engaged in com m erce, and according to travelers’ reports they were prosperous, with only a sm all number o f poor.21 As the city developed, they took p art in Lebanon’s dom estic and foreign trade, banking, and


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

tourism . There are no exact details on the occupations o f Lebanon’s Jew ry at that tim e, but insights gained from travelogs provide a substantive basis for the assum ption that m ost o f them were m erchants or clerks and a few artisan s.22 Lebanon’s econom y during the m andate underwent a number o f fluc­ tuations with the stresses and strains relating to the end o f the First W orld W ar, the O ttom an debt, the settlem ent o f Armenian refugees between 1919 and 1923, the currency reform , the great depression, and the Second W orld W ar. The daily living conditions for much o f the rural population rem ained relatively unchanged. Life in the city, however, underwent drastic changes. In a new atm osphere o f m odernity new progress and enterprise were stretching the boundaries o f the im aginable. One o f the key changes w as a shift in prosperity from the old elites to a new rising trading class o f M aronites, other C atholics, Jew s, and M uslim m inorities who flourished through their relations with the French and their freedom from Sunni dom inion.23 The year1935 saw three strikes which were a reflection o f the econom ic and political situation. The long depression had frayed political nerves and had drained financial resources. General disaffection resulted in the tw o week strike o f the butchers in Z ahle, which w as a violent response to the m eat-transport tax. It led to the occupation o f government offices and a heavy police response including shooting and arrests. Only a few months later, in M arch-A pril, Beirut’s taxi drivers went on strike. Beirut’s lawyers then went on strike leading to the closure o f the courts.24 During the period o f French rule, Beirut’s interm ediary service role between the East and the W est w as reinforced. The influence o f French capital in the local econom y, the dom inance o f French political and mili­ tary pow er in the Levant, and the challenge o f British Palestine resulted in policies and investment that em phasized the expansion o f ports, roads, railw ays, and the infrastructure, m ostly centered around the capital.25 The Jew s strengthened their role in commerce within this context, although they were not am ong the w ealthiest m erchants.26 With the exception o f Joseph Farhi who w as a member o f the Cham ber o f Com merce o f Beirut, a member o f the M erchants A ssociation, and a member o f the Commission des Mercuriales o f the Econom ic Council,27 they played no significant role in the pow erful m erchants associations despite the fact that approxim ately 90 per cent o f Lebanese Jew s were engaged in com m erce.28 As one Lebanese Jew recalls, m ost o f them were busi­ nessm en, tw o or three were big bankers such as the Safras, Z ilkhas, and som e w ould include the Safadiehs. M any were com m ercial im porters, and there were som e sm all bankers and money lenders such as the N ahm ads and A razis. They were well-respected and trusted.29 They m aintained extensive business relationships with both M uslim s and C hristians, and

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


the com m unity as a w hole w as prosperous, possessing sufficient resources to look after its religious and educational needs. The overall success o f econom ic activities for all o f Lebanon's com m u­ nities w as the result o f their reach far beyond the state’s borders. Lebanon’s Jew s and non-Jew s had trade relations with both Syria and Palestine. Indeed Lebanon w as one o f tw o principal foreign m arkets for the sale o f Palestinian products m anufactured by Jew ish factories.30 The Jew ish businesses included Anzarut and Sons owned by Ezra A nzarut and his son Jacques but m anaged by Joseph Farhi until 1934. Farhi then proceeded to open his own maison de commerce Joseph D avid Farhi 6c C o Ltd.31 Another prom inent business w as Joseph Dichy Bey’s m aison commerciale which represented am ong others Gestetner, Boots, Agence M aritim e, and Sm ith-Corona. In addition, there w as a sm all num ber o f Jew ish journalists in Lebanon, for exam ple, Eliyahu Salim M ann, editor o f Al-'Alam al-Isra’ili established in 1921, and T oufiq M izrahi who published an econom ic m agazine in French called Le Commerce du Levant. Am ong the few poets and w riters w orthy o f note w as Esther Azhari-M oyal.32

Inter-com m unal R elations and Com m unity Life Inter-com munal relations, which had been traditionally characterized by religion and fam ily received the added dim ension o f social distinctions with Lebanon’s move to m odernity. While there generally were no great différences in the living standards o f farm ers and w orkers, the grow ing entrepreneurial segment within the Lebanese population gave w ay to a C hristian and Jew ish petty bourgeoisie which adopted European clothes and a flagrantly W estern life-style, and a Sunni M uslim bourgeoisie with sim ilar, though m ore discreet, behavior.33 The overall relationship between the com m unities w as am icable, char­ acterized by m utual respect and deep personal friendships. This does not, how ever, mean that there were no disturbing incidents, but that these were com paratively few , and were individual actions rather than com m u­ nity attitudes. For exam ple, the M aronite comm unity as a whole had a very good relationship with its Jew ish neighbors. But this did not prevent the rather unfortunate attem pt by M aronite priest Antun Yam in in 1926 to try to blackm ail w ell-off Jew s.34 Failing to attain the desired money, he im ported Arabic translations o f the Protocol o f the Elders o f Zion and tried to sell them. In this he w as equally unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the Jew ish comm unity president appealed to the French H igh Com m issioner Henri de Jouvenel to ban this publication under M andate article 26.35 De Jouvenel declared the affair ridiculous, stating that it could not possibly


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

have any effect on the m orale o f the population which, it w as pointed out, w as unwilling to even purchase the book. Thus the attitudes o f the com m unities stood in stark contract to the actions o f this particular priest. R eligious festivals served as one o f the m ain focal points o f inter­ comm unity interaction beyond the mundane every-day w orld o f business and comm erce. The open display o f religious affiliation and celebration o f holidays characterized Lebanon’s m ulti-cultural society. With the Jew s o f Lebanon it w as not just a mere case o f tolerating their religious differ­ ences but a case o f all com m unities participating in each other's lavish and high-spirited celebrations. The Jew ish quarter w as covered with flow ers on holidays and at the end o f Passover non-Jewish neighbors w ould bring bread. It becam e a tradition to hold annual receptions at the synagogue for Passover which furthered the am icable relations between the Jew ish comm unity and the authorities as well as other com m unities.36 For instance, in 1932, during the Passover celebrations, the Jew ish comm unity president Selim H arari held a reception to which he invited French m andate authorities and Lebanese government representatives, addressing them as follow s: a We address the government o f the Republic o f Lebanon with feelings o f profound gratitude . . . for safeguarding our rights and interests as a religious m inority; we are loyal and sincere citi­ zens.” 37 Passover 1936 provides another exam ple. After the religious service at M agen Avraham , the Jew ish comm unity received Lebanon’s notables. Representing the H igh Com m issioner w as M r G ennardi, the InspectorGeneral o f the W aqf, and representing the president w as the Em ir Jam il Chehab, the D irector o f Finances. A lso present were General H untziger and Counter-Adm iral Rivet. Com munity president Joseph Farh i's address commenced with the exodus from Egypt but quickly m oved into eulo­ gizing Lebanon. “ We Jew s in our secular tradition love this beautiful country and our attachm ent is as sincere and as solid as the liberal Constitution o f Lebanon and the cavalier character which its inhabitants accord us in law and in deed, equality with other citizens, guaranteeing our liberty, and assuring im partial justice.” 38 H e proceeded to state that the Jew s, while not politically active, served their country by enhancing its prosperity. M . G ennardi, in his speech, after spending som e time on the subject o f the persecution o f Jew s in other countries and the Jew ish em ancipation in recent history, proceeded to stress the ancient ties that had existed between King Solom on and Phoenician King H iram . H e finished by extending sincere greetings o f the French nation in the “ spirit o f fraternal union” .39 The Em ir Jam il Chehab speaking on behalf o f the Lebanese government, stated that Lebanon had never and w ould never m ake distinctions between any o f its children. “ Y our action never caused the government concern and I am delighted to

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


extend to all o f the comm unity congratulations from the entire Lebanese governm ent.” 40 In addition to the French and Lebanese government repre­ sentatives, a great number o f religious personalities from all com m unities as well as representatives from m ost foreign consulates attended the cele­ bration. The elaborate celebrations evident on the occasion o f Passover 1936 were not an anom aly, but the norm . R eligious holidays were shared w ith other com m unities and on m ost occasions they were lavish and gran d, displaying the prosperity and well-being o f the community as well as a Levantine generosity as a whole. Sim ilarly, on the occasion o f the visit by the M aronite Patriarch Antoine Arida to the Jew ish comm unity in 1937, Jew ish comm unity pres­ ident Joseph Farhi portrayed Lebanese Jew ish patriotism stating that, For us Jews our attachment to this country is not of recent date. It has existed for thousands of years. Already Moses solicited God’s favor to see the promised land -the enchanting Lebanon. Later our biblical poets cele­ brated the marvelous sites, the majestic cedars which Solomon preferred for building the Eternal Temple. Time has not diminished our attachment to the land which we inhabit, has nothing but fortified our feelings of loyalty and devotion to Lebanon, which in our days, following the example of its glorious ally France, is maintaining rights and a regime of liberty and justice for all its citizens without distinction of race or confession.41

O n this occasion, the Jew ish comm unity held a particularly grandiose reception for H is Beatitude. W adi Abu Jam il had been decorated with Lebanese and French flags, palm branches, festoons, hangings, and carpets covering the w alls and m ain facades. The entrance to the syna­ gogue w as decked with a m agnificent trium phal arch. The children, the scouts, and the M accabi youth lined the street leading to M agen Avraham .42 The Patriarch and Archbishop M ubarak who accom panied him were received by Joseph Farhi, Chief R abbi M aslaton, and the director o f the Alliance. The Patriarch thanked the com m unity, expressing his best w ishes to Lebanon’s Jew s, “ because we feel how precious and sincere their love is for u s” .43 Passover 1943 provided another occasion for Lebanon’s Jew s to express their loyalty to the em erging independent Lebanon. Com munity president Joseph Dichy Bey paid tribute to the liberation o f Lebanon from the Vichy regim e, the presence o f British and French forces, as well as to the fate o f his co-religionists in Europe. Like all Lebanese, we welcome with joy the return to constitutional life. We have already entered the constructive phase of independence and we have the courage to pursue our efforts by all means possible to consolidate and elevate this edifice equally dear to all patriots.


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate The call (or national unity has been voiced by the president of the Lebanese Republic and the eminent heads of all religious communities has profoundly echoed in our hearts. We recognize that to assure the prosperity and duration of our cherished country, all spiritual families which compose it need unity and solidarity. We adhere with enthusiasm to the Pact and attaining the aspirations of Lebanon. We salute equally the presence of the distinguished representatives of the French authorities, civilian and military, of Great Britain, and of the United States. Their successful fight at this hour will see the defeat of those who want to dominate the world and reduce to slavery humanity in its entirety. The Jews have been the first victims of this war. Over four million o f our brothers have been massacred - this is the tribute we have paid for our attachment to the principles of liberty.44

The relations between the com m unities went beyond official functions. Stella Levi, the daughter o f Joseph Farhi who w as president o f the Beirut comm unity 1 9 1 0 -2 4 ,1 9 2 8 -3 0 , and again from 1935-8, remembers her father going to Bkerke, the seat o f the M aronite Patriarch, on a regular basis for afternoons o f theological discussions with the patriarch.45 Joseph D avid Farhi exem plified the comm unity spirit. H e w as bom in D am ascus on 27 January 1878, and w as educated at the Alliance school in D am ascus follow ed by the L ’Ecole Norm ale Israélite Orientale in Paris, from which he graduated in 1897 with his brevet supérieur. From 1900 to 1901 he taught at the Alliance school in Sousse, T unisia. H e then proceeded to become a textile m erchant by profession. H e w as a bom leader, a sym bol to the comm unity o f love o f Judaism , religious traditions and civic devotion. Lebanon, the country o f his choice, influenced his identity beyond doubt. In 1908 he established his business in Beirat, m arried the daughter o f N issim Adés - R ose - in 1910, and had four daughters: M arcelle, Suzanne, Eva and Stella. From his base in Lebanon he continued to travel to M anchester as well as other parts o f the w orld until 1934. From his decision to settle in Beirut onw ards Farhi becam e active in the comm unity. H is nam e becam e linked to the establishm ent o f comm u­ nity organizations, fair decision-m aking, comm itm ent and energy to give the comm unity an enviable place in society. H e reform ed m any o f the anti­ quated com m unal institutions, being as com m itted to Zionism and his Jew ish identity as he w as to his chosen Lebanese identity. H e not only participated in the foundation o f B ’nai Brith in 1911 but also in Arazei HaLevanon (Lebanon’s C edars). H is m otto w as to be a good Jew and a good citizen.4* The Jew ish com m unity, like Farhi, did not only convey its own Lebanese patriotism , but they also were perceived as Lebanese by the

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


other com m unities. M aronite Patriarch A rida as well as M aronite K ata’ib party leader Pierre Gemayel repeatedly voiced their views that the Jew s were a Lebanese m inority just like any other. This is only one indicator o f the close relationship between the Jew s and the M aronites, which, in many w ays, w as m ore intim ate than Jew ish-M uslim relations. Another indicator is the Jew ish com m unity’s regular contributions to M aronite church charities.47 The connections with the K ata’ib party were o f utm ost im portance. Established in 1936, this predom inantly M aronite party w as the only party that counted Lebanese Jew s am ong its m embers. The K ata’ib had been founded as a param ilitary-style youth organization inspired by European fascism and dedicated to the preservation o f a Christian and independent Lebanon. The ideology or belief system is generally known as Lebanonism or Lebanese nationalism . It presents an essentially secular inter-confessional interpretation o f Lebanese nationhood, although with clear M aronite roots.48 At the heart o f the party w as its youth movement, which provided for som e organizational links between the M aronite scouts and the Jew ish scouts. There is a clear overlap o f interests and even ideology between M aronite K ata’ib supporters and Lebanon’s Jew s, which accounts for an alm ost natural relationship between the tw o. Pierre Gem ayel’s 1937 statem ent that the K ata’ib "d o es not constitute a polit­ ical party. It is neither for nor against anyone - it is for Lebanon” 49 very much reflects Jew ish attitudes. Thus, it is not surprising that the Jew s o f Lebanon found their closest friends am ong the K ata’ib, friends, who in addition to the state police, assum ed the role o f the defender o f the Jew ish quarter whenever pro-Palestinian dem onstrations threatened to turn again st local Jew s.50 After the end o f the First W orld W ar the Jew ish comm unity underwent a number o f organizational reform s led by Farhi. It w as a drive tow ards dem ocratization and egalitarianism within the grow ing comm unity evident in the revision o f the general statutes, new regulations, and the establishm ent o f a number o f com m issions. Until these reform s the com m unity had essentially been directed by one or tw o notables who were respected by all.51 Farhi w as the driving force behind the creation o f an elected comm unity council with an elected president. This council w as com prised o f approxim ately 15 officers supported by 150-200 com m u­ nity activists. The office o f the comm unity president itself w as held by Farhi from 1923 to 1925, follow ed by Joseph Dichy Bey from 1925 to 1927. The Com m unity Council o f Beirut assum ed the function o f a central body within Lebanon, recognized by the Jew s o f Saida and T ripoli as well as by the Lebanese authorities.52 From 1920 to 1930 the B ’nai Brith served as one o f the m ain fora for discussing comm unity concerns with regular


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

m eetings.33 The meeting room s also functioned as a synagogue known as the MB ’nai Brith Tem ple” before the construction o f M agen Avraham in 1926. In 1929 B ’nai Brith w as expanded with a women’s chapter Banoth Brith and a youth chapter in 1938. The reform s introduced a spirit o f dem ocracy through periodical elec­ tions, assuring that there w as an influx o f new ideas and new representatives. It becam e the social foundation for the comm unity. Another one o f Farhi's projects w as the creation o f the Construction Fund. The fund served the purpose o f im proving the synagogue in Bham doun, the expansion o f the Talmud Torah School, acquiring more buildings, establishing a youth center, and a library.54 Farhi w as an exem plary comm unity leader in all w ays: active on the Com munity Council, in B ’nai Brith to which he had been elected presi­ dent in 1915, a member o f the Scholarly Com m ittee o f the Talmud Torah , the Alliance Schools, the Cham ber o f Com m erce, and active in the Beirut m unicipality.55 In 1933 he received the Medaille d ’Officier d ’Académie for his expansion o f French culture in the O rient.56 H e w as not, however, the only personality in the comm unity to leave a lasting m ark. Joseph Dichy Bey also ranked am ong its great leaders. Dichy Bey w as bom in Beirut in 1882. H e m arried in 1907 and w as blessed with seven children: Louise, Vicky, Bella, Eva, V ictor, O dette and D olly. H e becam e active in commerce and finance which provided him with the opportunity to w ork for the Egyptian state for a number o f years. In recog­ nition o f his service to the state, the Egyptian King Fuad granted him the title Bey. In 1920 Dichy Bey returned to Beirut, founded his maison commerciale, and em barked upon 30 years o f devoted service to the Jew ish comm unity. H e w as adm ired for his relentless energy and his generosity. H e becam e a member o f the Com munity Council from the day he returned, and w as elected president in 1925 for the first tim e. He applied many o f the experiences he had gathered in the adm inistration o f the Egyptian state to running comm unity affairs. H e w as active in B ’nai Brith and had good relations with the Yishuv, visiting Tel Aviv on a number o f occasions.57 H e m ore than proved his leadership when, during the second w orld w ar, he assum ed the responsibility for the security o f the Jew ish com m unity, w orking continuously for the release o f those comm unity members who did not hold Lebanese citizenship and were im prisoned in special cam ps by the Vichy authorities.

Religion In 1921 the comm unity w as faced with choosing a new spiritual leader to replace Chief R abbi Jaco b M aslaton. At a general assem bly m eeting on

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


2 0 N ovem ber the unanim ous choice w as R abbi Solom on T agger. Tagger held the position o f the Chief R abbi for only tw o years. H e w as relieved o f his post as his public behavior w as deemed to create obstacles for and prejudice tow ards the Jew ish comm unity through his polem ics. On 23 February 1923» Joseph Farhi w as re-elected comm unity president and w as faced with the issue o f Chief R abbi T agger. He set up an arbitration com m ission to exam ine the options. In the end» the comm unity unani­ m ously decided to end R abbi T agger’s service.58 In 1924 Shabtai Bahbout w as nom inated Chief Rabbi» taking office in April. In 1926 W adi Abu Jam il’s grand synagogue M agen Avraham w as constructed. It w as funded by M oise Abraham Sassoon o f C alcutta in memory o f his father»59 on land donated by Raphael Levy Stam bouli. The building w as designed by the architect Bindo M anham , the construction overseen by Ezra Benjam in and Joseph Balayla» and the project prom oted by Isaac M ann. As a comm unity effort the new synagogue w as inaugu­ rated on 25 A ugust 1926 and its grandiose architecture and structure has characterized the form er Jew ish quarter until today. The Ecole Talmud Torah Selim T arrab w as located within the prem ises o f M agen Avraham . Both the school and the synagogue provided the comm unity as a whole with an im pressive neighborhood as well as functioning as a vehicle for the comm unity leadership to counter the increasing de-Judaization and religious indifference.60 In addition to the m ain synagogue there were an estim ated ten sm aller synagogues including the Spanish synagogue, the K ahal Reuven syna­ gogue and the Eddy synagogue. This w as a reflection o f a vibrant religious life, on the one hand, and o f the divisions within the com m unity, m ainly according to their origins, on the other hand. The comm unity w as predom inantly Sephardi. There were, however, a sm all number o f Ashkenazis who had settled in Beirut between the tw o w orld w ars. They established their own synagogues which were basically designated room s in a comm unity m ember’s house as opposed to the grand architecture o f M agen Avraham . The comm unity w as traditional in its religious observance. The Sabbath w as sacred for m ost, as were the high holidays, which were cele­ brated in grand style within the comm unity. Yet like m any other Jew ish com m unities the elders were concerned about the m ore relaxed attitudes o f the youth. T o counter these trends in 1938 a special com m ittee to redress the spiritual situation w as set up to exam ine the causes for their behavior.61 As in other aspects o f comm unity life, Farhi also played a key role in religious observance and practices. After the construction o f M agen Avraham , he introduced a choir to chant traditional m elodies, as well as organizing for religious instruction and a lecture series. An im pression o f


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

the com m unity’s spiritual life can be gained from Abraham Elm aleh, who cam e from Palestine on a lecture tour to Beirut in Decem ber 1927. H e arrived shortly before Shabbat and w as welcom ed by the comm unity. It w as Hanukkah and in a letter to the Sephardi Federation, which had arranged his visit, he gave a lively account o f his experiences. H e w as to give som e lectures to the comm unity on Zionism , Palestine and Sephardi Jew ry which had been advertised in the Beiruti A rab press as well as the A rab language Jew ish new spaper Al-'Alam al-lsra’ili. In his letter he w rites: On Shabbat morning I was invited to the service in the Great Synagogue and was honored with opening the ark and being called up third, of course, to the reading of the Torah. This splendid and beautiful synagogue which can hold approximately 1,000 men was filled to capacity with worshippers who had come to hear my lecture. After the prayers, which had lasted until ten o’clock, an enormous crowd began to stream in from the rest of the synagogue to hear the lecture. The women’s gallery which also holds more than a thousand places, was filled with women and young ladies... I began my speech in Arabic after having expressed my great regret at being unable to speak in my people’s language since most of the audience did not under­ stand Hebrew.*2

Further on in his letter he continues his account with the Hanukkah festiv­ ities, when he w as invited back to the G reat Synagogue for evening prayers and the ceremony o f lighting the Hanukkah m enorah. The number o f men and women who cam e w as around 2,000. M em bers o f the M accabi O rganization and the orchestra cam e in their blue and white attire. He described the highlight o f his m ission as being his speech in French at the Club o f the Union Universelle de la Jeunesse Juive.6i The reception held in his honor at the start o f his visit and the gala evening at which Joseph Dichy Bey thanked Elm aleh on behalf o f the comm unity were characteristic o f the Beirut comm unity’s generosity. Equally characteristic w as its religious conservatism and observance. Despite the fact that many parents sent their children to Christian schools instead o f the Alliance, and despite friendly cross-com m unal social contacts, conversions to Christianity were rare. Conversions to Islam rem ained even m ore obscure.*4

Education Hebrew schools and kindergartens had opened in Beirut and Saida in 1919 and 1920. They were initially staffed by Palestinian teachers. In 1926 M ichael T arrab, a native o f D am ascus who had m ade his fortune in

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


C u b a, along with his brother Raphael founded the Ecole Talmud Torah Selim T arrab. In 1932 the number o f students w as 250 and in 1935 it had increased to 2 9 0 .65 The m ain subjects were Hebrew and the Bible, general subjects being introduced later. Com pared with the other schools avail­ able, those o f the Alliance or the M ission Laïque , the education at the Talm ud Torah w as substandard. For this reason, the m ajority o f its pupils were from less fortunate fam ilies. Ju st as wealthier Jew s had started to m ove out o f W adi Abu Jam il, they also started sending their children to French schools. When Joseph Farhi becam e president o f the Jew ish comm unity again in 1927, he started directing his attention tow ards education and budgetary reform s. H e established a Jew ish lycée and a comm unity library in order to elevate the niveau o f Jew ish culture. H e w as an esteemed m em ber o f the patronage com m ittee o f the Lycée Français de la M ission Laïque. The educational reform s undertaken during this time were three­ fold: they encouraged the use o f Arabic as the language o f instruction, they increased the teaching o f Hebrew and Jew ish history, and they were aim ed at raising the general niveau o f instruction.66 Cooperation between the schools w as also increased. A Scholarly Com m ittee w as set up to liaise with the Central Com m ittee, the Alliance, and the Talmud Torah. Education w as m ostly provided by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which in 1908 w as under the directorship o f M r Semah and D r K aiserm ann.67 In 1935 the Beirut school had 673 pupils.68 In 1936 it cam e under the directorship o f Emile Penso. In the m id-1940s the Alliance opened a co-education school in Beirut.69 M any o f the teachers were supplied by the Ecole Norm ale in Paris. Hebrew language w as taught freely in schools, but m ost Jew ish students chose a French education and studied A rabic or English rather than Hebrew. Indeed, there w as such little interest that the girls school did not teach Hebrew at all.70 The pref­ erence for a French cultural orientation w as especially visible am ong the w ealthier Jew s who had m oved into the fashionable districts outside o f W adi Abu Jam il and sent their children to French m issionary schools. This led to a certain am ount o f socializing and a sm all number o f inter­ m arriages m ainly between Jew s and Christians, and also between Jew s and Sunni M uslim s.71 French education w as also preferred at the univer­ sity level. Only few Lebanese Jew ish students, as opposed to Palestinian Jew ish students, attended the Am erican University o f Beirut, which had been established as the Syrian Protestant College in 1866, opting instead for the Université St. Joseph founded in 1875. Education in Lebanon, like that in other countries throughout the m an­ date period, w as lim ited by the dire econom ic situation and the need to have as m any fam ily members as possible in the w ork force. Lebanon’s Jew s were no different than any other Lebanese comm unity in that sense.


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

W hile a few m erchants had profited from the w ar, the Vichy regim e, and the British-French liberation, the m ajority o f the population w as hard pressed. Lebanese Jew ry in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s did not number am ong the literary greats and Lebanon's Jew s, as a w hole, did not become part o f the educated elite. Education in many w ays alw ays took a secondary place to business. A brief glance at the brevet exam inations provides a good indicator o f this: in 1 9 2 9 ,1 9 3 0 ,1 9 3 1 , and 1932, three girls passed the brevet each year. In 1939 there were ten and in 1945 there were eight. Boys were not prepared for the brevet at all. Only those attending nonJew ish schools sat for the exam s: in 1939 there were five, and in 1945 there were four. Up to the 1940s there w as no Jew ish secondary school in Beirut.72 Beyond the form al education provided by Jew ish and non-Jewish schools, children and teenagers also benefited from the existence o f a youth center, vacation cam ps, a library, and artistic and technical educa­ tion program s.73 There w as no lack o f youth organizations either. For exam ple, the Jew ish com m unity, like som e o f the Christian com m unities had its own scout troop, which w as broadly integrated into the French scouting association. T o the chagrin o f the Zionist representatives this scout club w as far removed from any religious-nationalist sentim ents, using A rabic and French as its languages and the em blem s o f the m oon and stars. Thus one o f the aim s o f the rival youth organization, the M accabi, becam e the integration o f the Jew ish scouts into the fram ew ork o f its youth program , essentially rem oving it from the French international youth movements. The num erous youth groups included L ’Amicale, which w as founded in 1908, the H atikva Club established after the First W orld W ar, the M accabi, the Eclaireurs Israélites de Beyrouth established in 1930, the Union Universelle de la Jeunesse Juive founded in 1932, and L ’A .Z .A ., a section o f the B ’nai Brith youth founded in 1938.74 Cultural activities were prom oted by the com m unity's Central Com m ittee for the Youth, which, in 1936 launched the journal Jewish Voice and the Forum in 1941. The youth also played a not unim portant role in the com m unal elections in 1933, 1935 and 1943 through their Party o f the Youth and the Com m unal Action G roup.75 And finally, there were dance clubs in keeping with the Lebanese youth o f other com m unities. These were generally frowned upon by comm unity elders and parents. They were seen as the focal point for those sections o f the youth deemed poor and corrupted “ whose only desire and interest is in dancing and instant g ratificatio n .. . . as far from the Hebrew culture or language as the East is from the W est".76 In short, life for Jew ish young­

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


sters w as no different from that o f the rest o f Lebanon’s youth with a variety o f educational, social and athletic activities to pursue.

T he Lebanese Z ion ist Project and C ontacts with the


The relationship between Lebanon’s Jew s, Zionism , the Yishuv, and W orld Jew ry has alw ays been an intriguing one. It is characterized, on the one hand, by ardent Lebanese nationalism , apathy tow ards the Z ionist project o f the Yishuv by the m ajority, but, on the other hand by fervent Zionism by a few leaders such as Joseph Farhi, good contacts with Palestinian Jew s, regular visits between Beirut and Jerusalem , and som e support for the concept o f a Jew ish state in Palestine. Accounts by the Alliance speak o f active Zionism while accounts o f the Jew ish Agency at the sam e tim e lam ent the lack o f national sentiment. The French author­ ities tried to discourage any Z ionist expression which they viewed as a tool o f their British rival. These dynam ics were further com plicated by the fact that actions within the fram ew ork o f w orld Jew ry were generally France-oriented, rather than Palestinocentric, separating Jew ish activism from Zionism . One exam ple o f international Jew ish activity w as the Beirut chapter o f the Union Universelle de la Jeunesse Juive (U U JJ) and B ’nai Brith protest again st the im position o f a numéros clausus (entrance restriction) on Jew ish students in H ungary, Rum ania and Poland in January 1927. Farhi described the law s as barbaric and proposed aiding students from those countries to travel to the land o f Israel for their studies. At a U U JJ confer­ ence in Paris, Jew ish comm unity president Joseph Farhi, vice-president Selim H arari and Am erican University o f Beirut professor Am os Landaanin sent a telegram to the League o f N ation s stating that uin the nam e o f the Jew ish comm unity o f Beirut, we are protesting against the numéros clausus existing in H ungary, Poland and Rum ania. We appeal to the spirit o f justice and equality o f the League o f N ation s, to solicit its intervention to annul these unjust, inhuman restrictions.” 77 A part from this international involvem ent, the comm unity did not have a history o f active participation in European Zionist events such as the early congresses or the Zionist Executive. This did not, however, mean that they were disinterested or unaw are. In 1907, for instance, the director o f the Alliance school for boys considered Zionism to have already estab­ lished itself.7®At the end o f the First W orld W ar, there were accounts o f active Zionism within the sm all Ashkenazi comm unity and "distan ce” within the Sephardi com m unity.79 In 1925 the director o f the Alliance M r Danon claim ed that "Z ion ists dom inated the Beirut Jew ish comm unity and tried to give all activities and organizations a nationalist character.” 80


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

Yet other descriptions o f the comm unity portray Zionism as merely a cultural force. W hat becom es clear is that there were a few very active Zionists» within a m ainly non-Zionist community» who were able to get support for som e o f their activities. Zionist activity in Lebanon evolved around a number o f personalities such as Joseph Farhi and M oshe Kam hine, the leader o f the M accabi. Institutionally» it w as focused around the M accabi sports organization, which w as established in 1928. Kamhine had been born in Beirut in 1912 to a fam ily who w as from the Shouf. He devoted his studies to the Talm ud and the T orah and other religious texts. H e taught H ebrew at the Alliance Israélite Universelle as well as the Talmud Torah , and learned with and prepared students for their bar mitzvah. Interestingly his teaching reached far beyond the comm unity, including foreign schools and also the Lebanese arm y.81 H is youth and energy m ade him the perfect leader for Beirut’s Jew ish youngsters. The M accabi boasted a membership o f more than 500 and as an organization had excellent relations with Pierre Gem ayel’s K ata’ib party youth wing. Kam hine w as active in community com m issions, the synagogue, and youth w ork. H e is remembered for his organization o f youth activities after Shabbat, functioning also as the com m unity’s shohet, and w as the father o f four: Shlom o, Chaim , M alka and Itzhak.82 An exam ple o f Zionist activity and its problem s is provided by a young Lebanese Jew by the name o f Joseph A zar in O ctober 1930 who took it upon him self to advance the Zionist cause, “ a spirit which w as unfortu­ nately lacking in the elders o f that com m unity” . Together with Joseph Toledano, Tew fiq M izrahi, Leonard Bukhashevsky, Avraham Shur and Jaco b Franco he led the budding Zionist movement within the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity.83 Their decision to become Zionist activists had been triggered by the 1929 riots in Palestine and, in their search for com pa­ triots, they turned to the Yishuv. A zar, in a report for the Jew ish Agency, gives a revealing account o f the attitude o f the Beirut comm unity tow ards Zionism before and after 1929: Before the disturbances of August 1929 the Je w s. . . of Lebanon manifested much sympathy for the Zionist cause and worked actively for the sake of Palestine. They had established associations which collected money for the (sic) Keren Kayemeth and the (sic) Keren Hayesod. They feared not to mani­ fest their Zionist feelings and many of them were even proud of this. But after the disturbances conditions changed. They started to fear horn (sic) anything having any connection with Zionism and ceased to hold meetings and collect money. The Jewish Communal Council of Beirut had even deemed it necessary (a point on which I do not agree with them) to proclaim that we have no connection with the Jews of Palestine. The Council endeav­ ored to prevent anything having a Jewish national aspect because they

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


feared that this might wound the feelings of the Muslims. It is beyond doubt that the attitude of the Communal Council must be looked upon with great sorrow because it denotes cowardice and lack of moral courage.*4

Both the Jew ish Agency's assessm ent and self-assessm ents by other Lebanese Jew s contradict the picture A zar paints o f flourishing Zionism before 1929. Financial support and m eetings for projects in Palestine were less a m anifestation o f Zionism than support for fellow Jew s who were in need. It w as a sign o f the religious sentiments and not ideological activism . Farhi had already earlier noted local Jew ish apathy tow ards Z ionism ,85 so A zar’s frustration with the lack o f popular support for his Zionist ideal w as not the first recognition o f this situation. H is charging the Jew s o f Lebanon with lack o f m oral courage cam e from a position o f youth where everything w as clearly black or white. In their frustration Azar and his friends turned to F. H . Kisch o f the Jew ish Agency for advice. Kisch suggested that he direct his efforts in tw o directions: wFirstly to widen within the Jew ish comm unity in Syria and Lebanon the circle o f adherents to the ideal o f the Jew ish N ational H om e, and secondly to do everything possible to prom ote harm ony between Jew s and A rab s."86 Kisch had raised a number o f concrete possibilities for advancing the Zionist project, the first o f which w as the establishm ent o f an im portant Arabic new spaper to be published under Jew ish control in Beirut.87 The second proposal w as for a Zionist office but this w ould only be possible with the support o f the local comm unity. Kisch in his letter agreed with A zar on the lack o f enthusiasm o f the Beirut com m unity, stressing his hope that wlocal leaders o f your community m ay be won over for the support o f this id e a."88 T his does not, however, m ean that the Beirut comm unity w as com pletely inactive. Lebanese Jew s raised money to com bat the hostility in the local press. They also provided visiting Jew ish Agency members with inform ation on the situation in Lebanon and neighboring Syria. W hile accepting this inform ation the Jew ish Agency did not, as a rule, use local Jew s as spies or operatives.89 The underlying assum ption w as that Z ionist activity by Lebanese Jew s w ould raise charges o f treason and seri­ ously jeopardize the physical and m aterial well-being o f the com m unity.90 M oreover, the Agency had such good contacts in Lebanon’s political circles with the likes o f M aronite politician Emile Eddé, M aronite patri­ arch Antoine A rida, and the members o f the K ata'ib that reliance on Lebanon’s Jew s w as unnecessary.91 Z ionist activity increased when ties were broken between the schools and the center in Paris, resulting in a m ajor source o f opposition to Zionism no longer being influential. M ore im portant, however, w as that on a practical level the community had to turn to other Jew ish organiz­


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

ations for support. The comm unity in Beirut w as w illing to accept a Hebrew teacher from the land o f Israel and cover part o f his salary. D r Rosenfeld from the W orld Hebrew Covenant in an assessm ent o f the new situation believed that the M accabi could become a possible instrum ent for increasing Zionist activities, but w arned against concentrating all the activity within this fram ew ork.92 Youth activities underwent a brief crisis in 1941. From M arch to O ctober Beirut had no youth counselor w ho w as supported by the Jew ish Agency. An em issary o f Hashomer H aTzair w as active in the local Ben Zion organisation, and a Betar student led the M accabi. The older group o f students within the M accabi had been in close contact with the em is­ sary from the Jew ish Agency political departm ent, but when the latter left, all activity by this group stopped. Apparently the m entioned Betar student encouraged the singing o f Zionist songs in the Jew ish quarter in the evening. This, according the a Jew ish Agency official, increased with the "th reat level” as dem onstrations o f "heroism ” are highly acceptable in the Arab com m unities in which "o u r youth have been educated” .93 With the arrival o f the long aw aited counselor Salom on, noticeable changes took place in the M accabi, prim arily am ong the lower and middle classes. The library began operating properly and reading classes were set up. This w as seen as a first step tow ards breaking through the superficiality which perm eated the Beiruti youth, who were seen as incapable o f draw ing the national spirit from the sources as they were unaccustom ed to reading.94 The gam e room , which is equipped with Hebrew educational gam es funded by the budget o f the H istadrufs youth center, became the forum for talks, lectures, and slide show s on Eretz Israel. Salom on also founded the M accabi choir. Despite the community’s often only half-hearted support for m ain­ stream Zionism , Betar’s revisionist Zionism found som e sym pathy. Palestinian students who were som e o f the m ost ardent Betar supporters had found refuge in Beirut after having been "expelled” from Palestine for terror activities. The sym pathy they found w as o f deep concern to the Jew ish Agency, which decided that it w ould be best to counter it by sending to Beirut " a young articulate m an, fluent in French, to fight against the influence o f terrorists am ong the studying youth” .95 The Jew ish Agency continued to lam ent the lack o f Z ionist fervor am ong Lebanon’s youth. H aving failed to draw Ben Zion into a closer relationship with Hashomer H aTzair or sim ilarly the Scouts into closer relations with the M accabi, the youth w as still seen as the cornerstone o f the Z ionist em issary. The youth o iB 'n ai Brith seemed slightly m ore recep­ tive. They were provided with Zionist literature in French. A review by M accabi chairm an for Syria and Lebanon, Y osef Sneh, in N ovem ber 1941 on youth activities in Lebanon and Beirut, gives further

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


insight into the com plex identity o f the Jew s o f Lebanon and also o f Lebanon as political environment in an increasingly anti-Zionist M iddle E ast. The assessm ent o f the socio-econom ic situation in Syria and Lebanon w as one that reflects the w artim e influence and decline o f living standards experienced by many countries in the region, characterized by the "d aily w orries and harsh battle for existence” . Young Lebanese Jew s were limited to peddling, trade and som e were engaged in clerical w ork. It is a common occurrence that a youngster leaves his studies and is sent by his parents - or goes of his own goodwill - to sell his abilities in the streets to earn a few pennies. This youth will never return to the schoolbench. The languages spoken by the youth are Arabic and French. Hebrew is familiar to only 35 per cent of the youth, who gained their knowledge of the language in the evening courses run by the M accabiywithout support from any institution in Syria or Palestine. The level of education among the youth is very low. Manners are crude, behavior and attitude to matters and people are poor, apathy towards everything is the rule among the youth, and idle­ ness is widespread. On the other hand, the youth are active in entertainment and short-term enjoyment, and no questions disturb their relaxation. They are quietly and peacefully busy with everything that is not connected with them and their future, and is far from the values of their people.96

The lack o f "values o f their people” referred to by Sneh paints a rather dam m ing portrait o f Jew ish culture and Zionism am ong Lebanese Jew ish youngsters. This statem ent, however, should be treated with caution. W hile Sneh seem s to be treating Jew ish heritage and Zionism as one, his view s are contradicted by those who claim that, while there indeed w as a general lack o f Z ionist sentim ents, there w as nevertheless a vibrant Jew ish Ufe, one that w as distinctly Lebanese. Z ionist activity rem ained rooted in and focused around the M accabi organization which w as officially recognized by the Lebanese authorities. The M accabi w as active in Beirut and Saida and becam e the fram ew ork for teaching the Hebrew language and Jew ish history, pursuing general cultural activities, sports activities, scouting, education, agricultural training, and overall Z ionist activities for the w orld movement. The agri­ cultural element reveals som e o f the Palestinocentrism o f the M accabi organization. The agricultural issue had already been pursued at an earlier tim e in private conversations between Lebanese president Eddé and Eliahu Elath o f the Jew ish Agency in which the latter stated that "w e (the Yishuv) see a special value in the Jew ish comm unity in Lebanon. Though national-Zionist settlem ent is lim ited within the fram ew ork o f Palestine itself, we still require every Jew wherever he is to change from any other profession to agriculture.” 97 W ithin the urban Beiruti context, however, little enthusiasm for agriculture w as engendered, lim iting the efforts to


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

vegetable and flow er gardens. Em issaries sent from Palestine in 1938 under the com m and o f D avidka N am eri who went to arrange for Jew ish em igration and indoctrination o f the youth,9* did not have an easy task . They established HeHalutz H aTzair as a pioneer youth organization.99 The focus w as on Lebanon’s youth as the older generation had becom e “ reconciled to their lot, and it w as next to im possible to wean them from the attitudes and habits o f generations” .100 The attitude o f Lebanese Jew ry tow ards Zionism and the land o f Israel w as equally illum inating. M ost Lebanese Jew s were in com plete agree­ ment with the A rabs that Zionism and its endeavors in the Land o f Israel were the cause o f all troubles.101 This is seen, to som e extent, as being the result o f assim ilation rather than Zionist ideology being som ehow anathem a to Lebanese Jew ry. This assim ilation being essentially linguistic in origin brought with it other form s o f assim ilation. The chairm an o f the M accabi O rganization, however, did not consider the situation too bleak, seeing the lack o f interest o f Lebanon's Jew ry as an opportunity and a challenge for Zionism . Interestingly, the “ reeducation” o f the Jew s w as not considered an end in itself, but a m eans to influence other comm uni­ ties in Lebanon. “ Once opinions change in our com m unities it will help change the w ays o f thought am ong the neighbors. The ground will then be prepared and we can easily explain that only good can com e from the developm ent o f the Jew ish comm unity in the Land o f Israel - even for the A rabs.” 102 In his attem pt to encourage Zionism , Sneh asked the W orld Hebrew Covenant to open a branch in Beirut. M any o f the local residents, including those who ran the comm unity and its education gave their support, despite earlier criticism o f Zionist activities. A course for youth leaders w as also scheduled.103 The Jew ish Agency Departm ent for Youth A ffairs allocated 17 Palestinian Pounds to cover the expenses in orga­ nizing such a course.104 An interesting developm ent in the context o f the Zionist political project w as the em erging relationship between Palestinian Z ionists and som e elements in the Lebanese M aronite comm unity. The M aronite clergy under the leadership o f Beirut’s Archbishop Ignace M ubarak and Patriarch Antoine A rida and politicians such as Emile Eddé, and members o f the urban intelligentsia such as poet Charles Corm , regarded the Zionist endeavors in Palestine with affection and friendship.105 This m ani­ fested itself in ideas ranging from form ing an alliance against Islam , to plans for a political or even m ilitary union, to resurrecting the “ ancient Phoenician-Canaanite relationship” as advocated by an organization called the Young Phoenicians. The underlying belief for these ideas w as that a non-Arab population o f Palestine on Lebanon's southern frontier “ w ould enable them to co­

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


operate with that people to averting the danger arising from the A rab’s efforts to create an A rab federation including Lebanon” .106 This proZionist element in the M aronite comm unity becam e the third com ponent o f a Jew ish-M aronite-Zionist triangle, which played an im portant role in the Arab-Israeli dynam ics further on.

The Palestine Q uestion Lebanon’s Jew s were not particularly involved or interested in politics. In that sense they occupied an alm ost privileged position o f rem aining untouched by som e o f the bitter M uslim -Christian disputes in the em erging Lebanese state. They were not, however, able to stay as alo o f as they m ay have w ished, as the increasingly tense political situation across the border in Palestine spilled over into Lebanon on a number o f occa­ sions. During the period o f the French m andate there were tw o events which had direct bearing on the well-being o f the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity. The first w as the W estern W all incident, which led to distur­ bances in A ugust 1929, costing the lives o f 133 Jew s and 116 A rabs in Palestine.107 The second event w as the A rab revolt from 1936 to 1939, the consequent expulsion o f the M ufti o f Jerusalem from Palestine, and his decision to settle in Lebanon from where he continued to agitate against the Z ionists and the British. Before 1929 m ost Lebanese whether M uslim , Christian or Jew ish, show ed little interest in events in Palestine. The M uslim s were preoccu­ pied with the Lebanese-Syrian question and m any Christians were pursuing the establishm ent o f a Christian state. A part from a few articles published in rem ote intervals by the Beirut papers, the Z ionist and Palestinian issue w as a secondary one which w as dealt with like other w orld problem s.108 M oreover, Lebanese Jew Joseph Azar asserted that the reason why anti-Zionist propaganda did not meet with much success w as that Lebanon’s population w as m ostly com posed o f m erchants who kept alo o f from politics and who put their m aterial interests above every­ thing.109 The only reason the population took an interest in the 1929 riots w as because som e M uslim nationalists tried to incite disturbances.110 These attem pts, however, failed. A zar concluded from this that the oppo­ sition o f the Lebanese population to the Zionist movement w as o f no im portance. N evertheless, Lebanese new spapers A zar pointed out potentially posed a danger. H e particularly referred to the anti-Zionist attitude o f Al-Ahrar w hose editors were “ Greek O rthodox and Freem asons.” 111 During the A ugust 1929 disturbances it w as the m ost hostile publication, exploiting the Palestine situation to increase its circulation. Yet A zar also stated that


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

even this paper w as not that dangerous and “ m ay be gained to our cau se” . H is assessm ent o f L ’Orient w as m ore positive: It is worth noting that L ’Orient and the enlightened people who support it constitute a group with whom an understanding and an agreement favor­ able to the Zionist movement in Palestine are possible. They are in general a strong and progressive element ready to arrive at an understanding with any people that might assist them in averting the danger of an amalgama­ tion with the Arab race.1,2

This view very much coincided with the Yishuv's opinion o f that news­ paper as “ the organ o f the enlightened M aronites who stand for a separation from whatever is A rab and M uslim and strive for the creation o f a m odem Christian state. L ’Orient has adopted a praisew orthy atti­ tude tow ards the Jew s.” 113 This left al-Nida with its anti-Zionist attitude as the m ost problem atic new spaper. A zar described its editors as “ fan at­ ical nationalists who strive for the A rab Federation” . A zar’s assessm ent o f the m ain new spapers show s som e o f the under­ lying currents in Lebanese society and the relations between Lebanon’s Jew s and the other ethno-religious com m unities. The relative hostility o f the G reek-O rthodox is no m ore surprising than the com parable am ica­ bility o f the M aronites. The Greek O rthodox saw their future within a broader A rab context and thus were unlikely to support Zionism in any case. They were also the main econom ic com petitor o f Lebanon’s Jew s. The M aronites saw their future as being separate from the A rab w orld and sought contacts with other non-Arab and non-M uslim m inorities to support their own position. N ot only did they have friendly relations with Lebanon’s Jew s but they also had friendly relations with the Yishuv.114 The anti-Zionist attitude o f an A rab nationalist paper is alm ost selfexplanatory in the political context o f the 1929 disturbances. M any M uslim s and many A rab nationalists viewed the Zionist project in Palestine with suspicion. That does not, however, mean that their attitude tow ard the local Jew ish comm unity w as the sam e. Yet som e Lebanese Jew s like Selim H arari felt it necessary to take part in M uslim meetings during the riots o f 1929 and to declare that there w as no connection between the Jew s o f Beirut and the Zionists in Palestine.115 In 1936, during the French-Arab negotiations in Paris for the term i­ nation o f the m andate status, the director o f the Alliance in Beirut, Emile Penso, together with other comm unity leaders drafted a joint-position paper on behalf o f his own community and the Jew s o f Syria.116 The paper stressed the protection o f m inority rights which needed to be included in the treaty arrangem ents. The specific dem ands were as follow s: 1.

The sam e civil and political rights as those recognized for the other

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

2. 3.


5. 6. 7. 8.


elements o f the population w ithout regard to birth, nationality, language, or race, whether they be Syrians or foreigners living in these territories. The protection o f life, liberty, and also the free exercise o f their religion both in public and private. The equal right to any o f the other citizens to create, operate, and control charitable, religious, or social institutions, schools, or other educational establishm ents. An equitable share in the distribution o f subventions allocated by the State or the local adm inistrations for educational, religious, or char­ itable purposes. The free use o f the Hebrew language whether in private life, religious m atters, the press, or publications o f any sort. The freedom o f having to undertake any act incom patible with the sanctity o f the Sabbath. The m aintenance o f ritual slaughtering. Finally, no m easure o f discrim ination to be taken with regard to us.

It should be noted that all these rights already were accorded to the Lebanese Jew s and that their m otivation for this position paper w as the fear that the declining situation in Palestine w ould afreet their own. T his fear w as reflected in a letter Penso sent to the Alliance in Paris, stating that the Jew s looked to the future with dread. “ As long as the French flag w as w aving over our heads, we felt perfectly safe. The French Army w as protecting u s.” 117 It m ust also be said that Penso w as w riting on behalf o f both the Syrian and Lebanese com m unities and that much o f the anxiety expressed originated from Syrian and not Lebanese Jew ry. In Syria the use o f Hebrew had already been severely restricted for m ore than a decade. Hebrew new spapers and publications had been banned and the use o f Hebrew as the language o f instruction in Jew ish schools had been forbidden since 1923.118 Yet som e incidents in M ay 1936 in Saida had also provided a glim pse o f what m ight com e for Lebanon’s Jew s as well. With the beginning o f the Arab Revolt in Palestine dem on­ strations with anti-Jewish slogans were staged. H ouses and shops o f Jew s and the Alliance school were stoned and w indows broken. The boycott o f Jew ish shops also began. Christian hotel owners in the vicin­ ity o f Saida were threatened not to accom m odate any m ore Palestinian Jew ish tourists.119 Until the A rab Revolt the em erging conflict in Palestine w as viewed as an essentially local problem between the Yishuv, Palestinians, and the British. Lebanon’s Jew s, like the m ajority o f Jew s living in Arab countries, were not particularly sym pathetic to the efforts o f the Z ion ists.120 Lebanon’s M uslim s and Christians had also rem ained aloof. The A rab


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

Revolt changed this situation. The effect o f the Palestine question on Lebanese politics becom es clear when looking at the 1937 parliam entary reform which w as essentially a dom estic issue. The population as a w hole had increased and, in accordance with this growth parliam entary seats were increased from 25 to 60. This raised the hope and, indeed, the p ossi­ bility o f the Jew s receiving their own seat in parliam ent,121 the num ber o f Jew s in Lebanon being approxim ately 6,000. Joseph Farhi decided to lobby the Lebanese president on that issue, only to receive a rather inter­ esting and cryptic response. Eddé had received him in the presence o f the M inister o f Interior H abib Abi Chahla. Farhi pointed out to both that the Jew ish comm unity needed a representative and Eddé jokingly said that the Jew s were already very well represented in Lebanon. “ I am (said to be) a Jew and the m inister here present is a Jew and prem ier A hdab is also a Jew .” He w as referring to the clearly pro-Zionist attitude o f the m inis­ ters in question. Farhi stated that he w as thankful to the governm ent for their pro-Jew ish feelings but “ all the sam e the Jew s deem it essential for their prestige and interests to be represented in the com ing parliam ent” .122 Eddé told Farhi that he w as sym pathetic in principle, but that he had to w ait and see. Farhi then proceeded to plead his case with the French High Com m issioner Count Dam ien de M artel. De M artel according to Farhi did not seem keen and did not ask a single question. The desire for a seat o f their own is illustrated by an open letter to the Prime M inister Khayr al-Din al-Ahdab on 22 April 1937 in which Jacqu es Lezem i, one o f the leaders o f the comm unity, pointed out that “ if our comm unity does not noisily dem and its rights, it does not m ean that it is resign ed .. . . O ur minority group is represented in the adm inistration by three em ployees only.” 123 This w as a situation which needed to be redressed, preferably through a parliam entary seat. The Beirut Jew ish leadership wanted this seat to be one o f the ones appointed by the presi­ dent, thus de-politicizing the seat in many w ays. They appealed through Itzhak Ben Zvi to the Q uai d ’O rsay , believing that if the French m ade the appropriate hints, Eddé w ould willingly accept such a proposal. The head o f the Jew ish comm unity Joseph Farhi w as suggested as a possible candi­ date as he w as intelligent, trustw orthy and devoted to Zionism , and according to Ben Zvi a m an who “ could be very effective both for Lebanese Jew s and for our affairs in the Land o f Israel” .124 While Farhi m ade the rounds and found sym pathy am ong the Lebanese but not the French, the situation on the ground underwent som e dram atic changes. Political squabbling had broken out between the governm ent and the opposition. The French H igh Com m issioner w as forced to inter­ vene to m ake peace between the two on the basis o f an agreed repartition o f the seats in the new parliam ent. The new number o f seats w as increased to 63, divided into 42 elected and 21 nom inated seats, whereby the op po­

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


sition w as accorded 26 m embers and the government 38. The battle over the seats had thus effectively ended before elections could be contested. O nly one seat for m inorities w as created and the nominee w as D r Ayoub T ab et.125 Interesting within the governm ent-opposition discourse were the accu­ sation s and counter-accusations o f certain deputies being labeled “ friends o f the Jew s” .126 These references were specifically m ade to those members o f parliam ent who had sold som e o f their land in the G alilee to the Jew ish Agency and, thus, this w as less a case o f anti-Sem itism than a case o f antiZionism or just expediently using the Palestine question in a political cam paign to em barrass opponents. Farhi’s assessm ent o f the situation w as th at it w as not im possible that the government hesitated to nom inate a Jew because it did not w ant to be accused o f collaboration with the Z io n ists.127 W hile this episode did not result in a Jew ish member o f parliam ent, it is nevertheless an illum inating one from the perspective o f inter-commu­ nity relations. The fact that the head o f the Lebanese Jew ish community w as able to plead his case and gain sym pathy sheds light on the position the comm unity occupied in Lebanese society. It w as a community that w as well respected and accepted. It w as a comm unity which could request m ore political participation for their own prestige - a very Lebanese com m unity, playing a very Lebanese gam e. In 1938 inter-community relations were strained. In O ctober o f the previous year the M ufti o f Jerusalem , H ajj Amin al-H ussayni, had fled Jerusalem disguised as a beggar and settled in Jounieh, northeast o f Beirut. H e soon started to incite the M uslim population, instigating dem onstra­ tion s again st Jew s. Com ing at the height o f the Arab Revolt, the lack o f a clear governm ent response created a situation which m ade it possible fo r “ certain agitators to be perm itted to place bom bs in the Jew ish quar­ ters o f Saida and Beirut” .12* Beiruti w holesaler Issac Diw an had expanded his business and opened up a currency exchange in Saida. H e recalled the attem pted bom b in Saida on 14 July 1938, as he had been the one to discover it. H e had been inspecting som e property when a sm all cord caught his eye. The cord w as attached to tw o sticks o f dynam ite. It had been lit but gone out because o f the dam pness. Diwan notified the police imm ediately. The police inves­ tigated the scene, taking down Diw an’s statem ent and suspecting a certain Ahm ad al-H arari, a form er gardener o f h is.129 O n the evening o f the sam e day, an unusual noise aroused panic in W adi Abu Jam il. An unidentified person threw a bom b into the entrance o f the Jew ish quarter. All the w indows o f the nearby buildings were shat­ tered, but no one w as hurt. The police were on the scene at once and restored calm . In the w ake o f these tw o incidents perm anent patrols were


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

set up, but the Jew ish com m unity in both Saida and Beirut rem ained nervous.130 Lebanese politicians were concerned with the turn o f events and the negative effect on their Jew ish constituents. Prem ier A hdab in a letter to Chaim W eizmann and M oshe Shertok blam ed the inherent w eakness o f the Lebanese governm ent for the M ufti's behavior as well the geographic proxim ity o f Palestine.131 But the aw areness o f the Lebanese authorities o f the H ajj’s agitating and their police patrols to p ro te a the Jew ish quar­ ters, were unable to keep the lid on H ajj Amin al-H ussayni’s activities and his appeal to the A rab nationalists in their own society. On 26 Ju ly 1939 tw o m ore bom bs were throw n in W adi Abu Jam il. Only light dam age w as recorded. A letter by Alliance D ire a o r Penso to the French H igh Com m issioner G abriel Puaux sum s up the uneasy feelings o f the com m unity but also their belief that the Lebanese state w as not to blam e: You also know that M r Jam al al-Hussayni, a member of the Arab Supreme Committee of Palestine and nephew of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Hussayni, declared a few months ago at the Arab Congress in Cairo that if Arabs in Palestine do not succeed in obtaining from the English authori­ ties the realization of their national claims, they will attack the Jews residing in the Arab countries. It appears that they are putting these threats into execution.. . . Two bombs thrown in the space of two days, in the Jewish Quarter and our school buildings, have sown panic among our co-religionists.132

When France and Britain declared w ar on Germ any on 3 Septem ber 1939, the M ufti w as asked to announce his support fo r the allies. Failing to do so , he w as placed under house arrest. D isguised as a heavily veiled w om an, the M ufti then escaped to Baghdad on 13 O a o b e r.133 W ith his departure life fo r Lebanon's Jew s returned to norm al. This respite, how ever, w as brief and soon Lebanon, like the rest o f M iddle E ast, becam e caught up in the tides o f the Second W orld W ar, the Jew ish refugee situation, the Germ an occupation o f France, the rise o f the collaborator Vichy govern­ ment and the extension o f its control over the French m andated territories. The effects o f the Palestine situation on neighboring Lebanon and particularly the Lebanese Jew s should not be overestim ated. There were occasions when Palestine intruded, but they were few and far between and generally did not a ffe a the m ajority o f the population. The Jew s still occu­ pied the privileged position in Lebanon o f being num erically so much sm aller and politically disinterested that they were outside the intraC hristian, intra-M uslim , and M uslim -Christian political feuding. Thus they were able to rem ain on friendly term s with all com m unities as is evident in relations with M aronite Patriarch A rida, M aronite Lebanese

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


president Eddé, Sunni prem ier A hdab, and Shi‘a M em ber o f Parliam ent Ibrahim Bey H aid ar.134

W orld W ar II and the Vichy Regim e T he rise to pow er o f A dolf H itler in Germ any triggered a stream o f G erm an Jew s leaving the country. M any o f them m ade their w ay to Palestine. Som e only traveled through Lebanon, while others decided to rem ain in Beirut. A s early as 1933 the Beirut com m unity established a local branch o f the International League o f Anti-Sem itism , tolerated by the French authorities so long as it w as not seen as provoking the Germ an diplom atic com m unity in the city.133 In 1935, in response to the increasing stream o f Jew ish refugees, Lebanon’s Jew ish leaders petitioned the H igh C om m issioner to perm it Germ an Jew ish im m igration to Lebanon. The issue o f Jew ish im m igration w as not only o f extrem e im portance fo r Lebanon’s Jew s and the neighboring Yishuv, but also peaked the interest o f certain segm ents in the Lebanese population, reaching far beyond the boundaries o f the Jew ish com m unity. Patriarch A rida during the rise o f the N azis to pow er in Germ any condem ned the treatm ent o f G erm an Jew s in 1933136 publishing a p astoral letter in L ’Orient137 as well as m aking a statem ent in the Egyptian journal V Aurore.13* Lebanese representatives o f all com m unities expressed favorable opinions regarding Jew ish im m igration to Lebanon.139 Jew ish com m unity president Selim H arari recalled num erous conversations with Lebanese notables including A bdallah Biham , a prom inent Beirut M uslim . H arari him self, how ever, did not w ish to see Jew ish refugees settle in Lebanon, for fear that they w ould "d istu rb the position o f the local Jew s” .140 Eliahu Epstein, the Jew ish Agency representative in Beirut at that tim e, even w ent as far as suggesting that if an officiai delegation called on H arari w ith a request to encourage Jew ish im m igration, "h e w ould probably frighten the delega­ tion aw ay and persuade it to abandon its request” .141 H arari obviously did not find the sam e favor with Yishuv delegates as Farhi or Dichy Bey had before him. R ather than being o f the proud tradition o f being both Lebanese and Jew ish , H arari w as categorized m ore in line with the im age o f the ghetto Jew so detested by Palestinian Z ionists. So, in the absence o f H arari’s initiative, a certain Stephan W eis sent a letter to Ponsot asking him to assist the Jew s o f Germ any to settle in French m andated territory. Ponsot turned to Lebanese president C harles D ebas and to Patriarch A rida w ho both replied that they had no objection w hatsoever to Jew ish im m i­ gration to Lebanon, as long as they did not becom e an econom ic burden.142 The Lebanese openness tow ard Jew ish im m igration w as based on their


Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate

good relations with their own Jew ish comm unity and Lebanon’s history as a safe haven. They also believed that a grow th in the m ainly merchant comm unity w ould bring with it a grow th in wealth at a tim e when the country w as in an econom ic depression. An additional reason for M aronite leaders w as that Jew ish im m igration w ould strengthen their own position vis-à-vis other com m unities.143 A united Jew ish-M aronite econom ic front w ould counter-balance the Greek O rthodox while Lebanese Jew ish political support o f the M aronites and other Christians w ould counter the M uslim s. Above all, Lebanon’s offer, no m atter how self-serving, needs to be seen within the context o f m ost other states closing their borders to those very sam e refugees. The outbreak o f the Second W orld W ar in 1939 rem oved much o f the attention from Lebanon’s Jew s and thus im proved their situation. The absence o f H ajj Amin al-H ussayni, who fled Beirut for Baghdad, ended the dem onstrations. It also absolved the French governm ent from the stalem ated treaty negotiations for Lebanese and Syrian independence. The econom ic situation rem ained depressed and, while the French imm ersed them selves in m ilitary preparations, decrees, expropriations, recruitment, and reinforcem ent, the Lebanese continued to play a gam e o f often ruth­ less sectarian politics.144 The declaration o f the state o f emergency by the French H igh Com m issioner effectively resulted in the suspension o f the Lebanese constitution and rule by presidential decree with the countersignature o f H igh Com m issioner Puaux. On 21 June 1940 M arshal Petain signed an arm istice with Germ any and France passed under Germ an control. The fate o f the m andated terri­ tories w as directly threatened. Puaux had to accept the effective w ithdraw al o f the French Army and authority in the Levant. The Free French movement under the leadership o f General Charles de Gaulle called for resistance to Germ any and Vichy France. N evertheless, Lebanon fell under Vichy authority only shortly after the establishm ent o f the Petain regime. Puaux only survived the arm istice by a mere five m onths.145 A delegation o f Lebanese Jew ish comm unity leaders headed by Joseph Farhi imm ediately petitioned Puaux not to apply the Vichy legis­ lation concerning the Jew s.144 As Puaux w as not an enthusiastic supporter o f the regime the lack o f im plem entation o f anti-Jew ish law s did not pose a problem . H is attitude o f m inimal obedience, however, cost him his posi­ tion. H e w as ordered to relinquish his office on 24 N ovem ber 1940. The H igh Com m issioner’s post fell to General Henri Dentz, a loyal Vichy follow er. The influx o f Germ an agents from Septem ber 1940 onw ards had direct bearing upon the situation o f Lebanon's Jew s. Anti-Zionism reached its zenith with Germ an proclam ations. Dentz, however, w as too preoccupied with the deteriorating econom ic situation to press for the full implemen­

Lebanese Jews under the French Mandate


tation o f anti-Jewish law s. Thus particular problem s arose only for the illegal im m igration o f European Jew ish refugees to Palestine via Lebanon. W hile Lebanese Jew s continued their life unencumbered as the Lebanese authorities adam antly refused to implement these discrim inatory practices against their own citizens, transiting non-Lebanese Jew s were im prisoned in special cam ps. N issim Dahan recalls this darker period in Lebanese history as follow s: Vichy worked with the Gestapo in Lebanon. They gathered all Italian, Greek, Iranian, Polish and Russian Jews in a camp in the mountains.. . . When the war started we had lots of air raids by the English from Egypt and we fled to the mountains. I stayed in Bikfaya. . . . Most Christian Lebanese had also gone into the mountains and created their own entity, such as Joseph Bey Karam and Mubarak who formed their own army and staged raids against the High Commissioner.. . . The K ata’ib protected the Jews during Vichy. Nothing really happened. There was one suicide because someone did not want to go to the camp. But nothing happened at the camp. They were treated well. It was not a concentration camp.147

Joseph Dichy Bey lobbied for their release during this tim e, and after the Allied forces liberated Lebanon, becam e very active in furthering their transit across the border to Palestine.148 United in hostility to the Vichy authorities, Lebanon’s population, both Christian and M uslim , showed considerable resentm ent against the anti-Jew ish m easures o f the Vichy regim e. The M ufti o f Beirut and the M aronite Patriarch subm itted a m em orandum o f protest to the French authorities against the discharge o f Jew ish governm ent and state o fficials.149 Vichy prohibition against dem onstrations led the already sm oldering popular discontent exacer­ bated by food shortages, rising prices, hoarding, black m arketeering, deteriorated transport and distribution facilities, rising unemployment, and a depreciated currency, to erupt into outright hostility. Lebanese men started leaving to enlist in the Free French Army, including a number o f Lebanese Jew s, several o f whom were prom oted and decorated.150 In June 1941 British and Free French troops occupied the m andated territory o f Lebanon, ending the influence o f the Vichy regime. In the m onths preceding the liberation, m any fam ilies had left W adi Abu Jam il and had found refuge in the m ountains.151 Life returned to norm al after A nglo-G aullist troops took over. De G aulle's representative General C atroux proclaim ed the independence o f Lebanon on 8 June 1941.152 All anti-Jew ish restrictions were lifted and Lebanese President Alfred N accache, during a visit to M agen Avraham in Decem ber 1941, pledged that the Jew s w ould be given a full share in the responsibilities o f govern­ m ent.153 Farhi, in return, eloquently reiterated Jew ish loyalty to Lebanon.154 N on-Lebanese Jew s, which had been interned by the Vichy


Lebanese Jew s under the French Mandate

adm inistration, were released. The Anglo-French forces provided the im petus for a new boost to Lebanon’s neglected industry and the econom y started to recover rapidly. T his w as also reflected w ithin the Jew ish com m unity. N ew projects were pursued and business flourished. B ’nai Brith em barked on a grand scheme which envisaged the intensive devel­ opm ent o f existing com m unity structures, the establishm ent o f a fund to build a h ospital, the enlargem ent o f a new synagogue at Aley, and the construction o f a synagogue at Bham doun.155 O ther com m unity projects included the establishm ent o f an Atelier de Couture with provisions for apprenticeships, a nursery school for children, and a profession al place­ m ent office. Political life in Lebanon took a little longer to readjust, w ith the old debates over Lebanon’s identity re-emerging between politicians as well as between Lebanese and French representatives. D e facto Lebanese inde­ pendence, as a result, w as delayed until 8 N ovem ber 1943, when the newly elected Lebanese governm ent under president Bishara al-Khoury and prim e m inister R iad Sulh repealed the m andate articles through constitutional am endm ent.

Lebanese and Israeli Independence: Questions o f Identity

The transition o f the Levant from colonial control to independence initi­ ated a phase o f instability as a result o f com peting nation-building projects and the elusive quest for identity. While the Jew s o f Lebanon remained relatively uninvolved in the Christian-M uslim struggles, the establishm ent o f the State o f Israel south o f the border m ade a com pletely alo o f position untenable. As a result, Lebanon’s Jew s were tossed from one crisis to another and often becam e paw ns in the dom estic pow er gam es o f M uslim and Christian rivals as well as the regional dynam ics o f the A rab-Israeli conflict. N evertheless, the comm unity continued to flourish and, indeed, reached its num erical and even econom ic zenith during this period.

Lebanese Independence and the N ation al Pact The prevarications o f the leaders o f the Free French and the intrigues o f the British m ission led by General Edw ard L. Spears m eant that Lebanese independence had effectively been put on hold, despite Charles de G aulle’s prom ise o f independence in 1941.1 Part o f the problem w as de G aulle him self. For all his genuine greatness, he w as the least likely o f French leaders to conduct the evidently difficult and ill-balanced task o f FrancoBritish collaboration in Lebanon. Indeed, as events proved, he dam aged Franco-British and Franco-Arab relations by his exclusive and anachro­ nistic conception o f French “ rights” .2 The course o f events in the latter h alf o f 1943 w as am ong the unhappiest o f the whole m andatory period. It threw into full evidence the curious unreality o f surviving French conceptions o f the Levant situation,3 while C hristians, M uslim s and Jew s jointly pushed for independence. On 7 O ctober 1943, the Lebanese prim e m inister outlined the political


Lebanese and Israeli Independence

program which cam e to be known as the “ C harter o f Independence” . But France refused to hand over any o f the pow ers granted through the m andate until Syro-Lebanese relations with it were clearly and specifically defined.4 A t this point the Lebanese governm ent decided to unilaterally am end the constitution, thereby ending the m andate. The French colon ial response to these unilateral changes w as the arrest o f m ost Lebanese m inisters on 11 N ovem ber 1943. T his w as follow ed by a decree announcing the nullification o f the constitutional am endm ents, the suspension o f the C onstitution itself, and the appointm ent o f Em ile Eddé as chief o f state. A general strike spread throughout Beirut, follow ed by angry dem onstrations and riots. Portraits o f de G aulle were torn dow n and the British Legation w as besieged by visitors. Eddé, how ever, proved unable and unw illing to establish a governm ent. At the sam e tim e the tw o m inisters w ho had escaped arrest proclaim ed a sovereign governm ent from a m ountain village with full support o f the M aronite Patriarch5 and in defiance o f the French. The riots pursuant to the French m iscalculations gave w ay to a w ave o f anti-Jew ish articles in the local press. W hile they were hostile to the Jew s, it w as clearly a case o f sem antics since they were actually talkin g about the Jew s in Palestine. A s a letter from Beirut explained, the purpose o f the articles w as to distract from the dom estic situation. L'O rient published three such articles in the last w eek o f N ovem ber. The paper had expressed a pro-French view throughout the crisis and after its offices were storm ed, with w indow s and furniture sm ashed, the anti-Jew ish arti­ cles were seen as an attem pt to regain the public. Further, it had becom e known that the prom inent politicians R iad as-Sulh, H enri Pharaon and M ichel Chiha had bought land in the south where the new railroad had been contracted and that, o f course, as a result the value o f this land had risen dram atically. Any distraction from this blatant profiteering w as thus w elcom e.4 Incapable o f dealing with the situation, French G eneral C atrou x w as forced to reinstate all o f the im prisoned m inisters on 20 N ovem ber. Only a few days later, on 23 N ovem ber, the new national flag o f Lebanon replaced the T ricolour. W ith Lebanese independence, the political system which w as to govern until the 1975 civil w ar, cam e into being in the form o f the 1943 N ation al Pact. The Pact w as an arrangem ent which resulted from the p ost-1920 rapprochem ent between the M aronite and the Sunni political elites, a quintessential exam ple o f political pragm atism .7 In essence, it com prised a com prom ise form ula on the identity o f the country and on pow er­ sharing between the religious com m unities. The C hristians renounced the protection o f W estern pow ers while the M uslim s renounced union with Syria or other A rab states. It w as decided that Lebanon w ould be neither

Lebanese and Israeli Independence


Eastern nor W estern but independent. All com m unities w ould be included in the exercise o f pow er - in the civil service and the cabinet.8 The Jew s belonged to the six com m unities not represented in the N ation al Pact alon g w ith the Latin C atholics, Syrian Jacob ites, Syrian C ath olics, N estorian s, and C haldeans. O f these six the Jew s were still the largest com m unity.9 The m ain defect o f the agreem ent w as that it represented a com prom ise am ong elites w hose goal w as to secure the benefits they could get from their position o f pow er.10 A s such it did not represent the nation. Further, it allow ed broad scope for interpretation, leading over tim e to disputes over interpretation and questioning o f the Pact itself.

T he Jew ish Com m unity and the Political Situation,

1943-1948 By 1943, the Jew ish com m unity had becom e concentrated in Beirut, with only a sm all com m unity rem aining in Saida and som e fam ilies in T rip o li.11 The 1944 census registered 6 ,2 6 1 .12 T his num ber increased dram atically w ith the influx o f Syrian and Iraqi Jew s seeking refuge in Lebanon tow ards the end o f the British m andate in Palestine. Tensions over Lebanon’s independence were follow ed by tensions resulting from the increasingly violent conflict over Palestine. The assa s­ sination o f Lord M oyne in N ovem ber 1944 by tw o Jew ish Palestinian youths triggered a violent M uslim reaction in Beirut. The M ufti o f Lebanon called for a boycott o f Jew ish activity in Lebanon. Prime M inister R iad as-Sulh, how ever, pleaded w ith the population not to lose their h eads.13 The political situation rem ained tense throughout the follow ing year and in N ovem ber 1945, the com m unity faced anti-Jew ish riots in T ripoli, in which 1214 or 14 Jew s15 were killed. The com m unity council in Beirut subsequently w ent to lengths to dissociate itself from Z ionism , but w as fighting an uphill battle with the continuing focus being on the situation in Palestine. The Jew ish youth organizations M accabi and B ’nei Zion were accused o f sm uggling Jew s into Palestine and engaging in Z ion ist activities. The M accabi sports club w as forced to sever connec­ tions with its head office in Lon don .16 In 1946 Lebanon’s national aspiration s were finally realised with the com plete w ithdraw al o f all foreign forces. The Lebanese population and its political representatives were m ore than a little uneasy in face o f their neighbour's Z ionist am bition s.17 Early in Jan uary decrees were issued to im plem ent the A rab League’s decision to boycott Z ionist goods. In M arch three m em bers o f the Anglo-Am erican Com m ission o f Inquiry on Palestine visited Beirut at the Lebanese governm ent’s insistence. But when the C om m ission’s report w as published general strikes and som e urepa-


Lebanese and Israeli Independence

triation ” o f local Jew s were carried out. Jew ish com m unities in Syria and Lebanon were vocal in their anti-Zionism 1' - to no avail. Tw o bom bs exploded in tw o Beirut com m ercial establishm ents. Longrigg in his h istory o f Lebanon under the m andate claim ed that the shop w as w rongly believed to have been Jew ish and consequently bom bed. Bom bs also exploded at the British Consulate-G eneral and the US L egation .19 T his seem s to clearly point to a connection w ith the Anglo-Am erican Com m ission. Yet Z ion ist docum ents on that period reveal that» in fact, it w as not that clear cut. Som e o f the disturbances were the result o f the Palestine problem , but others, such as the bom bs found in the store o f a Jew in Beirut, were o f a com pletely different nature. The latter specifically were connected with a dispute between Jew ish store ow ners.20 The com plexity o f the dom estic and regional dynam ics is further high­ lighted by the still open border between Palestine and Lebanon. T his led to incidents such as D avid Ben-Gurion’s use o f Beirut airport when he had problem s obtaining perm ission to travel from the British m andate auth or­ ities. Thus it happened that in 1946, a Jew ish travel agent in Beirut chartered a M iddle E ast Airlines plane - a D C 3 D akota - for Ben-G urion, M oshe Sharett, and G olda M eir to travel to a Z ion ist conference in Sw itzerland.21 Further tensions arose in April 1947 when President Bishara al-K houry dissolved parliam ent to prepare the country for the M ay elections. O n 25 M ay 1947, from the early m orning onw ards Beirut w as occupied by tro op s, gendarm es and police. T an ks, arm oured cars and infantry units took up position s on the principal squares, streets, and outside polling booths. It w as reported that special groups o f supporters o f the govern­ ment list adm itted only those w ho had announced their agreem ent to vote for the governm ent candidates. Lebanon’s press protested vehem ently.22 D espite the restrictions, 2 2 ,0 0 0 voted in Beirut as com pared to 10,000 in 1943.23 O n 8 June a new governm ent w as form ed consisting o f am ong others Sunni Prime M inister R iad as-Sulh, G reek-O rthodox Vice President G abriel M urr, M aronite Interior M inister Cam ille Cham oun, Sunni Finance M inister M oham ed Abdel R izk, M aronite Foreign M inister H am id Franjieh, Druze Defense M inister Em ir M ajid A rslan, and Shi‘a Agriculture M inister Ahmed H usseini.24

T w o W om en Rem em ber: A Privileged Life in Lebanon The m em ories o f those w ho lived through a certain period o f history often differ from the chronological lists o f facts drafted by historians. Being m em ories they are, o f course, shaped by later events in peoples’ Uves, are

Lebanese and Israeli Independence


interpreted and reinterpreted as they are told and retold. Y et, to brush them aside as n ostalgias and sentim entalities, is to disregard the m ore hum an aspects that m ake the p ast com e alive. The history o f Lebanon’s Jew s during the m andate through the eyes o f Stella Levy, one o f the daugh­ ters o f Josep h Farhi, and Vicky Angel, w ho left Lebanon in 1945 and 1947 respectively, reveals a different dim ension. Stella Levy recalls that she and her three sisters led a sheltered and priv­ ileged life, which in m any w ays w as overshadow ed by their father’s prom inence. H er father em bodied m orality and Zionism in the com m u­ nity, and w as the “ father con fessor" to w hom everyone cam e. H aving had a profound interest in linguistics in addition to politics, Stella Levy rem em bers her father’s research on the sim ilarities o f A rabic and H ebrew a s w ell as the long line o f literary and political personalities w ho cam e to house regularly, including the poet and w riter B ialik, the Ben Z vis, Eliahu Epstein, other delegates o f the Jew ish Agency and Vaad Leum i, and Jew ish soldiers in the British Army. The relations between her father and non-Jew ish personalities were excellent. H e w as a personal friend o f the M aronite Patriarch A rida whom he visited regularly in order to have theological discussions. She remem­ bers that he had very good relations w ith the governm ent. H e organized visits by Lebanese m inisters to the com m unity on R osh H ashana and Passover. O ne prom inent m em ory is that when incom e tax w as intro­ duced in Palestine, her father taught the system to Lebanese governm ent o fficials. The Farhi daughters did not generally m ix socially with non-Jew s. We had some friends who were not Jewish. We were at school together but never went out with boys of other communities. If a Jewish girl was dating a Christian or a Muslim she got a bad reputation. There were a few mixed marriages, but the families tended to disinherit those who married out.25

Y et the Farhi girls were not “ im prisoned" within a sm all Lebanese Jew ish w orld. For exam ple, they did not attend the Alliance school like m ost other Jew ish children, because their father did not particularly like the director. Instead, the girls attended the Collège Protestant. “ We were alw ays the first pupils in class. M y father w as on best term s w ith the principal o f the school because they discussed literature, so we never had exam s on Saturdays - because the Farhi girls did not w rite on Shabat." “ They had no form al religious education but regular private H ebrew lessons. Their father also insisted that they learned proper literary A rabic. Stella Levy went on to university. She got an M A from the Am erican U niversity o f Beirut, which she described as “ a nest o f anti-Sem itism ". In


Lebanese and Israeli Independence

fact, this is the only anti-Sem itism Stella Levy rem embers. H er fam ily did not encounter any problem s with the Vichy authorities. During the French m andate life in Beirut w as cosm opolitan and did not have an oriental atm osphere. It w as agreeable, m odem and European. This did not change during the Second W orld W ar. Prices went up a bit but the com m unity did not m iss anything. The Jew ish comm unity as a whole w as traditional, not orthodox. The Farhi fam ily did not eat food that w as not kosher, nor did they travel on Shabat. O thers were less strict. On Passover they invited Palestinian soldiers to join them for the Seder, on Shabat eve they had Palestinian students at the house. Vikki Angel's m emories o f the holidays have rem ained special. The whole fam ily cam e together, including all aunts, uncles and cousins. Purim w as celebrated with a m asquerade ball, one for children and one for adults. Hanukka w as not so im portant, children having only a half day o ff school. For Passover they got three weeks o ff because the school had to be cleaned. The H igh H olidays were celebrated in the beautiful synagogues at Aley or Bham doun. The Bham doun synagogue w as partic­ ularly elaborate with chandeliers brought from Italy. The Jew ish quarter and the m ain synagogue were lavishly decorated for holidays. For w eddings it w as traditional to send flow ers instead o f gifts, which in essence m eant that the w edding party w as drow ning in flow ers. The comm unity w as well organized. It w as adm inistered by the Conseil Communale, which w as elected dem ocratically. It oversaw the life o f the com m unity, education, and health for which there were no state institu­ tions. Charity w as also an im portant part o f the comm unity through the Bikur Cholim , financial aid, the Hevra Kadisha , w om en's organizations, and the provision o f breakfast for needy children.27 Everyone paid a comm unity tax. Those who refused to pay w ould not receive a Jew ish burial or their children could not get m arried. Stella Levy recalled that, “ on the w hole, the Jew s took part in every sector o f life’’ . There was a police officer and an army officer, but most did not work for the government. They were essentially craftsmen, tradesmen and busi­ nessmen. One of my cousins was a very famous doctor.. . . Married women did not work if they did not have to. Unmarried girls did. Two of my sisters worked: one was a school teacher and the other worked in the family-owned pharmacy.2*

M ost young wom en, if they w orked, were em ployed as teachers. A few went to university. O thers were secretaries or nurses. There were three sub-com m unities in Beirut: the Lebanese Jew s, the Ashkenazis, and a sm all comm unity o f Spanish Jew s who spoke Ladino.

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They all had their own synagogues w ith services according to different tradition s. There w as a sm all Z ion ist m ovem ent and Z ion ist em issaries cam e from Palestine to indoctrinate the youth.29 V ikki Angel recalls that under the influence o f this m ovem ent her sister ran aw ay to Palestine to a kibbutz. But life in the kibbutz in 1944-5 w as harsh and her sister had been spoilt and hated it. H er parents had real problem s bringing her back to Lebanon w ithout the appropriate papers. Very few Lebanese Jew s im m igrated to Palestine. What we heard about Israel in Lebanon did not encourage people. Life was difficult. There were no servants. You had to work with the H istadrut. In Lebanon it was much easier. The geographic position made life easy: Three months in the mountains - you got three months vacation - here (Israel) people get two weeks. Women and children had an easy time. We all went to summer resorts like Aley where there were hotels, cafés, orchestras, dances and casinos.30

She, herself, w as not a Z ionist, and the only reason she m oved to Jerusalem w as because she m et her husband on a trip to Palestine. When I left Beirut I didn’t know there was going to be a Jewish state and that the borders would be closed. I didn’t take anything with me apart from the wedding gifts. I thought I could go back on weekends to visit. In the beginning I wanted to go back to Lebanon. Then my mother came to live with us in 1966. She always regretted leaving. All Jews that left Lebanon remember Lebanon with love.31

N arratives and m em ories such as the stories o f these tw o wom en are not scientific discourses. Yet they should not be dism issed as merely “ n ostalgia” . W hat these tw o very sim ilar accounts reflect are som e o f the dynam ics o f social life, every day w orries, tensions, and beliefs - in this case those o f young women in Beirut's Jew ish com m unity. Stella Levy’s statem ents m ake very clear that unlike the men in her society w ho did define them selves in political term s, she w as above all a Farhi. Fam ily ties were close and by far the m ost im portant identifier for wom en at that tim e. V ikki Angel’s statem ents sim ilarly evolve around the high holidays, education, and socializing w ith little reference to the political situation.

T h e Establishm ent o f the State o f Israel The conflict in Palestine w as reaching a point o f no return in 1947. It had becom e clear that Britain could no longer m aintain control over the terri­ tory m andated to it and w as searching fo r an honourable w ay to retreat.


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The Jew s o f Lebanon started taking preventive m easures, anticipating trouble. Jew ish boys enrolled in the K ata’ib sporting clubs and scouts, where they received firearm s training32 deemed useful for defending the quarter if needed. And the Kata*ib sold w eapons to the Jew s for exactly this purpose. When the United N ations adopted the partition resolution in N ovem ber 1947, Beirut's Jew ish comm unity celebrated on the prem ises o f M agen Avraham . An estim ated 2 ,000 attended the festivities. In their Zionist fervor a number o f younger Jew s travelled south and crossed the border to join the Haganah for the impending w ar.33 As expected, the U N partition resolution set in m otion the first Arab-Israeli w ar and Lebanese A rab nationalists vented their frustration. A few Jew s fearing M uslim action sought refuge am ong the M aronites. But all Jew ish shops remained open, a clear indication that the m ajority did not feel seriously threat­ ened.34 On 4 , 5 and 6 Decem ber 1947 bom bs exploded on the outskirts o f W adi Abu Jam il at the com m unist party headquarters and near the US Legation. Very little dam age w as caused and there w as no loss o f life.35 There were strikes and dem onstrations.34 In support o f the Palestine cause, the Arab states had also decided to collect a special "Palestine ta x ” .37 The Lebanese Cham ber o f D eputies approved an allocation o f L L 1,000,000 for the defense o f Palestine. Beirut m unicipality contributed one month’s salary. Recruiting centres and the Permanent Palestine O ffice opened in Beirut. The press took a clear anti-American position and vindictive arti­ cles against the U SSR were published. But despite this posturing, Lebanon’s w ar effort is generally considered to have been m inimal and even the financial contributions, regardless o f the initial pledge, only reached a disappointing L L 127,000 in Beirut and L L 29,000 in T ripoli.38 On the night o f 7/8 January 1948 an arm s cache w as discovered in the Jew ish quarter and a number o f arrests were m ade. Rum ours that the Jew s concerned were Zionist agents caused considerable excitem ent, and in spite o f the precautions taken by the Lebanese authorities, a Jew ish m erchant w as stabbed by three unidentified assailan ts.39 Explosions occurred on successive nights in the Jew ish quarter - one at the Alliance school in Rue G eorges Picot. When it w as established that the incident had been a mere case o f arm s pilferage,40 the situation returned to norm al. On 9 January Palestinian Jew ish students at the AUB were ordered to leave. Anti-Jewish feeling w as running high at the university, and the university authorities were o f the opinion that the departure o f these students w as in their own best interest. Som e confusion seems to surround the issue o f the expulsion o f non-Lebanese Jew ish students. Landshut, for exam ple, claim s that all foreign Jew s, including the students at the Am erican University and the French college, were ordered to leave the country in January 1948.41 At the sam e tim e, archival evidence suggests

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that Lebanon's French universities announced that Jew ish students irre­ spective o f nationality were allow ed to stay.42 These orders affected an estim ated 20 Palestinian Jew ish students. On 16 April Lebanon cam e to stand-still when a general strike w as called in protest to the D eir Y assin m assacre. Some dam age to Jew ish property in Beirut resulted.43 On 14 M ay the Lebanese government declared a state o f emergency. On 24 M ay a Shi'a m ob attacked the Jew s o f the village o f Teybl. The police fired at the m ob, killing four.44 A number o f M uslim volunteers as well as a few Christians headed to the borders to aid the Palestine cause. N issim D ahan, who w as a Jew ish K ata’ib member at that tim e, recalled the internal M aronite debate ending in Pierre Gem ayel telling those “ hotheads" who w anted to fight to “ go and fight, but when you get to the frontier you w ill flee". H is prediction w as not far from the truth. O f the estim ated 150 trucks taking volunteers to the border only three, according to D ahan, arrived.45 While the exact num bers can be debated, the lack o f Lebanese m ilitary involvement in the Palestine w ar speaks for itself. On 26 July, Prime M inister R iad as-Sulh resigned. A new Cabinet w as form ed consisting o f G abriel M urr as deputy prim e m inister and interior m inister, H am id Franjieh as foreign m inister and education m inister, H ussein Aoueini as finance m inister, Philippe T a d a as economy m inister, Em ir M ajid A rslan as defense m inister and agriculture m inister, and E lias Khoury as health m inister. Lebanon w as reeling from internal instability and the repercussions o f the Palestine w ar. A day later an explosion occurred in the Jew ish quarter o f Beirut in which eleven were w ounded. N o satisfactory explanation for the cause w as given and no arrests were m ade in direct connection with it. Under the emergency legislation, however, 23 com m unists were arrested in T ripoli and three Phalangists were charged with possession o f explosives.46 When m ilitary operations started in M ay, about 200 political suspects were arrested. According to a Reuters m essage sent from Beirut at that time they only included a few Jew s.47 Anti-Jewish dem onstrations also broke out. On 15 M ay, in the early m orning hours, a m ob arm ed with bricks, incendiary devices, and w hips proceeded tow ards the Jew ish quarter. But when they reached the entrance they were stopped by K ata’ib m ilitia guards, who together with the Lebanese gendarm erie prevented them from entering and dispersed the crow d. The K ata’ib party also strongly attacked the “ hotheads" who went around pestering the Jew ish residents o f Lebanon, rem inding them that Z ionists and Jew s were not synonym ous.48 The comm unity in Saida w as probably the hardest hit. Al-Ittihad alLubnani reported that in Decem ber 1947 the Jew s o f Saida visited the Permanent O ffice for Palestine in order to com plain about the attacks to


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which they had been subjected. They condemned the partition o f Palestine and declared their w illingness to contribute money for Palestine. In return, the O ffice assured the Lebanese Jew s that no future m alevolence w as intended against them .49 According to al-D iyar the Jew s o f Saida decided to donate L L 25,000, but then changed their mind when their spokesm an Ishak Divan objected.50 Sim ilarly, al-H ayat reported that several Z ionists in Beirut persuaded Beirut businessmen not to contribute either.51 In January the business comm unity w as called upon again. The collector o f funds for Palestine met with som e opposition from Rahim e Derviche. The next day a bom b w as thrown into Derviche’s brother Saleh’s apartm ent.52 It seem s that som e money w as extorted in the end. The Jew ish com m u­ nity’s contribution tow ards the A rab Palestine fund is estim ated at L L 500,000,53 thrice the am ount o f non-Jewish Lebanon. It also seem s that ‘‘ ordinary’’ citizens tried to benefit from the situation as w ell. One such incident occurred when the Zilkha Bank sent som eone around with a credit note to collect a debt. The creditor tore up the note and said: “ Y ou’ve already got all o f Palestine.” 54 In 1948, not knowing w hat the future held and faced with an influx o f Palestinian refugees from Israel as well as Lebanese soldiers passing through on their w ay to the border, the m ajority o f the Saida com m unity fled, or according to som e accounts w as expelled,55 to the countryside for the duration o f the w ar. Their property w as “ confiscated for Palestinian A rab refugees” by som e nationalists, but the government ordered the police to protect the Jew s and enable them to return to their hom es.56 Som e, nevertheless, went to Beirut where they then settled. The country w as on the verge o f disintegrating. The Palestine question had brought to the surface the sectarian divisions to such an extent th at the incidents against Lebanon’s Jew s alm ost paled into insignificance by com parison. On 30 M ay an incident occurred which provides an excel­ lent exam ple o f the underlying tensions in the country and a context into which to place the anti-Jewish violence. A Christian was sitting on a full bus ready to depart to Beirut. A Muslim of alleged importance got onto the bus and insisted that his journey was more urgent. He persuaded the bus conductor to eject the Christian by force and give the Muslim the now vacant seat. The bus left for Beirut. But the Christian, having rounded up some 20 friends proceeded to the bus garage and wrecked it. The incident would have ended here had not someone else from the village concerned caused the church bells to be rung, thus summoning all the villagers, who were unusually tough, armed with sticks, stones and firearms, to the centre of the village from which they proposed to march to Tripoli. Intervention by telephone by Hamid Bey Franjieh, the minister of foreign affairs, who is a Christian notable of North Lebanon and the mohafez of Tripoli prevented the villagers from carrying out their

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threat. Meanwhile Abdul Hamil Karameh was visiting the kaimakam of Tripoli with other Muslim notables and, on hearing of the incident, is reported to have remarked that Tripoli was a Muslim town and that he did not see why Christians from the surrounding countryside should be allowed to make trouble here.57

The passions and violence aroused by a mere full bus show s the volatility o f the entire imm ediate post-independence period. In the greater scheme o f Lebanese confessional politics the adoption by M uslim politicians o f a “ Palestine first position” led to som e elements within the Christian comm unity considering an alliance with the newly established Israeli state,58 strengthening the Lebanese Jew ish-Christian bond. In M arch 1949 the Israeli-Lebanese arm istice agreem ent w as signed and the politics and inter-com munal relations in Lebanon returned to norm al. A sign that “ violent politics” had clearly ended cam e when on 21 Ju ly 1949 the Lebanese governm ent announced the dissolution o f all para­ m ilitary organisations. The K ata'ib office w as closed, the arm s were confiscated and 13 members arrested. The Parti Populaire Syrien fared even w orse with 12 m embers sentenced to death and 53 im prisoned.59 The situation for the Jew s had not changed overnight, but events had been set in m otion which w ould irreversibly affect the future o f the com m unity. As T oufic Yedid Levy recalls: From 1948 onwards Lebanon changed character through the growing number of Palestinians which completely overturned our position. Our people, you know, were traders looking for peace and quiet. They were looking to get a return for their money. . . We weren't numerous amongst two or three million Lebanese, only 7,000. And those 7,000 weren’t all Lebanese. . . the Palestinians started coming here and our situation deteri­ orated. Members of the community started to sell their property and left. Eventually the Palestinians started to make trouble for us. We had help from the government, from the Christians, from the K ata’ib - but the majority fin Lebanon) became Muslim.60

The im plications o f this im pressionist memory are clear: The Lebanese state barely coped with absorbing the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 w ar. The confessional system w as being subjected to a Sunni M uslim Palestinian “ onslaught” , which w as perceived as an increasing threat with every additional refugee wave. It w as a threat to the political status-quo and M aronite hegemony - but ultim ately it w as the sm aller m inorities who suffered first - Lebanon’s Jew s. The internment cam ps from the Vichy period were revived in 1948. As N athan and A lexander Sofer rem ember, between ten and fifteen Jew s who


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were representative o f the establishm ent were arrested and interned in an old arm y barrack in Baalbek. They were held for eight m onths w ithout any restrictions on fam ily visits. MIt w as not a prison. It w as a precaution, not a retaliation.’'61 Their Palestinian co-religionists who were residing in Lebanon at the time o f the conflict were not so lucky. The Lebanese government interned many o f them in a cam p in Baalbek for the duration o f the w ar.62 Some Lebanese Jew s were also detained, along with com m u­ nists and members o f the opposition. They were held in tw o room s in a building, which had previously housed the arm y. The conditions o f deten­ tion, according to the Israeli foreign m inistry as well as Jew s who were detained, were not harsh. The detainees brought their own beds and sheets, they were perm itted to bring in food from the outside and receive new spapers. Relatives visited twice a week. N one were tortured or beaten, the sanitary conditions were all right, and m orale w as high. The only draw back w as that the Lebanese governm ent m ade the detainees bear the expenses. It w as noted, for exam ple, that a man w as taken from Baalbek to Beirut for interrogation and had to pay the travel costs o f the policem an who accom panied him .63 A list contained in the Israeli files provides a glim pse o f som e o f detainees. The Lebanese Jew s included the merchant Rudolph K ugel, the m usician Adolph Sabam atki, the engineer and director o f the Singer sew ing machine com pany Rubin, the merchant Jajath i, the owner o f a hat shop Spiegel, and the com m issioner Shaki. All were later released with the exception o f a certain Cohen who w as convicted o f arm s trading and transferred to one o f the prisons. Jew s o f other nationalities, but resident in Beirut, w ho had been detained included the English attorney Z arfati, the Palestinian director o f the Alliance R ana al-M alih, the Greek senior clerk at Shell corporation A liya, the Palestinian engineer Y osef M argolies, the Palestinian driver Balanga, the French owner o f an autom obile service station Liteau Bahbout, and the French owner o f a butcher’s shop H abib Levi.64 The detention cam p in Baalbek is said to have detained 35 Jew s from Beirut, 30 Lebanese com m unists, and 25 Palestinian A rabs between June and Septem ber 1948.65 A further indication o f the state o f w ar, w as the Lebanese “ raid” o f the British consulate in Aley to obtain all visa applications for Palestine. Applicants were generally categorized as Z ionists, but m ost were also not Lebanese. N athan Sofer’s personal experience exem plifies the tension caused by the w ar in Palestine further: The office where I worked was called PEL (Palestine-Egypt-Lebanon) Tours. The Lebanese authorities came and took our receipts, went through all our documents, but just found regular things for a travel agency. They suggested that for a fee they would return the documents and I said they could keep them. The business belonged to a Palestinian Jew, so it was

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sequested. This then made the head of the Egyptian office whose name was Khaled come to Beirut and attempt to take over the office. But he couldn’t because this was a Lebanese office and he didn’t have the authority. Nevertheless, he started to fire all the Jews. He wanted to fire me but he couldn’t because I was the manager. But Jacques Balayla was fired, Rubin Khalil, Joseph Barakat and the others. So Khaled said to me: “ You may be the manager but you will do what I tell you to.” He demanded that I give the office to his brother who was a travel agent in Lebanon, and I opposed it. As he couldn’t fire me he wrote a letter to the security saying that I was a big Zionist and that I was involved in the gangs smuggling Jews to Palestine. So they called me to the special police for interrogation. He had sent an anonymous letter. I asked them: “ What do you have against m e?" They said: “ We have a letter.” So I asked: “ Who sent the letter? Can I see the letter?” They wouldn’t show me the letter, but they took me to another department headed by a Christian, who was a friend of mine. The chief of police was a Druze. The Christian told the Druze that I was a very important person and asked me what the story was. I told him the story and he went to the Druze to see the file. He showed me the letter and asked if I recog­ nized the handwriting. We didn’t have an Arabic typewriter in our office, so Khaled used to handwrite his letters. So I said, “ Pm going to give you a file with copies of letters he wrote, so you can compare.” I brought him the file and it was obvious. So he went to the Druze and told him that Khaled tried to fire me. The Christian officer was Haji Tourna. He had known me since I was a child and during the period when we used to transfer all the immigrants from the Syrian border to Eretz Israel, the train used to stop in Beirut and he would come there and give us transit visas. We bribed him. We gave him 10 Lebanese pounds per person. So one day he said: “ I’m fed up coming every time at midnight. Can’t you arrange for the convoy at an earlier time?” I said: “ I have a better idea. You give me the stamps and the visas and I’ll give you the money.” And he did. I would stamp the passports. He had confidence in me. I never cheated - 1 was too young to know that you could cheat.66

Jew ish R efugees and U navoidable C hanges The perception that the w ar o f 1948 did not have disastrous repercussions for Lebanon’s Jew s prevails until today. The Lebanese Arm y posted guards at the entrance o f W adi Abu Jam il.67 In addition, the K ata’ib also sent its m ilitia to guard the Jew ish quarter.68 Lebanese Jew s them selves did not consider the w ar w ould directly affect them as they saw them­ selves clearly as Lebanese n ationals - so much so , that there had been Jew ish soldiers in the Lebanese Army fighting the w ar o f 1948. O thers had join ed the K ata’ib m ilitia including N issim D ahan and a num ber o f his friends. They saw them selves as Lebanese n ation alists, got involved


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with the party, and served the country in every possible w ay. “ Lebanon w as a secular state, not an A rab country. Everyone w as Lebanese and served G od the w ay they w anted.” 49 Lebanon, com pared to its im m ediate neighbour Syria, and indeed m ost other A rab states, retained its tolerant and liberal attitude tow ard its own Jew s and tow ard Jew ish refugees seeking asylum in Lebanon. Consequently, in 1948, the num ber o f Jew s increased to 5 ,2 0 0 and by 1951 to 9 ,000 - 6,961 o f whom were Lebanese citizens.70 Thus Lebanon w as the only A rab country in which the num ber o f Jew s increased after the first A rab-Israeli W ar. Lebanese Jew s w elcom ed the creation o f the State o f Israel and had a deep com m itm ent to the idea o f a Jew ish state. But unlike Jew s in other M iddle Eastern states they were neither expelled from their country nor voluntarily left to live in Israel. Jew ish sym pathies for Israel w ere never strong enough to overcom e a very Levantine attitude tow ards life. One prevalent attitude o f Lebanese Jew s which alludes to this is th at only those Jew s w ho were unable to m ake it in the “ real w orld o f busi­ ness” im m igrated to Israel. And finally, Lebanese Z ionist com m itm ent can be sum m ed up by a w illingness to contribute financially and support the Jew ish state from afar, but an unw illingness to live with it on a daily basis. In 1952 com m unity president Attie accurately sum m ed up the p o si­ tion o f Lebanese Jew ry, statin g that while they were sym pathetic tow ards Israel their first loyalty w as to Lebanon. A t the sam e tim e, how ever, the events o f 1948 brought som e unavoid­ able changes. For instance, the Jew ish new spaper Al-‘Alam al-I$ra’ili changed its nam e to as-Salaam ,71 Jew ish holidays were taken o ff the governm ent’s list o f holidays. Governm ent assistance to Jew ish educa­ tio n al and charitable organ isations w as cut. It becam e difficult for Jew ish citizens to obtain passp orts and exit perm its w ithout paying m ore than the usual bribery rates, as well as obtaining governm ent contracts. They also had to cope w ith m ore obstacles than other Lebanese in receiving general services from governm ent bureaus.72 The M accabi w as declared illegal, the M accabi H ouse had all its property confiscated, and the pres­ ident D r A braham H eilm an, w as jailed for three w eeks.73 T his did not, how ever, m ean an end to Jew ish youth activity. R ather, the youth m ove­ m ents, as N issim D ahan recalls, were incorporated w ith those o f the K ata’ib.7A There were also a num ber o f Jew ish officers in the Lebanese Army w ho chose to resign, including the m ost high ranking Jew ish officer C om m andant R ubin.75 Y et others, such as D r Sananis and Sargent Salik, didn’t.74 The crucial point is that Lebanon's Jew s were not pushed out of governm ent service positions. Elia B assal, for exam ple, progressed in his police career to the level o f com m issaire , leaving the gendarmerie only

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when he retired at the age o f 65.77 H e took pride in his w ork throughout his whole career, w earing his white uniform and m edals to the synagogue regularly. “ H e enjoyed it and the comm unity enjoyed it, to o .” 78 The Jew ish stenographer at the Cham ber o f D eputies retained his post.79 The Beirut m unicipality, the Agriculture M inistry and the Army em ployed Jew ish engineers80 such as M r Zeitoune, the chief engineer o f the munic­ ipality o f Lebanon.81 Beyond governm ent service Jew s continued in their traditional occupations in im port-export, as m erchants, and bankers in addition to a sm all number o f artists, journalists and singers. Sym bolic o f the changes and the perception that these changes were rather unim portant is an incident in 1949. It is the death o f a Jew named T essier w ho is remembered as the only casualty. It is said that T essier w as from Safed and when the Palestinian refugees from Safed cam e to Beirut, he ran into the form er M uslim m ayor and m ade fun o f him. The m ayor did not do anything at that point. But he had a friend in the security services and they paid a visit to Tessier, confiscating his belongings and interrogating him. T essier, o f course, had nothing to reveal. The Jew ish comm unity w as told that he had been arrested. They asked the govern­ ment to try him in court or let him go. H e w as released, but the interrogators returned again and again. In the end he threw him self from the balcony. Incidents as these often gave the im pression to outsiders that the situ­ ation o f Lebanon's Jew s equalled that o f Syrian or Iraqi Jew ry. The offence this caused within Lebanese Jew ry can be gathered from attem pts to correct this m isperception. When asked about this situation during one o f his visits to Paris, Joseph Attie answ ered that “ not only were the Jew s pursuing their norm al occupations, they were also integrating Jew s from S y ria".82 A year later, in February 1950, the editor and publisher o f the Jew ish m agazine Le Commerce du Levant, T . M izrahi, w rote a letter to the New York Times: I must admit, as a Jew living in Lebanon, that Lebanese Jews, even in the most critical hour of the Palestinian crisis have never suffered from any particular treatment, either from the authorities or the people. At no time have the Lebanese Jews been deprived of their rights as citizens, or their liberties. They went about their business enjoying the same rights as their compatriots. The Jewish officials of the Administration have always maintained their posts, and the same kind of treatment was experienced by the Jews fleeing from the neighbouring Arab states. The Lebanese Jews consider their sympathetic ties to Palestine as purely religious, while all other ties - those of nationality, culture, language, and customs bind them to their own mother country, whose faithful citizens they wish to remain.83


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A m onth later, on 17 M arch 1950 M izrahi, published another article, repeating his claim . In the H ebrew new spaper H aD or , he stated that during the 1948 w ar not a hair fell from the head o f a Lebanese Jew. The authorities did not change their attitude towards Jews. The rights of Jews were not harmed. They could continue with their businesses and their work just like everyone else in Lebanon. N ot one Jewish clerk was removed from office, as happened in neighbouring Arab states.14

H e w rote that the reason for this lay in the fact that the ties o f Lebanon's Jew s with the Land o f Israel were o f a purely religious nature. They w ere faithful Lebanese citizens and intended to stay such. Focusing solely on the violence or on the protection accorded the Jew s obviously h as vast political im plications. The events related here are n ot black and w hite, not all violence or trouble-free existence. R ather, they reflect the broader dom estic tensions in Lebanon and the regional con fla­ gration. In the end it should be rem em bered, that as soon as the fighting w as over, the Lebanese governm ent w as the first to restore norm al condi­ tions for the Jew ish population. The ban on travelling, which had been in effect during the w ar, w as lifted, and a num ber o f senior Jew ish officials w ho had been dism issed were reinstated, som e even prom oted. N ine Jew s w ho had fled to Lebanon from Iraq, where they had been sentenced to death in absentia, were also perm itted to im m igrate to Israel.*5 T h is, in m any w ays, says m ore about the Lebanese state than any o f the bom bs placed in the Jew ish quarter. O n a broader regional level these unavoidable changes included the em ergence o f a Jew ish refugee problem which significantly im pacted upon Lebanon. A s a result o f the turm oil in Palestine from 1945 onw ards and the first A rab-Israeli w ar 1 9 4 7 -9 , a num ber o f Jew ish refugees from Syria and Iraq cam e to Lebanon, m any o f whom were sm uggled into Palestine. In Decem ber 1945, 81 Jew s from H alab , 23 from Beirut, 4 from Saida and 3 from D am ascus im m igrated to Israel.** In February 1946 a group o f Jew s, w ho were dissem inating Z ionist propagan da as well as sm uggling co-religionists across the border, were caught. They included Z aki H ukdar and Z ion M am ia from H alab , and Y aacov Pinkasi and M usa T otah from Beirut.*7 In M ay 1946 the Lebanese discovered another group sm uggling Jew ish im m igrants into Palestine.** N ine Jew s were captured on one night and four the next. In 1946 a total o f 6 ,0 0 0 Jew s fled from Syria to Lebanon because o f the deteriorating security situation and settled am ong the Jew s o f Beirut.89 A year later, in 1947, the Syrian tow n o f H alab suffered a pogrom . M ost o f the tow n’s Jew s fled to Beirut, alm ost doubling the size o f the com m unity. They enhanced the already excellent position o f the

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Jew s in the financial sector with their specialised knowledge o f stocks. But m ore im portant w as their contribution as goldsm iths and diam ond dealers. The Syrian governm ent increased restrictions on its Jew s with the result that between Decem ber 1947 and M ay 1948 all Jew ish em ployees rem aining in governm ent service were fired.90 A curfew w as im posed on the comm unity in D am ascus.91 All property o f the BaghdadD am ascus T ransport Com pany owned by the Iraqi Jew Chaim N etanel w as confiscated, and his Jew ish clerks were arrested on charges o f “ col­ laboration with the enemy” . A detention cam p for “ suspicious” Jew s w as set up east o f D am ascus, and the comm unity w as under constant harassm ent by the press and by the population. Syrian m inisters fulm i­ nated against partition and stepped up pressure on their Jew ish population. Dozens o f houses o f w orship were attacked and the govern­ ment launched a fiercely anti-Sem itic cam paign, froze Jew ish bank accounts, and confiscated the property o f Jew s w ho fled the country.92 In Decem ber 1947 rum ours were spread that the Jew s were responsible for the cholera epidem ic.93 Between 1943 and the m id-1950s Syrian Jew ry shrunk from 30,000 to 5 ,0 0 0 .* The number o f Lebanese Jew s increased dram atically with the influx o f thousands o f refugees from Iraq and Syria as a result o f the first A rab-Israeli w ar. By 1949 their number in Beirut had reached 4 ,0 0 0 .9S These refugees were granted the right to stay in Lebanon. They did not, however, receive Lebanese citizenship and many had no desire to stay. W hile the refugees settled in W adi Abu Jam il the estabUshed Lebanese Jew ish bourgeoisie m oved out o f the quarter to Q antari and to M ichel Chiha Street.96 A new order began to emerge o f a low er class com prised prim arily o f refugees, an upper m iddle class o f now w ell-established Lebanese Jew s, and, o f course, the traditional Lebanese Jew ish notables presiding over all. Those Jew s living in the m ore fashionable areas were engaged in com m erce, while the poorer ones in W adi Abu Jam il w orked in the garm ent, so ap , and glass industries or as peddlers. With the growth o f the com m unity, geographic expansion beyond W adi Abu Jam il w as unavoidable. The better-off Lebanese Jew s moved to R ues G eorges Picot, Petro Paoli, Chateaubriand, A grippa, Rezkallah, Clem enceau, B liss, M ay Z iade, K antari, Rue de France, and Rue de L ’Arm ee.97 The biggest im pact o f the refugees on Beirut w as on the com m unity’s education system . The number o f pupils at the Alliance increased from 923 in 1946 to 968 in 1947 reaching 1,043 in 1948. From Decem ber 1947 new enrollm ents occurred on a daily basis and, according to the director Elm aleh, the school w as forced to suspend adm issions from February 1948 onw ards.98 Legal em igration and illegal im m igration featured highly in the refugee com m unity. For those engaged in sm uggling the refugees, sm uggling other


Lebanese and Israeli Independence

"goods** also becam e a lucrative sideline. In O ctober 1948 Le Soir reported an incident o f Lebanese passp orts being forged to enable Syrian Jew s to flee abroad with their m oney. The forger w as nam ed as Salah alDin Shatila, w hose father served as an office director in the p assp o rt departm ent. The conspirators were reported to be the Lebanese Jew s D avid H ask i, Jacqu es H anan and Shim on Falw aski. The deception w as discovered by the head o f the secret police Em ir Farid Chehab as he w as about to sign the passports. The nam es o f the im plicated p assp ort holders were: Edm ond Safadieh, Y osef Safadieh, M usa Eliyahu B aida, V ictoria B aida, Eliyahu B aida, Fortuna B aida, R aful H aza, Y om -Tov Shem aya, Fayez Shem aya, M ouiz Shem aya, L atifa Shem aya, Lucy H aloni, D avid M enashe, Frieda T otah H azan , M aurice A nzarut, and T ou fic M en ash o n ." In M ay 1949 the Israeli-Lebanese M ixed Arm istice C om m ission (ILM A C) agreed that a lim ited num ber o f Jew ish fam ilies residing in Lebanon w ould be perm itted to cross into Israel.100 In Decem ber it w as recorded that 1,000 such refugees had already illegally crossed over the frontier to join their fam ilies in Israel. On 29 Decem ber it w as announced in the press that the sûreté générale had "pounced** upon an underground netw ork for the tran sport o f Jew s to Israel in m otor launches and th at over 200 Syrian and Lebanese Jew s had been arrested.101 In 1950 the Lebanese governm ent authorised the tran sit o f Iraqi Jew ish refugees from Lebanon to Israel via the R osh H anikra checkpoint. The governm ent perm itted Syrian and Iraqi Jew s w ho had found sanctuary in Beirut to cross the frontier to Israel.102 A nd, on 22 February the first group o f 55 Lebanese Jew s officially also crossed the border.103 M ost Syrian Jew s as a norm did not rem ain in Lebanon, but em igrated over the follow ing ten years to places such as N ew Y ork or Israel. For exam ple, in early M arch the first party consisting o f 170 Syrian Jew s left for Israel.104 Another group w as the Law sai fam ily o f eight which received perm ission to cross the border at R osh H anikra on 25 M arch 1952 as the result o f a m eeting between ID F Colonel Yehoshua H arkabie, Lebanese Colonel Salem , U N G eneral Riley, and tw o other Israeli officers.101 Lebanon’s unease about contacts with Israel in connection with Jew ish im m igration eased with the agreem ent o f Egypt, Iraq and Jo rd an to also perm it imm i­ gration .106 The opening o f the Israeli-Lebanese M ixed Arm istice Com m ission channel did not put a stop to the lucrative illegal route. O n 10 Ju ly Beirut radio announced the capture o f 25 Jew s trying to flee Lebanon in several row boats. A sideline to transferring Jew ish refugees across the border w as the sm uggling also o f arm s and food. T his business had becom e so lucra­ tive that in February 1949 the “ im port** o f m eat to Israel led to a scarcity o f supply in Lebanon.107 A US report on the situation o f cross-border

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activities in Lebanon in 1953, considered sym pathy for Israel as one o f the m otives for sm uggling goods across the border.108 The encounter o f the Lebanese Jew ish old-tim ers and the Syrian or Iraqi refugees w as characterized by positive and negative incidents, but forem ost by very personal experiences. One such story is that o f R aphael Sutton who reached bar mitzvah age during the Syrian-French struggle in 1945. H is bar mitzvah w as hastily celebrated in the H alab synagogue and on the sam e day R afi w as sent by his fam ily by bus to Beirut. H e w as met by relatives w ho, upon hearing his plight, insisted that the bar mitzvah be celebrated properly. So the next Saturday R afi had a grand celebration at the synagogue in Bham doun, attended by the Chief R abbi him self.109 R afi returned to Syria once the situation had calm ed dow n, only to return to Lebanon in M arch 1948 when the Syrian Army w anted to draft him. H e spent six m onths in Beirut before illegally em igrating to Israel with 170 other im m igrants. H is fam ily follow ed a year later. In 1982, as a colonel in the Israel Defence Forces, he returned to that synagogue in Bham doun to relive one o f the m ost cherished m om ents o f his life.

Syrian Refugees The accounts o f Lebanese Jew s o f the influx o f Syrian Jew s rarely m entions inter-community tensions. These accounts, however, do not square with the recollections o f som e o f these refugees. The experiences o f Ezra Tam ir from H alab serves tw o purposes: first, to highlight som e o f the inter-com munal tensions, and secondly, to give an outsider’s perspec­ tive o f Beirut Jew ish life. Ezra Tam ir w as bom in H alab and fled with his fam ily from Syria to Lebanon in 1949. H e cam e from a fam ily o f O riental Z ionists and it is thus not surprising that the fam ily, after leaving Lebanon in 1967, settled in Israel. For Syrian refugees life in Lebanon w as a dangerous situation as they did not have Lebanese citizenship and consequently the Lebanese govern­ ment could alw ays deport them back to Syria. The Tam ir fam ily moved into an apartm ent in the Rue de France. Ezra Tam ir remembers that Syrian refugees flooded into Lebanon under the m ost distressing circum ­ stances. My cousins had been chased by dogs and soldiers shot at them when they were crossing the border. They arrived wounded in Wadi Abu Jamil. We put the Syrian refugees up in the synagogue or in various houses. They stayed for a couple of months until false papers had been prepared for them. Two or three Lebanese Jews specialized in this - having the right friends. My cousins left for the United States.


Lebanese and Israeli Independence

Students learned in Jew ish schools until the age o f 16. The prim ary school w as the Talmud Torah in W adi Abu Jam il and there w as another one fo r religious Jew s - the Jeunesse Juive Religieuse. There were six students to a class at the Talmud Torah. The secondary school w as the Alliance which w as coeducational. “ I w as very religious when I cam e to Lebanon, and they put me into a m ixed class. I went to the professor and told him I did not w ant to be in a m ixed class with all those beautiful girls.” 110 Some Christians also attended the Alliance school, but left whenever Hebrew classes were given. The Alliance taught four languages at that tim e: A rabic, H ebrew , English and French. The language o f instruction w as French, the educational system w as French and the certificate exam s were taken at the French em bassy. The history o f France and the geog­ raphy o f France were taught, not Lebanon’s history or geography. A s a Syrian refugee, Ezra Tam ir could not take the brevet after secondary school. After the secondary school there were essentially three options: Christian schools, business, or abroad. The comm unity as a whole consisted o f religious and secular people. It w as a very liberal com m unity. Jew s w ould travel by car on Shabat. Som e opened stores on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. “ M y fam ily w as reli­ gious and our lifestyle w as with fam ily and friends at the synagogue. There were about 10 synagogues, but none were Ashkenazi even though the rabbi w as A shkenazi.” In June at the end o f the school year 70 percent o f the Jew s left for Aley and Bham doun. The richer ones went to Bham doun and the less rich to Aley. They cam e back only after Sukkot. “ It w as a fascinating w ay o f life. The father went to w ork from 8 a.m . until 2 p.m . in Beirut and then returned to the m ountain, where he bathed, slept, got up, went to the syna­ gogue and then to the coffee house. The youth went out to see friends at clu b s.” The ethnic configuration o f W adi Abu Jam il started to change in the 1950s. The affluent Jew s m oved out o f the quarter and K urds started to move in. “ They hated the Jew s. They lived in run-down houses and envied us. There were often fights between gangs. But to be beaten by a Kurd w as the w orst that could happen to you.” 111 Tensions also existed between the Lebanese oldtim ers and the Syrian newcomers. Ezra T am ir attributed these tensions specifically to the H alabi Jew s w ho were extrem ely m iserly, while the Dam ascenes were much like the Beirutis. The H alabis m ade an issue o f money and alw ays stressed this in business deals which w as perceived as uncouth. They also spoke w ith a different Arabic accent which m ade them the object o f occasional ridicule within Jew ish circles. One o f the differences between the Lebanese and the Syrian com m u­ nities w as that the Lebanese went to Saida once a year on pilgrim age “ to

Lebanese and Israeli Independence


som e sain t’s tom b” . The Syrians did not. Another difference w as that Syrian children tended to go to the Jeunesse Juive Religieuse and learned w ith R abbi Avraham A badi for tw o to three hours every day. In that sense, they w ere m ore religious. The girls, how ever, did not have any religious education. “ There were som e Jew ish girls w ho dated C hristians - M uslim s only very rarely. The com m unity condem ned this. When I w as 16 o r 1 7 1 w as p art o f a group o f young Jew s w ho ran after the girls and spied on them . We threatened them som etim es saying that if they didn't stop seeing C hristians w e'd publish this in the club. M ost o f them then stop p ed ." The wom en in the com m unity stayed m ainly at hom e and did not w ork. “ They had children, went shopping, and played cards. They met their friends at a table playing cards and continued this wherever they w ent - to South A m erica, the United States.” Syrian Jew s m arried am ongst them selves. There were no prohibitions again st m arrying a Lebanese Jew , bu t Syrian parents thought a Syrian m atch to be better. M ost Syrian Jew s em igrated from Lebanon in 1958, seeing the civil strife as a sign to m ove on. Ezra T am ir's fam ily stayed until 1967. They left tw o w eeks before the Six-D ay W ar and m ade their w ay to Israel through Istanbul.

4 The First Civil War: Conflict o f Identities

The question o f national allegiance and loyalty w as not concluded w ith independence, national sovereignty, and self-determ ination. R ather, it had opened Pandora’s box. For Lebanon’s M uslim s and C hristians it m eant continued struggle over the nature o f governm ent and the identity o f the state, which ultim ately resulted in the first civil w ar in 1958. For Lebanon’s Jew s this m eant continued challenges to their loyalty as Lebanese citizens, particularly when inter-com m unal suspicions and tensions were high.

D ual Loyalties The creation o f the State o f Israel, the A rab boycott, and the outcom e o f the first A rab-Israeli w ar as a situation o f “ no-w ar, no-peace” affected Lebanon in no uncertain term s. Lebanon’s w ar effort had been pitiful, alm ost 100,000 Palestinian refugees had spilled across the border, and the econom y cam e to bear the brunt o f regional upheavals. W ithin the deli­ cately balanced confessional system the Palestine question becam e a test o f loyalties. Som e M aronite politicians were accused o f com plicity with Israel, while som e Sunni politicians pushed fo r the integration o f the refugees, which w ould, o f course, tip the confessional balance in their favour. W ith the Palestine question becom ing the litm us test for loyalty, Lebanon’s Jew s also were subjected to repeated public scrutiny. The ques­ tion o f dual loyalty arose from genuine security concerns as well as being econom ically or personally m otivated. Yet while there were a num ber o f disturbing incidents, these did not have popular or official support. A s a result Jew ish com m unity life continued unencum bered and even flour­ ished. In 1951, N azem K adri, parliam entary deputy for the B ekaa, raised the issue o f com pensating Palestinian refugees w ith Lebanese Jew ish money.

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H is dem and provoked a series o f articles and editorials in defence o f Lebanese Jew ry. K esrouan Labaki, for exam ple, in an article in Le Soir stressed that "persecution o f a Jew because he w as a Jew w ould go against the very principle o f Lebanon’s existence” . Lebanon existed because it had resisted all assaults on its liberties, because it w as a place o f tolerance for all victim s o f religious persecution and political oppression. The Jew s were Lebanese citizens and had the right to be treated justly and humanely. Indeed, "th e Jew s o f Lebanon are no less Lebanese than M r N azem K adri, M r Z ouhair O sseiran and all the dem agogues who applauded” . We know numerous Jews in Lebanon. O f some we speak highly - we honour their friendship. We know they are Lebanese, that they love this country the way we love this country, that they take part in our pains and joys, our ambitions and national ordeals. We do not have the right to treat those Jews as Zionist agents. They have under all circumstances given proof of their attachment to Lebanon and their participation in the Lebanese community. It is possible that among the Jews of Lebanon there are Zionist agents. The authorities will pursue those, arrest them, try them, condemn them according to merit. But these authorities are the same ones who will also find all those Israeli spies who are not Jew ish.. . . If Mr Nazem Kadri and Mr Zouhair Osseiran took the pains to go through the archives of the police and tribunals they will find that the great majority of Israeli agents since 1947 were not Jewish.1

Interestingly, Lebanese Jew s did not actually see the articles appearing in An-Nahar, A l-H adaf and Ash-Shark calling for the confiscation o f Jew ish property to com pensate Palestinian refugees as being directed again st them. R ather, they saw it as anti-Israeli propaganda, which could easily be countered by annually paying off the involved new spapers with 2 0 ,0 0 0 -2 5 ,0 0 0 Lebanese Livres.2 In 1952, Lebanese Deputy Emile Boustani started a cam paign against Lebanese Jew s which w as m otivated by conflicting business interests.3 In the w ords o f Am erican M inister H arold B. M inor at the American Legation in Beirut, Boustani w as "expan sive and self-centred. It is prob­ able that his vehemence in cam paigning against the Lebanese Jew s is m otivated by his egotism and his business activities.” 4 H is cam paign undoubtedly raised the profile o f the Jew ish com m unity, which had been keeping very much to the political m argins. Boustani, a Christian, did not find much sym pathy am ong his parliam entary colleagues who perceived him as encouraging reckless tendencies am ong the sm all anti-Jew ish element in the country at the expense o f Lebanon’s national interests. H is tactics, while deplored, were not w ithout econom ic foundation. As a result o f his cam paign his own profile w as raised and his popularity in


The First Civil War

neighbouring Arab states rose, directly benefiting his b u sin ess/ Part o f this cam paign w as a call to expel tw o Jew ish officers from the Lebanese Army. The officers in question were m edical officer C apt. N issim Sananes and one o f the artillery supply officers. The M inister o f Defence, Em ir M ajid A rslan, pointed out “ that these officers had been serving in the arm y for several years, and stated that the com m anding general w as com petent to judge these men’s loyalty” . Fellow Lebanese Army officers said that they considered "Jew ishness” to be a religion and not a nation­ ality and these tw o officers in question were Lebanese n atio n als/ Boustani’s parliam entary m otion to discharge the tw o officers w as deci­ sively beaten when a vote w as taken.7 With this vote Lebanese delegates had expressed their opinion that Lebanese Jew s did not have dual loyal­ ties. Indeed after the vote Defence M inister and Druze chieftain A rslan sneered to reporters “ we do not have to take lessons in patriotism from the m anager (Boustani) o f the C .A .T . C om pany.” Com m unity President Joseph Attie did not see Boustani’s cam paign a s a cause for serious concern. H e had full confidence in the continuing support o f Lebanese president Bishara al-Khoury and the broader Christian comm unity.

The Jew ish Com m unity and the Political Situation,

1949-1957 R elations between the Jew ish community and the other Lebanese com m u­ nities rem ained am icable, still characterized by shared religious festivities and a fervent display o f Lebanese nationalism by Lebanese Jew s after 1948. As Lebanese citizens, and contrary to the situation in many oth er A rab states, public office and the arm y were open to the Jew s* even after the establishm ent o f the State o f Israel. Econom ically the comm unity flourished in the 1950s. The textile industry, which had already begun serious developm ent, progressed rapidly. The im pulse to industrialization in general had been notably strengthened by the w artim e experience.9 Som e changes, however, needed to be m ade because, with the creation o f the State o f Israel, Lebanon had lost its Palestinian m arket, presenting a m ajor draw back. During 1949 Lebanon w as busy consolidating its own econom ic p o si­ tion and com bating union m ovem ents.10 In the early 1950s, it w as estim ated that Beirut conducted about LL 1 billion o f foreign-exchange operations per year, and, by 1951,“ over 30 per cent o f all private inter­ national gold trade went through Beirut.12 The movement tow ards the consolidation o f the “ merchant republic” and the extension o f power o f Lebanon’s m ercantile-financial bourgeoisie continued under Cam ille

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C ham oun’s adm inistration which attem pted to w eaken the political influ­ ence o f the old quasi-feudal landow ning elite and to strengthen the base o f the international service econom y.13 In both Syria and Lebanon much o f the real pow er still lay with "independents” usually representing a landed or m onied interest and at heart non-political.14 In 1949, Bishara al-Khoury, through a special suspension o f the consti­ tutional provisions, w as reelected president o f the republic. H is second term began w ithout too m any problem s, but challenges to his leadership slow ly started to em erge. In 1951, during the Passover celebration the president o f the com m u­ n ity, D r Joseph A ttie, held a reception at M agen A vraham which w as attended by Sam i Sulh, A bdallah Y afi, R achid Beydoun, Josep h C hader, H ab ib Abi C hahla, C harles H elou, Pierre G em ayel, and M gr. Ignace M ou b arak .15 US chargé d ’affairs, Joh n H . Bruins, described the Passover celebration on 2 7 A pril as a classic exam ple o f Lebanon’s traditional observance o f religious freedom . An estim ated 3 ,000 attended the cele­ bration and the day passed uneventfully despite continuing A rab resentm ent at Israel and tension over Syrian-Israeli border incidents.16 T acit alliances were created between Jew ish leaders and leaders o f C h ristian parties, such as Pierre G em ayel, w ho, from 1948 onw ards, stressed on m any occasions that his party considered Jew s to be fullyfledged Lebanese citizens and that Lebanon w as "a ll about m inorities living peacefully together.” 17 In 1951, the K ata’ib had its first m em ber elected to parliam ent and then had h alf a dozen representatives in each successive legislature.18 In 1952, the K ata’ib expanded its support base allow ing any Lebanese m an or w om an over twenty-one to becom e an active m em ber. T his opened the path o f active participation not only for non-M aronites but also for w om en.19 A num ber o f Jew s becam e fully fledged K ata’ib party m em bers m oving up from their previous associate statu s. The Jew s were generally courted in the elections as they voted as a block. The person to benefit m ost w as the K ata’ib candidate Joseph C hader w hose popularity w ith the com m unity rem ained unsurpassed, especially given the fact that the official m inority representative in no w ay show ed interest in the com m unity. Friendships w ith prom inent Lebanese politicians continued to flourish. M aronite leader Pierre Gem ayel started to bring his sons Bashir and Amin alo n g,20 signaling the closeness o f the tw o com m unities. Sunni leader Sam i Sulh also ranked am ong the Jew s' favourites. G ood business relationships, in addition to the governm ents’ dedication to religious tolerance, ensured th at the Jew ish com m unity had governm ent protection in troubled tim es. O n 11 February 1952, Sam i Sulh form ed a new Cabinet. H is program m e prom ised to reinforce the Arm y, am end the electoral law , gran t w om an suffrage rights, safeguard the rights o f the w orkers and


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support the new econom ic agreem ents with Syria.21 The Jew ish com m u­ nity at this tim e w as represented in parliam ent by M arquis M u sa de Freige, a Rom an C atholic. De Freige, though, did little to represent the com m unity’s interest, o r indeed the other five m inorities he w as elected to represent. The com m unity’s political security had alw ays been outside the realm s o f the m inority deputy. President Attie m aintained good relations with Lebanese president Bishara al-Khoury. On 23 Septem ber 1952, Cam ille Cham oun w as elected president. Khoury’s second term had been cut short by a “ cou p ” . T oufic Y edid Levy rem em bers the turm oil surrounding Cham oun quite vividly because o f his own involvem ent. During the 1952 elections he (Chamoun) called me. I was in charge o f the Jewish electoral district and we wanted to have someone in parliament. We generally voted for Joseph Chader and we helped the K ata'ib to get their people in. Joseph Chader would not have become an MP if it hadn’t been for the Jewish support. Chamoun knew that. He called me to his residence and wanted us to vote for his man. I said: “ Sorry, we can’t. Your govern­ ment never helped us when we had trouble from the Palestinians. The only ones who helped us were the K ata’ib.22

In the autum n o f 1953 a num ber o f bankruptcies were declared in Beirut. T his shook the w orld o f finance for som e tim e.23 A part from this, Cham oun’s presidency and indeed life in Lebanon, proceeded sm oothly until broader regional events forced them selves onto the agenda. W ith the political change in Egypt, the rise to pow er o f G am al Abdel N asser since 1952, the spread o f pan-A rabism and the Suez C risis, the “ national ques­ tion ” again gained attention. The Suez C risis did not affect the situation o f the 6 ,6 9 2 Jew s in Lebanon,24 but it did set in m otion the political tensions which resulted in Lebanon’s first civil w ar. President Cam ille Cham oun, in line w ith his strong pro-w estern orientation, w as the only A rab leader not to break diplom atic relations with Britain and France after their joint-attack with Israel on Egypt. T his m ade him vulnerable to challenge by M uslim Lebanese seeking to include Lebanon in this greater A rab m ovem ent.

Com m unity Life, 1 9 4 3 -1 9 5 8 The elation over the end o f the struggle for Lebanese independence w as tam pered only by the news em erging from Europe in 1944 and 1945. The steady stream o f Jew ish refugees had already provided the Beiruti com m u­ nity with a glim pse o f the persecution o f European Jew ry. And even though Lebanon w as geographically distant that did not m ean the

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com m unity rem ained unscathed. One o f the tragic cases, which did not em erge until much later, w as that o f Elie D ana. B om in B eirat on 17 M ay 1 883, D ana w as living in N ice, France in 1943. H e w as arrested, sent to D rancy assem bly cam p on 2 7 O ctober 1943, and, on 20 N ovem ber 1943, deported to Auschw itz. H e had disappeared in the turm oil o f the w ar and w as not heard o f again . The Red C ross eventually found his nam e on the A uschw itz tran sport list, but as no p ro of o f his death existed, w as unable to issue a death certificate.25 In 1944 the education com m ission o f the com m unity, after an in-depth study o f the situation, decided to initiate a num ber o f projects. The L L 3 0 0 ,0 0 0 in their possession went tow ards the construction o f another flo o r on top o f the Selim T arrab school which w as to becom e a youth room and a library. A level above that w as to be m ade into apartm ents fo r the use o f the school. The construction o f a new synagogue in Bham doun w as also on the agenda. Further, a w orkshop fo r sew ing and em broidery w as to be set up for young w om en. The synagogue in Aley w as due for refurbishm ent. A sp orts ground, a center for hygiene, a conva­ lescent home in the m ountains, youth holiday cam ps, and scholarships for high education based on m erit were also p art o f the am bitions o f the com m ission.26 The year o f 1945 w as an eventful year for the Jew ish com m unity, a year o f upheaval and tragedy, both internally and politically. O n 8 M ay 1945 the com m unity w as faced w ith the death o f one o f its key leaders: Jo sep h D avid Farhi. The w hole com m unity descended into m ourning for the 67-year-old w ho passed aw ay in the early m orning hours. Com m unity life cam e to a com plete standstill. H is funeral at the grand synagogue w as attended by num erous .political and religious personalities from all com m unities. Chief R abbi Bahbout and com m unity president Dichy Bey gave voice to the grief o f the com m unity27 and a m em orial fund w as estab­ lished in his nam e. Life in Lebanon w as good and the econom y w as boom ing. The m ajority o f Lebanese Jew s were w ealthy enough to afford a com fortable life-style, which included spending the sum m er m onths in the m ountains aw ay from the heat and hum idity o f the city. In fact, an estim ated 4 ,0 0 0 Jew s m igrated to Bham doun each sum m er, renting sum m er lodgings from local residents. D espite the fact that the Bham doun synagogue w as only used during the holidays, no money or effort w as spared when it w as built in 1945. Three crystal chandeliers lighted the vestibule and 12 m ore the sanctuary. The com m unity as a w hole w as still not Z ionist enough for its co-reli­ gion ists in the Yishuv w ho on occasion had a rather M achiavellian perspective on this issue. For exam ple, Chaim W eizmann, in M ay 1943, called fo r special attention to be paid to the Z ionist activity in Lebanon,


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“ both due to the need to instill the Z ionist idea within the com m unity an d due to the im portant role t h a t . . . the Beirut com m unity could play in relations between the C hristians in Lebanon and the Jew ish Y ish uv” .28 A ccording to W eizmann there existed excitem ent am ong the M aron ites for the Z ionist project. Beiruti Jew s w ho had ties o f trade and friendship with m any o f the heads o f the C hristian com m unities» could be o f g re at help “ provided they knew which line to tak e” .29 W eizmann proceeded to suggest inviting som e o f the Beirut Jew ish leaders - at their ow n expense - to discuss this issue. The leaders he specifically had in m ind were Farh i, Dichy Bey» Ovadia» and Stam bouli. In 1 9 4 9 -5 0 approxim ately 200 to 300 Jew s im m igrated to Israel. T he m ajority o f this group w as com posed o f young or p oor people. In D r Attie’s opinion there w as no trend in the Jew ish com m unity tow ard a gradual m igration to Israel. W hile m any Syrian» Iraqi» Iranian and a few Turkish Jew s has passed through Lebanon in transit to Israel, Lebanese Jew s saw their future firm ly w ithin the Lebanese state. O nly 500 Lebanese Jew s had left.30 T his stood in stark contrast to the 96% o f A rab Jew s w ho were forced to leave,31 revealing the true nature o f the relations between Lebanon and its Jew s. In 1950 an Alliance school in Beirut w as dem olished by a bom b.32 T h is, how ever, w as an isolated incident. Indeed a report in the Israeli foreign m inistry files m akes it very clear that the com m unity continued to live and travel freely and had the sam e rights as all other com m unities. The only problem , in fact, w as the differing ideas on the construction o f a new school. The com m unity, to the chagrin o f Israeli officials, w as adam antly opposed to Aliya. The foreign m inistry report even raised the concern that if Israel were to try to "force em igration” , Lebanon’s Jew s w ould publicly dem onstrate again st Israel - a rather em barrassing situation. T hus the author o f the report advised the adoption o f a special position on the Jew s o f Lebanon, particularly if the case were to be raised in the forum o f the United N ation al General Assem bly, especially since the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity had already prepared a m em orandum on this subject.33 As M arion W oolfson so poignantly stated, "w h at is not generally realized is the part played by the Z ionists them selves in the troubles which beset the Jew s o f A rab countries . . . They encouraged em igration not because o f the danger, but because Israel required new im m igrants to tighten their claim over the lan d .” 34 In the sam e year the com m unity reported a lack o f H ebrew teachers for the Jew ish schools in Lebanon affecting an estim ated 2 ,0 0 0 children.35 The rabbi w as so concerned about the status o f the H ebrew education that he sent a num ber o f letters to international Jew ish and Z ionist organiz­ ations requesting teachers and books.36 The m ain obstacle, it w as claim ed, w as the im possibility o f "obtain in g entry perm its to Lebanon for Jew s,

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even those with French citizenship” .37 The recom m endation to the Israeli governm ent w as that special effort should be m ade to supply Lebanon with three to five teachers, considering that these children m ight immi­ grate to Israel later on.3* Part o f the problem lay in the curriculum o f the Alliance. The Alliance w as applying the com plete educational program o f the French schools with the minimum A rabic required by the Lebanese government. N ot being able to reduce the A rabic classes and not w anting to reduce the French classes, it w as forced to teach Hebrew in supple­ mentary classes rather than as part o f the curriculum . In February 1951 the situation still had not im proved,39 the Jew ish Agency being preoccu­ pied with clarifying whether any teachers w ould be paid by the com m unity.40 As opposed to the Alliance school, the 250 children attending the Selim T arrab school received a thorough Hebrew education. Thirteen hours out o f 38 were devoted to H ebrew , and at kindergarten level 32 out o f 38.41 This school, however, served only the poorer segm ents o f the com m unity, as well as providing education, food and clothes. On 24 April 1950 there w as a profound change in the comm unity lead­ ership. The outgoing comm unity council consisting o f D r Joseph Attie, Toufic Attie, M urad Chayo, R affoul Chalom , M aurice C osti, Isaac Elia, M oise Elia, R affoul Farhi, Joseph Saadia, Emile Saadia, Jaco b Safra, Isaac Sidi, Jacques Stam bouli, Ezekiel T otah, and D r Z . Veicem anas42 paid tribute to its president from 1939 to 1950. Joseph Dichy Bey, who had spent 30 years o f his career in the service o f the comm unity decided for health reasons not to stand again for the presidency o f the Jew ish com m u­ nity. H is response to the honours accorded him w as as follow s: My friends and collaborators, thank you for your solidarity, your love of the good and your continuous devotion to the success of our efforts. I am entirely satisfied that I am leaving the community in very good hands. Its destiny today is with men of high standards. . . I am certain that (they will spare) neither their efforts nor their sacrifices to maintain and develop what we have built up together. I am convinced that you will continue to work for the greater interests of the community . . . I will take this occasion to extend my congratulations to all organizations on the magnificent work just completed . . . to obtain increasing radiance and prosperity.43

Dichy Bey w as succeeded by D r Joseph Attie, who w as the chief m edical officer and the chief surgeon o f the government hospital in Beirut. H e had often represented Lebanon at international conferences on neurology. H is excellent relations with the authorities were an exam ple for the rest o f the com m unity, and he rem ained comm unity leader until 1976. The com m unity w as still on the increase. In 1951 there were 9,000


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Jew s in Lebanon, 6,961 o f which were Lebanese citizens. O n 2 A pril 1951 the Lebanese governm ent issued a set o f legislation on the com petence of religious jurisdiction. T his legislation w as specifically aim ed at lim iting the pow ers o f all C hristian com m unities and the Jew ish com m unity, and to regulate disputes between Lebanon’s civil law and the com m unities’ religious jurisdictions. The articles 1 5 ,1 7 , and 19, all on m arriage were the only articles which provoked a lengthy response from C hief R abbi O uziel. The rabbi’s com m ents throw som e light on the issues o f inter­ m arriage and polygam y in the com m unity. The first com m ent voiced strong opposition to m ixed m arriages, which according to Lebanese law were perm itted. It appears that the question o f interm arriage w as discussed at length as m arriage lay within the realm o f religious jurisdic­ tion, thus effectively resulting in conversion in the case o f m ixed m arriages. From the rabbi’s statem ent one can surm ise that there w ere few conversions to Judaism while there seem to have been som e to C hristianity. M oreover, O uziel’s condem ning rem ark that the silence within the com m unity on this issue w as ulike a tacit agreem ent for auth o­ rising m ixed m arriages” reflects that m ixed m arriages m ay have been m ore com m on than adm itted.44 The second lengthy rabbinical com m ent on the legislation addressed the issue o f polygam y. Article 19 specified punishm ent from one month to one year im prisonm ent fo r bigam y but exem pted Jew ish husbands w hose m arriage to an additional w ife had been authorized by the religious head o f the Jew ish com m unity. R abbi O uziel's response to this article w as a clear endorsem ent o f the Sephardi accep­ tance o f polygam y. At the sam e tim e he stated that in Lebanon it w as generally the case to only have one w ife and "there have been only one or tw o cases o f bigam y” .45 Yet it w as acceptable fo r a Sephardi to take a second w ife w ithout the consent o f the first, but only with the perm ission o f the Beit Din. O n 10 Jun e 1951 the com m unity also celebrated the 25th anniversary o f the construction o f M agen A vraham . The cerem ony w as w idely attended and reflected the solidarity and to som e extent the religiosity o f the com m unity. R eligious life w as thriving. Itzhak Levanon rem em bers that at this tim e Beirut still had m any synagogues. We were close to the Eddy synagogue. It was a small synagogue but it was where my father used to go. He was somebody in this synagogue, so this is why we used to go there on a regular basis. One of the characteristics of this synagogue was that it used to “ export” Cohanim for the services of the other synagogues. Everyone who was a member was a Cohen on both sides of the family. Only on very few occasions did we go to Magen Avraham for weddings and for Yom Kippur.46

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In 1952 the Jew ish com m unity according to its president D r Attie w as com posed o f one per cent w ealthy, 79 percent w ell-off, and 2 0 percent p oor. Their econom ic activity fell into the follow ing categories: 65 percent were in business, 28 percent were sm all w age earners, 4.5 percent were profession als, tw o percent labourers, and 0.5 percent w ere in governm ent service.47 The com m unity w as organized to safe-guard its overall interests. Although there were differing social, ideological, and econom ic views w ithin the com m unity, there were no im portant internal tensions. The Conseil Communale at that tim e consisted o f Z ak i A liya, Josep h Saad ia, K am el H ilw ani and Isaak Zeitoune in addition to D r A ttie. The com m u­ nity had a w ealthy public fund supported by an affluent Jew ish m iddle class. This financial statu s w as seen as the m ain reason by the Jew ish Agency th at Lebanon’s Jew s had so far not chosen to im m igrate to Israel. The Agency saw the obstacles, on the one hand, in the unresolved question o f transferring money and possession s, and, on the other hand, in the rum ours o f lack o f opportunities for w orthwhile capital investm ent in Israel.4* Lebanese Jew s em igrating from Lebanon during this period gener­ ally chose Italy, Belgium , and Sw itzerland as their destiny. The general econom ic situation in Lebanon in 1953 and 1954 w as not a t its best. Unem ploym ent w as high and trade w as slow . The Beirut m arket w as characterized by a large supply o f m erchandise, but virtually n o turnover and no cash-flow . T raffic o f ships to Beirut port w as reduced, p artly as a result o f Syria opening a rival port in Ladhakiya.49 D espite this, the Jew ish com m unity w as thriving. Life was nice because we had everything. We had our schools - the Talmud Torah and the Alliance - and most of the people were wealthy in terms of the times. In the 1950s to have a fridge, a radio, a car, a telephone, central heating when at the same we knew that in Israel they had no phones, no fridges - the situation was different. We were living in the Paris o f the Middle East. We had everything. The clothes were fancy - we didn’t have anything but Bally shoes, a designer tie; it was normal. It was unusual to see men or women whose outfits did not match, who were not coordinated. It was a fancy society. We had the possibilities, the money; it was not a poor society.50

T he statu s o f education for Jew ish children had im proved, in spite o f the fact that the num ber o f Jew ish university students rem ained sm all. A s one Jew ish Agency em issary reported : "T h e state o f education o f Jew ish chil­ dren is good. M ost o f them receive elem entary education - prim arily at the Alliance and also the Talm ud Torah. A sm all portion goes to high school. By contrast, the num ber o f Jew ish students in university is m inim al. A t the Alliance schools in Beirut they also learn H ebrew . Y osef


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Sedaka w as present at the Hanukka party at the Alliance sch ool, a large beautiful party, with candle lighting and son gs in H ebrew .” 51 Youth m ovem ents had been officially dissolved, but groups continued to meet in private hom es to talk ab ou t current events and analyse new s broadcasts from K ol Israel. The attitude o f the Lebanese auth orities tow ards the Jew s w as also beyond reproach. A ccording to the Jew ish Agency em issary, there w as no open persecution o r articles o f incitem ent in the p ress.52The com m unity rem ained vibrant and m uch o f this vibrancy w as reflected in the num erous celebrations, parties, and holidays. Itzhak Levanon recalls the festive atm osphere, which prevailed at the tim e: On the eve o f the holidays everyone went to the synagogues - nicely dressed. The custom was that before a holiday you used to buy new clothes for the family, so everybody was walking in the streets, to the synagogues, and showing how fancy he was. It was part of the holidays. Less the services. It was a place to show off. Very few people used to work on holidays, this changed after 1958. People started to keep on working because o f the economic situation. They could not be closed the whole o f Shavuot. One day is enough. And they started to open the stores. Holidays were definitely felt in the street. Pessach was absolutely nice. Yam Kippur was something. The whole community was on the street, going from one synagogue to another. It was a big happening, not to go and davenythat was not the idea. It was to see people, meet your friends, chat, visit. We kept a high percentage of our traditions and customs. During the night of H oshana Raba, the night we spent reading, all youngsters were in the streets or the shul, till six or seven in the morning - everybody, regardless of whether he was religious or not. A month before Rosh HaShana everybody went to Slichot at three in the morning - everybody was out. And after finishing the service at six we went to the sea and jumped into the water. That was life.53

In 1956 there were 5 ,382 Jew s in Beirut, 95 in M ount Lebanon, 4 0 in N orth Lebanon, 1,108 in South Lebanon (Saida), m aking a total o f 6 ,6 9 2 Jew s in Lebanon.54 In 1957 the US A m bassador to Lebanon reported th at the Jew s were w ell-off and enjoyed all the necessary freedom s. "In various branches o f the business w orld they som etim es even hold leading p o si­ tio n s.” H is observation continues with a rather curious statem ent. A ccording to the A m bassador the Jew ish com m unity w as offered a repre­ sentative in parliam ent but they refused, out o f fear o f becom ing the balancing vote between the A rab and the C hristian population.55 W hile no other evidence exists that such an offer w as indeed m ade and refused, these rem arks reveal a num ber o f issues. Firstly, it affirm s that the Jew s were essentially non-political and held the m iddle ground. And secondly, it gives a glim pse into the deteriorating Christian-M uslim situation in 1957, which w ould result in a civil w ar only m onths later.

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T he F irst Lebanese C ivil W ar In M arch 1957 Lebanon em braced the Eisenhow er D octrine, designed to figh t com m unist subversion in the M iddle E ast and provide Am erican econom ic aid. By so doing, Cham oun openly risked confrontation with N asser. A t the sam e tim e, Cham oun becam e a hero to m any C hristians an d Jew s, as a president w ho took no account o f opposition and m ain­ tained traditional ties w ith the W est, regardless o f w hat uthe A rabs” m ight have thought. Cham oun turned the 1957 parliam entary elections into an inform al plebiscite on his foreign policy.56 C harges o f irregulari­ ties pervaded the political establishm ent as m any o f those patrons who h ad ensured Cham oun’s victory in 1952 lost in the general elections o f 1 957. These had been cunningly m anipulated by the partisan s o f the pres­ ident w ho relied on the organized forces o f his allies, the K ata’ib and the SSN P .57 Early in 1958 the United A rab R epublic (UAR) w as established, uniting Egypt and Syria. In M ay o f that year tensions gave w ay to open rebellion. Lebanon’s political existence w as on the verge o f collapse. In essence, the com bination o f dom estic, regional, and international dynam ics had plunged the country into a civil w ar. The crisis w as the outcom e o f a num ber o f key factors: firstly, President Cam ille Cham oun’s intention to am end the constitution so that he could run for a second consecutive term ; secondly, the irregularities o f the 1957 parliam entary elections which had resulted in a land-slide victory for the governm ent list; thirdly, the governm ents "excessive” pro-W estern orientation, and, fourthly, the N asserist-Syrian attem pt to overthrow the governm ent.58 W hen Cham oun reissued his appeal for US intervention under the Eisenhow er D octrine on Ju ly 14, the very day the Iraqi m onarchy w as overthrow n, Am erica did not object. O n 15 Ju ly U S troops started landing on Beirut’s beaches, but refrained from taking sides in the civil w ar. D iscreet Am erican m ediation finally resolved the crisis with the election o f Lebanese Arm y C hief-of-Staff Fuad Chehab to the presidency.5’ O n the eve o f the civil w ar the Jew ish com m unity w as at its largest in history: 9 ,0 0 0 according to P atai,60 10,000 according to H eskel,6111,000 accordin g to Schechtm an,62 and 15,000 according to de B ar.63 They were a prosperous com m unity which w as not surprising since they constituted 1.9 per cent o f the country’s business leaders, while only constituting 0 .4 per cent o f the population.64 But as the internal situation deteriorated m any Jew s started leaving the country.65 A fter the w ar 1 ,0 0 0 -2 ,0 0 0 left via C yprus or Turkey to Israel.66 When the civil w ar broke out, and despite the opposition 's incitem ent again st the Jew s, the authorities assigned soldiers to prevent any harm


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being done to them .67 In 1958 Joseph Chader defended the Jew ish com m unity again st charges o f treason.68 And, during the civil w ar the M aronites provided for their im m ediate security. Som e Jew ish fam ilies decided to m ove to the safer area o f K israw an, but m ost stayed under K ata’ib protection in dow ntow n Beirut.69 In 1958 we collaborated with the K ata’ib. They used to come and protect us with arms during the night during the civil war - until the Marines came. This protection started with the cooperation between the youngsters. It grew later on and in 1975 and 1982 it became a cooperation between the State of Israel and the Maronite community. The Jews in the K ata’ib gave a boost. There was an armed wing of the party and this protected the Jewish community, and afterwards they started training us. We also went with Camille Chamoun. The Christians gave us self-defence training. They started in 1958 during the war. It was a war between Christians and Muslims, and we were caught in the middle of this fight. We used to go to Ashrafieh and have joint patrols. They trained us in our quarter where the M accabi used to meet in the courtyard of the Talmud Torah. And women went as well. But during the night, only men patrolled.70

N issim D ahan rem em bers a funeral during this tim e. The Jew ish cem etery w as partly in the M uslim quarter and the m ourners, w ho had attended the funeral, had to cross through that quarter to return. They were stopped by a group o f M uslim s and detained. Pierre Gem ayel personally rang one o f the M uslim leaders and got the Jew ish m ourners released h alf an hour later.71 M oreover, during 1958 the relationship between the Jew ish com m u­ nity and Cam ille Cham oun w as so good that not only did Cham oun ensure for Lebanese Army protection o f the Jew s, but som e Lebanese Jew s were also actively involved in Cham oun’s private m ilitia.72 A s Toufic Yedid Levy recalls: We had armbands that had military assistant written on them. Many Jews volunteered for this service. The whole youth club volunteered. They took us to the secret service for clearance because we were not part of the army. In other words they issued us with a special permit to carry guns. We guarded the area where the president lived.73

T hus, while Lebanese soldiers were guarding W adi Abu Jam il, Jew ish m ilitia m em bers were guarding the Lebanese president. A part from this contribution, the Jew s did not really play much o f a role within the overall context o f the w ar. They rem ained inconspicuous and apolitical, stressing their aloofness from w orld Jew ry and Israel.

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Political and C ultural Identification T h e end o f the French m andate, Lebanon’s independence in 1943, the creatio n o f the State o f Israel in 1948, and the first Lebanese civil w ar in 1 9 5 8 , all had a profound im pact on the identity o f the Lebanese Jew s. D u rin g the m andate period they, m ore than any other m inority in Leban on with the exception o f the M aronites, had considered them selves t o be som ew hat French; be it through the active advocacy o f the Alliance th a t treated O riental Jew ry as French citizens, or be it through cultural an d linguistic identification. The struggle for independence from 1936 on w ard s m ade a num ber o f issues clear: first, Lebanon’s Jew s could not rely on French protection indeterm inately, and, second, French political presence w as not alw ays desirable. Lebanon’s Jew s like m any o f L eb an on 's C hristians during this period started to exchange their "F ren ch ” identity for a particular Lebanese identity. Lebanon for the Jew s w as synonym ous with a m ulti-cultural, independent state, which had little “ A rabn ess” . They cam e closest to the K ata'ib's political vision o f Lebanoness. H aving opted for a strong Lebanese identity w hile rem aining essen­ tially francophile and retaining all cultural, educational, and linguistic lin ks, Lebanon’s Jew s also had a strong Jew ish identity. The latter w as religious rather than ethnic or national. It expressed itself through a vibrant com m unity life and tradition al religious observance. Zionism as an additional political identity w as able to co-exist, because Zionism in the Lebanese context had few practical im plications. At a theoretical level there w as som e sym pathy for the Yishuv and Israel, but not to the extent th at Lebanon’s Jew s w anted to leave. W hile contacts w ith Palestine and Israel were m aintained for religious and fam ily reason s, there w as alw ays a certain degree o f alienness about Z ionist ideology, which clashed with the Jew s’ inherent Levantiness. Z ionism , com pared to the inclusive concept o f a m ulti-national Lebanon, w as inherently exclusive. T hus, Lebanon’s Jew s considered them selves to be Lebanese by nationality and Jew ish by religion. Political affiliation , as far as it w as expressed by an essentially apolitical com m unity, lay between adherence to M aronite Lebanoness and pragm atic Zionism . The m ost im portant source o f identity, however, for the Jew s as well a s for m ost other Lebanese w as still the fam ily. U rbanization and econom ic m odernization did not dim inish its im portance: it sim ply adapted to changing circum stances.74 T his becom es d e a r when consid­ ering patterns o f social interaction. In Lebanon people were in daily contact with parents and grandparents, m arried children, and m arried grandchildren, with nephew s, nieces, uncles and aunts. The extended


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fam ily w as m ore than an institution for intensive personal contact and relationships; it had econom ic significance. The m ajority o f econom ic enterprises in Lebanon were fam ily businesses, as were m any joint-stock com panies.75 The Safra bank is a case in point. In m any w ays the Lebanese Jew ish fam ily w as like its C hristian coun­ terparts as it had distinct M iddle Eastern features as well as those which w ould be considered m ore w estern. It w as M iddle Eastern in that it w as essentially patriarchal, vesting the authority for all decisions in the oldest m ale, and virilocal, m eaning that the fam ily resided near or w ith the fam ily o f the husband.76 M ale heirs were desired, while fem ale heirs were usually not celebrated. Lebanese Jew s, and M iddle Eastern Jew s, in general, also shared som e o f their neighbors’ norm s o f honour and sham e. In this context it h as often been noted that the lack o f “ resort to arm s” in defence o f the virtue o f Jew ish wom en again st m ajority group m ales m ade m aintenance o f honour m ore difficult.77 H ere, it should however be said , that wom en were not an issue in the first Lebanese civil w ar, and that while “ tactical” rape in order to sham e com m unities occurred during the second civil w ar, it w as aim ed again st C hristian and M uslim w om en.




The Beginning o f the Exodus

T h e first Lebanese civil w ar had aw akened am ong Syrian, Iraqi and Leban ese Jew s residing in Beirut the age-old question o f D iaspora Jew ry: to stay o r to go? Unlike others faced with this decision, the Jew s in Leban on were not responding to anti-Sem itism or persecution, but to the experience o f civil strife in 1958, which had left them physically safe but em otionally affected. Syrian and Iraqi Jew ish refugees took this opportu­ nity to m ove on, leaving the safe-haven they had found in Lebanon, to go to Europe, South A m erica, the United States, and, in a m inority o f cases, Israel. Lebanese Jew ry felt m ore secure in its environs, not having the sam e h istoric baggage as their Syrian and Iraqi brethren. But as the security situ­ ation once again started to decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they, to o , had to ask them selves, whether staying in Beirut or Saida w as ulti­ m ately a w ise choice. M any left at the first signs o f trouble signaled by Palestinian-Lebanese clashes from 1969 onw ards. O thers stayed and got dragged into a w ar which w as not theirs to fight; they stayed and w atched the w orld they knew disintegrate before their eyes.

T h e C hehabist “ M iracle” The 1958 Lebanese crisis w as brought under governm ent control by Septem ber, and the new President Fuad Chehab, along with the new Prime M inister R ashid K aram i, em barked upon a set o f adm inistrative reform s. They were intended to address M uslim grievances o f pow erlessness but w ithin the fram ew ork o f the N ation al Pact. Chehab had rem ained rela­ tively neutral during the crisis, not letting the Lebanese Arm y interfere on behalf o f Cham oun because he feared that the arm y w ould disintegrate alon g confessional lines.1 H e w as seen by som e C hristians as a traitor for not helping Cham oun and he w as regarded by som e M uslim s as ju st another oppressive C hristian president. M ost Lebanese, how ever, w elcom ed him , his reform s, and the stability they provided. C hehab did not propagate an openly pro-W estern foreign policy.


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N either did he align him self with the U A R, paying no m ore than lip service to N asser. H is m ain goal w as to keep Lebanon independent and nonaligned and to prevent a civil w ar from happening again. Y et, beneath this official line, he w as perceived as pro-W estern and anti-N asser. The United States trusted his “ sound reasoning” as “ a rational A rab observer who looked at M iddle E ast problem s w ithout the usual bitterness o f an A rab tow ards the U S” .2 The follow ing decade, from 1958 to 1967, confirm ed the instrum ental nature o f the N ation al Pact. It w as a tim e in which Lebanon enjoyed secu­ rity and prosperity. W hile preserving its relations with the W est, the country opened up further to the A rab w orld to which it presented itself as a land o f asylum and dialogue, where it w as happy to play the m edi­ ato r, w ith w hat Picard describes as the “ hypocrisy o f an ultra-laissez-faire political system that w as m ore hospitable to great fortunes than to the p oor, and to C hristians m ore than M uslim s” .3 The C hehabist adm inistration responded to these criticism s n ot so much with argum ents as with a subtle policy o f w eakening its opponents. T his w as coordinated in the O ffice o f M ilitary Intelligence - the deuxième bureau. A large part o f the n otables’ m ilitias, village and suburban a sso ­ ciation s, and youth groups were given favours and subsidies, and increasingly controlled and m anipulated.4 Y et, on balance, the Chehab presidency rem ains im pressive. H e w as able to restore peace after a civil w ar and ap art from the 1961 SSN P coup attem pt, Lebanon enjoyed six years w ithout internal unrest. Chehab w as the first president to grasp that the division o f political pow er as agreed to in the N ation al Pact could only survive if it w as com plem ented by social and econom ic im provem ent.3 The rem arkable dynam ism o f Lebanese m erchants, bankers, and entre­ preneurs enabled them to profit from the achievem ents o f Chehabism . The opening to the underdeveloped outlying areas sm oothed the w ay fo r the arrival o f capitalism with its vehicles, m achines, and also its agendas and m ode o f functioning. Enriched by exports to the A rab w orld, the big traders o f Beirut, T ripoli, and Z ahle bought back unused or underex­ ploited land from absentee lan dlords.6 C harles H elou, w ho succeeded Chehab in 1964, w as unable to sustain both the political stability and the econom ic grow th, illustrated by the crash o f the Intrabank in 1966. The Intrabank, which w as Palestinian ow ned, w as brought dow n by a “ clever operation o f its Lebanese com petitors” . T his affair show ed the m istrust and even hostility provoked by the Palestinians’ settling in Lebanon7 as well as the increasingly unstable econom ic situation. H elou, com pared to Chehab, w as un-charism atic and had no political pressure group o f his own to fall back on. In fact, his sole claim to fam e w as being the m ost educated o f Lebanese presidents.

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Jew ish Em igration

The first wave T h e first stream o f Jew ish ém igrés left in 1958 at the start o f the civil w ar.8 In N ovem ber, despite the end o f the first civil w ar, a further 500 Jew s left Leban on , fearing that this w as only the beginning o f lasting instability. They im m igrated to M exico, Brazil and Argentina. Another 500 regis­ tered w ith the US Im m igration D epartm ent to enter the United States.9 Em igration continued in 1959. Lebanese security sources estim ated th at h alf o f Lebanon’s Jew s left the country “ in a pan ic” , traum atized by the conflict.10 Jew ish com m unity president D r Attie claim ed that the m ajority o f those left w ere, in fact, Syrian refugees w ho were under­ stan dably nervous about the situation given their p ast experiences. A nother ém igré com ponent w as the younger generation, which found it difficult to find w ork in fields other than those o f their parents. Em ile Eddé, w ho w as interior m inister at this tim e, called upon D r Attie an d expressed his concern over the Jew ish em igration. H e said that the Lebanese o f all confessions considered the Jew ish com m unity to be an elem ent o f stability and thus were not pleased about their departure. H e even went as far as asking D r Attie to plead with the Jew s not to leave. A ttie explained the situation to him , the Syrian Jew ish fears, and the econom ic reason s, also stating that the Com m unity Council had already tried to intervene but failed .11 Em igration continued and it w as not ju st the Lebanese and the Israelis w ho noticed the departures, but the neigh­ bouring Jordan ian press also took notice. In Septem ber 1959 an article on this subject appeared in Filastint reporting that 32 Jew ish businessm en w ere liquidating their businesses and property in Beirut and im m igrating to Brazil. The new spaper noted that an estim ated 4 0 0 Syrian Jew ish m erchants, w ho had found refuge in Lebanon, had already im m igrated to South Am erica. They were flocking tow ard Sao Paolo “ a tow n which w as established w ith Z ion ist cap ital” .12 In M arch 1959 com m unity president Attie travelled to Rom e for a m edical congress. H e m et up w ith Jo e G olan in order to provide the latter w ith inform ation about the com m unity. This inform ation w as then passed on to N ahum G oldm an in N ew Y ork and then found its w ay to concerned p arties in the W orld Jew ish com m unity and Israel. Attie told G olan that Beirut w as the only A rab capital in which freedom o f opinion and the press continued to exist. The political clim ate in Beirut w as stable with the internal security assured and the econom ic situation w as flourishing. W ith the insecurity in other A rab countries, capital investm ent w as flow ing tow ards Beirut. Lebanon’s Jew s, 7 ,000 in Beirut and 1,000 in


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Said a, were going about their usual business and their situation in general w as above com plaint. The relations between the Jew s and other com m u­ nities, C hristian and M uslim , were excellent. In the recent troubles o f 1958, the com m unity had m aintained good relations w ith both sides. There were no attack s on the Jew ish quarter o r again st Jew s. In fact, during the crisis, Attie and a couple o f other m em bers o f the Com m unity Council had m et w ith M uslim leaders, w ho had assured him that even if they were com pelled to attack the part o f the city that contained W adi Abu Jam il, that the latter w ould not be touched.0 There were still six Alliance schools in Lebanon w ith a total num ber o f 1,443 pupils. The largest school in Beirut w as attended by 446 boys and 642 girls. The elem entary school, m aintained by O zar H aTorah, h ad 100 p u p ils.14 Fifty children were enrolled in the school in S aid T he Talm ud Torah w as attended by 2 5 0 pupils in 1959, but that num ber declined to 193 in 19 6 2 .16 In 1960, 28 students passed the Lebanese G overnm ent brevet exam ination and 17 passed the French brevet.*7 An estim ated 5 0 passed the interm ediate exam s. Cohen surm ises from these num bers that “ few graduated from com plete secondary schools or univer­ sities” .18 Y et the num bers o f pupils signaled not only the existence o f a younger generation, but also one that w as as socially and religiously varied as its parents had been. The com m unity as a w hole, and despite the onset o f em igration, rem ained an active one, w ith a num ber o f com m ittees. An overview o f these com m ittees and serving m em bers provides an interesting insight into the com m unity, the breadth o f activity and the fam ilies involved. It reflects the key personalities a s w ell as the gender structure o f the com m unity. The com m ittee in charge o f the adm inistration o f M agen A vraham had nine m em bers: V ictor Isaac Dichy, Isaac Elie D iw an, Josep h Farhi, Josep h H elw ani, Z aki Ja ja ti, H enri M agnouz, Josep h M ouadeb, N athan V ayezel, and Selim Zeitoune. The com m unity also had a com m ittee for religious endow m ents. M em bers o f the W aqfvrert Joseph A ttie, Z ak i E lia, M oise E lias, Joseph H elw ani, Selim Levy, Josep h M ouadeb, A lbert Sidi, Jo sep h Zeitoune, and Ezekiel T otah . The education com m ittee included T oufic A ttie, A lbert A bdallah E lia, R affoul Farhi, Elie H elpem , Em ile S aad ia, Edouard Sasson , Carm en T auby, and Edm ond T otah . They were respon­ sible for religious classes, adult and children’s education. The Arikha com m ittee w as com posed o f Joseph A ttie, Z ak i E lia, M oise E lias, Selim Levy, M oise M ann, and Josep h M ouadeb. The com m ittee responsible fo r the adm inistration o f the Selim T arrab school had seven m em bers: Jacq u es A des, Ariel D oubine, A lbert A bdallah E lia, M oise E lias, Elie H elpern, D esire Lin iado, and Isaac Sasson. The m em bers o f the finance com m ittee were T oufic A ttie, Z aki E lia, M oise E lias, Selim Levy, Em ile S aad ia, Edouard Sasson , Jacq u es Stam bouli, and Jacq u es T arrab. The M attan

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Basseter com m ittee included M ikhael D ana, M arco Farhi, R affoul K ichik, V ictor M agnouz, Joseph M ann, Selim N ahm od, Albert O bercy, Jo sep h Politi, D ib Saad ia, Joseph T auby, Selim Zeitoune, and V ictor T otah . It w as responsible fo r distributing chairity to the p oor w ithout elevating the donors to “ sain th ood” and w ithout depriving the poor o f their dignity. The Bikhur Holim com m ittee w as com posed o f Jacqu es A des, N issim Berzelai, Edouard C attan , Joseph C osti, Isaac V ictor Dichy, R affoul K ichik, Joseph M ann, M oise M ann, Edouard Sasson , Isaac Sasson , and Jacqu es T auby. Its m em bers visited the sick and tended to the health care which w as not a state responsibility. O n the D ons com m ittee w ere Viviane Bazbaz, Carm en G alante, Linda H akim , Joseph H elw ani, an d D esire Liniado. The statutes com m ittee had eight m em bers: A lbert E lia, D esire Lin iado, Selim M oghrabi, Jam il Sasson , Jacqu es Stam bouli, Edm ond T otah , and Joseph Zeitoune. These m em bers dealt w ith the bylaw s o f the com m unity. The Abbatage Rituel com m ittee, com posed o f R ab b i Lichtm an, R abbi A ttie, Ibrahim C haya, Issac V ictor Dichy, K am al Eskenazi, D avid T auby, and N athan V ayezel, observed shehita and issued kashrut certificates. The Hevra Kadisha included Ibrahim C haya, Z aki E lia, M oise E lias, Eliahu Levy, D ib Saad ia, and N athan V ayezel. T his com m ittee took care o f the dead, w ashed and prepared bodies for burial. T h e m em bers o f the Keter Torah were R abbi A ttie, K halil B alayla, R abbi C hreim , Ibrahim K ayre, N issim T aw il and Chehade Zeitoune. On the cultural and social com m ittee were T oufic A ttie, A lbert E lia, Ariel D oubine, M arco Farhi, Joseph H elw ani, D esire Lin iado, Em ile Saadia, Ernest Sasson , and Jacqu es Stam bouli. The youth com m ittee w as com posed o f C harles A badi, N ino Behar, N issim D ahan, M oise Kam hine, Jo sep h K hodri, M oise M ann, V ictor M agnoz, A lbert O bercy, Isaac Stam bouli, and Jacqu es Stam bouli. The coordination com m ittee had eight m em bers: Albert A badi, T oufic A ttie, Ariel D oubine, M arco Farhi, Joseph H elw ani, Em ile Saad ia, Jacqu es Stam bouli, and Joseph Zeitoune. The com m ittee responsible for the upkeep and adm inistration o f the syna­ gogue in Aley w as com posed o f M ikael D an a, Selim D ayan, V ictor Dichy, M arco Farhi, and M oise M ann,w hile the com m ittee responsible for the synagogue in Bham doun included Kam el A jam i, K halil B alayla, N issim Berzelai, Kam el M bazbaz, Joseph M ouadeb, Edm ond Sasson , Edouard Sasso n , Chehade Zeitoune, and Selim Zeitoune. D r Attie had excellent relations with the M aronite Patriarch Boulous M eouche. M eouche had given Attie the guarantee that the M aronites w ould continue to protect the Jew s in Lebanon when needed. In fact, it h ad been the M aronites w ho had obtained the necessary travel docum ents fo r m any o f the Syrian refugees. H e also w as held in high esteem by Lebanese governm ent officials for raising Lebanon's profile in interna­ tion al m edical circles. Further, he w as a personal friend o f K ata’ib leader


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Pierre G em ayel, and had good contacts with Israeli diplom ats, o ften serving as a go-betw een for the rather unstructured K ata’ib-lsraeli relation s.19 In the sum m er o f 1959 the com m unity, which w as still keeping a lo w profile after the w ar, cam e under attack in parliam ent during the d eb ate o f Prime M inister R ashid K aram i’s bill which allow ed persons w ho h ad em igrated from Lebanon and non-Lebanese A rabs to ow n lan d in Lebanon. Deputy Kam el el-A ssad argued that this bill w ould m ake it possible for Lebanese Jew s w ho had left to buy large tracts o f lan d for Israel. Deputy Takieddine Sulh then raised the issue o f loyalties once again , claim ing that he did not believe that the Jew s’ allegiance lay w ith Lebanon but rather w ith Israel.20 And Em ile Boustani, instigator o f sim ilar troubles in 1952, proposed an am endm ent which w ould have explicitly banned the purchase o f real estate in Lebanon by Jew ish residents o f A rab states. The prop osal, how ever, lacked the support o f the other delegates.21 K ata’ib deputy Joseph Chader cam e to the defence o f Lebanon’s Jew s. H e stated that it w as the right o f every Lebanese w ithout distinction a s regards religion or race to purchase property in Lebanon.22 H e pointed out that no Lebanese Jew had been convicted o f spying fo r Israel. Indeed, the Jew ish com m unity w as m ore loyal than m ost other com m unities in Lebanon.

The departure o f Rabbi Lichtman At the end o f 1959, Chief R abbi Ben Zion Lichtm an also left Lebanon. It w as a sad day for the com m unity. R abbi Lichtm an, w ho had been bom in Brailov (Lithuania) into a H assidic fam ily, had m oved to Beirut in 1932. Before m oving to Beirut he had lived in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. H e had im m igrated to Palestine in 1923/4 from R ussia where he had been a young m ilitant, active in the ultra-religious Agudat Yisrael, and had devoted much o f his free tim e to researching rabbinic literature, w ith a specific interest in the Shulchan Aruch. H e had not w anted to leave Palestine, but the econom ic situation w as very bad, and he needed to find a w ay to support his fam ily. From a rela­ tive w ho travelled in the region he heard that the Beirut com m unity w as looking for a shohet. So he went. A fter his arrival in B eirat, he w ent to the m ain synagogue on Erev Shabat. H e w as im m ediately spotted as a “ foreigner” and invited for kiddush. Am ong the predom inantly Sephardi com m unity there were som e Ashkenazim w ho had com e to Beirut from Safed after the First W orld W ar. The Safed com m unity had dispersed because o f the fam ine. Part o f it had gone to H aifa, others to Jerusalem and Beirut. R abbi Lichtm an,

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w hose w ife w as from Safed, relaxed once he had found som eone to relate to in this strange city. A fter m aking these first contacts he returned to Jerusalem and gathered his w ife and tw o sons to m ove to Beirut. H e becam e the shohet o f the com m unity, despite being overqualified. The com m unity took to him , and gradually he started taking on m ore and m ore rabbinic duties, eventually becom ing the head o f the rabbinic tribunal. By the late 1930s his reputation had grow n to such an extent that in 1940 he w as appointed chief rabbi o f Lebanon and Syria. Lichtm an liked Beirut and he w as fond o f the Sephardi com m unity w hose custom s he found strange. “ H e thought o f them as T u rk s' and learned to appreciate their q u alities.” 23 R abbi Lichtm an's son Joseph rem em bers the com m unity he grew up in as “ quite ignorant but tradi­ tio n al” . These com m ents illustrate som e o f the A shkenazi-Sephardi tensions w hich, how ever, did not surface very often. The Lichtm ans lived in W adi Abu Jam il, not far from M agen A vraham . They had Palestinian p assp orts and m aintained their connection w ith rela­ tives in Jerusalem . A fter the establishm ent o f the State o f Israel, the situation for them becam e m ore difficult. Y et the rabbi did not even contem plate leaving the com m unity which needed him . The Lichtm an sons attended the Alliance sch ool, follow ed by the Lycée Français Laïque. The one m em ory Josep h Lichtm an h as o f his years at the Lycée concerns a fellow student, a certain R abinovich, w ho w as very bright. A t one point, in 1936, R abinovich's m other cam e to the Lycée and w as apparently boasting a bit that her son w as a genius. So the French director trying to take her dow n a few pegs, said: “ W ell, you know , am ong all this rabble, no w onder a Jew excels.” U nperturbed she retorted: “ W ell, in France, am ong all the rabble, no w onder a Jew is prim e m inister (Leon Blum ).” The director go t the m essage. Being the rab b i's sons and since the Alliance offered no form al reli­ gious education, they received their religious education at hom e. Joseph later started a university degree at the Université St. Joseph , but in 1950 decided to im m igrate to Israel and continue his university education at the H ebrew U niversity o f Jerusalem , seeing “ no future fo r youngsters w ho w ere not tradesm en” in Lebanon. In 1952 he started w orking fo r the Jew ish Agency. Josep h Lichtm an rem em bers the Beirut com m unity as one where m ost people observed Shabbat, not alw ays very strictly, but definitely in their hearts. There were Jew s w ho lived outside the quarter and cam e to the services in their cars. They w anted to be with the com m unity. When carow nership becam e m ore w idespread in Lebanon, they all ow ned cars and changed the m odel regularly. They bought expensive designer clothes, and after w earing them a few tim es gave them to poorer m em bers o f the fam ily. T his w as a sign o f success. The older generation w as very


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Levantine in its attitude; the children were m ore European, com pletely assim ilated into W estern culture. Lebanese Jew s liked to live w ell. They spent tim e in the m ountains, went skiing, and in the evenings to casin os. They used to have w eddings on Sundays because the business com m unity w as then free to attend and shops did not have to be closed for the occasion. uT his com m unity did not produce Einsteins or T rotzkis, but it w as a good and open com m u­ nity. Lebanon w as like a dream - there w as never anything like it an d there will never be anything like it.” 24 Joseph Lichtm an, w ho has m aintained close contacts with other Lebanese Jew ish ém igrés, asserts that m any of these very Levantine custom s were m aintained ab road. The Paris com m u­ nity, for exam ple, has kept up the “ tradition ” o f inviting politician s to w eddings and including them in their businesses. R elations w ith other m inorities in Lebanon cam e m ainly through business. Joseph Lichtm an estim ates that 6 0 -7 0 percent o f the Beirut Jew ish com m unity were m erchants or bankers, and that inter-com m unal relations in this context were very good. Inter-com m unal relations were also , to som e extent, a sign o f status. When the son or daughter o f a w ell-off Jew got m arried, the prim e m inister, or the president, or the speaker o f the house w ere invited - “ for a fee” .25 A ccording to Lichtm an, big businesses like the Safra Bank generally had the “ prim e m inister, the director o f the secret service, and the head o f police on their payroll and m ade them m em bers o f the board o f directors. It w as good for busin ess.” 24 R abbi Lichtm an dealt with all the m arriages and divorces in the com m unity and often consulted his w ife on relationships. O ne o f R abbi Lichtm an’s m ajor hum anitarian contributions to the com m unity w as his relentless pursuit o f helping European Jew ish refugees during the Second W orld W ar. H is son Joseph recalls the house alw ays being full o f refugees, first those w ho had fled N azi persecution, then those from Syria. The rabbi alw ays had food and a place to sleep for any refugee passin g through Beirut. H is greatest m ark on the com m unity, however, w as o f a religious and literary nature. In Beirut, Lichtm an began his six-volum e w ork, exam ­ ining the com m entary on the Shulchan Aruch since Joseph C aro ,27 four volum es o f which were published during his tim e in Lebanon. Lichtm an w as ready to retire at the age o f 69 and decided that he w anted to return to Israel and join his fam ily there. H is Palestinian p ass­ port had long expired, so he contacted the Interior M inister Eddé. They exchanged polite phrases and then R abbi Lichtm an said : “ A s the religious head o f the com m unity I w ould like to take part in an international reli­ gious sym posium .” Eddé replied: “ O f course, for religious purposes even to Israel.” Then R abbi Lichtm an said that he w ould never place Lebanon in that position. But Eddé continued: “ N ow rabbi, we need to plan for your departure to Israel in such a w ay that no dam age w ill be done to us,

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the governm ent and the Jew ish com m unity.” They planned it in such a w ay that R abbi Lichtm an w ent to Istanbul, while all his luggage went in a container to C yprus and then to H aifa. H e joined his fam ily in Jerusalem and devoted his retirem ent to the last tw o volum es o f Bnai Zion, Beur Rahav a l Shulkhan Arukh Orakh Khayim. H e died only three years later, at the age o f 72.

The new Chief Rabbi T he com m unity R abbi Lichtm an left behind still boasted eight synagogues in Beirut - the grand synagogue o f M agen A vraham , and seven sm aller h ouses o f w orship. The com m unity w as still prosperous and active, especially during the C hehabist regim e. When Lichtm an left, the com m u­ nity w as faced with a grave problem - finding a new chief rabbi. The post a s it w as "advertised” required French but not A rabic language sk ills. It w ould pay 1,400 salary, plus provide for an apartm ent in the city and another in the m ountains. The chief rabbi w ould also receive presents on the occasion o f m arriages and briths as w as custom ary in the M iddle E ast, w hich w ould essentially double his salary. D r Attie voiced requests for help to a num ber o f personalities in the W orld Jew ish com m unity. H is con tact, Jo e G olan, approached D r A Steinberg o f the W orld Jew ish C on gress in London, hoping that he could suggest a suitable rabbi for this p o st. Attie him self also planned on travelling to London to discuss this subject with Chief R abbi Brodie.28 The search for a chief rabbi to keep the com m unity spiritually together h ad becom e particularly urgent since twelve Jew ish girls had becom e involved with C hristian and M uslim m en, causing com m otion in the com m unity. The rabbi w ould thus have to play a particularly active role w ith the youth. A t this tim e facilities for the youth included a youth center w hich offered athletics. It also boasted a lecture hall where there w as a phonograph, classical m usic, and a television. D r Attie requested help in th is dom ain as w ell. H e requested books, classical and Jew ish m usic records but no Israeli son gs, and financial assistance. Lichtm an w as finally succeeded by C haoud Chreim in 1960. R abbi Chreim w as from H alab , bom in 1914 and m arried in 1940. H e had six children: M oshe-N issim , Shlom o, D avid, Celly, Chouly and R osy. H e served the com m unity until 1977 as Lebanon's last chief rabbi. A t the sam e tim e he w as also the president o f the rabbinic tribunal, w as a m em ber o f the synagogue com m ission, the Bikur Holim and the M attan Basseter, and w as involved in the H ebrew teaching at the Talm ud Torah.29 The rab b i's son Shlom o rem em bers that during this period the relation­ ship between the Jew ish com m unity and the K ata’ib continued to flourish.


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The earlier integration o f the youth m ovem ents m eant that from 1965 onw ards the Jew ish youth, alon g with M aronite youngsters, started training w ith w eapons, including attending a sum m er cam p w hich w as specifically set up for this purpose. W adi Abu Jam il continued to support the K ata’ib in elections and to turn to K ata’ib deputies as well as Sheikh Pierre him self when they needed som ething. There w as a grow ing ideo­ logical affinity in a society in which the sectarian divide w as becom ing increasingly pronounced.30 O n 4 O ctober 1966 the M ichkan M oche synagogue w as inaugurated. Speeches on this occasion were given by president A ttie, C hief R abbi Chreim and Selim Eliahu Zeitoune, on behalf o f the Zeitoune fam ily. The synagogue w as established by M alake Zeitoune w ho w anted to replace the midrash Tikun H assot founded by M rad Zeitoune and his son H akham Eliyahu. H akham Eliahu had alw ays w anted to found a yeshiva but circum stances never perm itted it. C hief R abbi Chreim expressed his appreciation to M m e Zeitoune for die fam ily’s religious and hum anitarian contributions to the com m unity. The synagogue com m ittee, w hich had endeavoured to realize this project, included Eliyahu Y oussef Levy, Salim M rad Zeitoune, M oise Chehade Zeitoune, Salim M ikhael Skaba and H ay M rad Zeitoune, as well as the already m entioned Selim Eliahu Z eitoun e.31 The religious life o f the com m unity continued unencum bered by the political situation. There w as no great difference between religious and non-religious Jew s. Everyone went to a synagogue, m ost to M agen A vraham . Som e people were m ore observant and som e less. "T h ere w as not this big gap the w ay it exists today between religious and non-reli­ gious Jew s. We all went to the sam e synagogues and the sam e sch ools. The Jew s w ho were originally from H alab learned m ore than the B eirutis, but they were not m ore observan t.” 32

A Jewish spy The dorm ant issue o f questionable loyalties cam e to full force w ith the case o f Shula Kishek Cohen. She w as the only Jew residing in Lebanon w ho w as convicted and sentenced fo r spying for Israel. H er story em bodies personal tragedy and courage while also revealing som e o f the underlying currents within the Jew ish com m unity and Lebanese society. Shula K ishek Cohen w as not o f Lebanese origin. She had com e to Lebanon from South Am erica via Palestine at the age o f 16 through m arriage to a much older Lebanese Jew in 1936. She and her husband h ad a large hom e next to the synagogue, and once she learned enough A rabic to com m unicate, she becam e active at the Alliance school. "It w as d iffi­ cult to m ake friends and I had to do w hat my m other-in-law o r

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sister-in-law w anted - until I started teaching. T h at w as after my fourth b ab y .” 33 She taught H ebrew , but took care not to be too Z ionist. She also started taking care o f the paperw ork between the Jew ish com m unity and the Lebanese governm ent. Little by little I got government contacts because we needed permits for the school and because somebody had to go. I was young and did not think too much, so I offered to go. I was not afraid. It was a little adventure. I went to the Prime Minister and he sympathized with me. Later he invited me home and I became good friends with his youngest daughter. From then onwards every Jew with a problem came to me.34

The Prime M inister R iad as-Sulh introduced her to other governm ent officials. A t an official C hristm as party in 1947 she overhead Lebanese officers discussing m ilitary plans again st Israel. “ I heard them planning actions again st Israel, and I thought I w as going to die. I started shivering and trem bling and the prim e m inister saw me and sent me hom e.” 35 As she never felt particularly Lebanese, her loyalty to Ju daism m otivated her to p ass on the inform ation to the Haganah. The borders were already closed, and she knew no one in Israel. But then she kept on im agining how m any w ere going to die if the operation went ahead. I had been a girl guide and had learned to write in invisible ink, but I wasn’t sure I remembered. I sent my children to the garden. I sent the servants out. I prepared the liquid and everything was fine. I wrote a letter in English with real ink and in between the lines I wrote the information in invisible ink. I finished it and addressed it to Jerusalem. I went to South Lebanon where my husband was on business. He was upset that I showed up - it was not acceptable to show up at your husband’s business. I cried and told him a story about a cousin in Jerusalem. He said: uYou’re lucky there’s a Druze here who’s going, he’ll take it.” He was friendly with some Haganah soldiers and passed it on. The next day I got the answer. They sent me a letter asking me to do something for them. I was invited to Metullah and the work began seriously.34

A w orking relationship developed. Shula Kishek Cohen started nurturing her governm ent contacts. H er com ings and goings caused the com m unity to assum e she w as having a string o f affairs - after all she w as m arried to a m uch older m an! She conveyed intelligence to Israel until 1961 when she w as caught. “ I w as caught w ithout evidence. I w as tortured and my husband w as forced to pay bribes. They searched my hom e, but did not find anything.” M any o f the Lebanese officers she had known quite w ell, left for Europe when she w as caught, fearing that she m ight im plicate them . She received a life sentence and w as tortured, but did not reveal anything. A t the tim e o f im prisonm ent she had seven children, all o f which


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were being shunned by the com m unity in an attem pt to dissociate itself. But Cohen recalls the friendly gestures by her non-Jew ish friends: “ The officers from the jail tried to help my fam ily. They helped me m ore than my husband’s re la tiv e s.. . . Pierre Gem ayel used to com e and visit m e.” H er sentence w as reduced and in the run-up to her release the Syrians offered a lot o f money for the seizure o f Shula Kishek Cohen once she had been set free. Convinced that she w as related to Israeli spy Eli C ohen, who had been executed in Syria in 1967, they w anted to hang her as w ell. In the face o f this threat, the Lebanese authorities decided to release her three m onths early. They covertly transported her across the Lebanese-Israeli border at R osh H anikra, and she has lived in Israel ever since.

T he Six-D ay W ar and Beyond O n the eve o f the Six-D ay W ar the Sofer fam ily knew there w as goin g to be trouble. N athan Sofer rem em bers his father and m other leaving for Paris on 15 M ay. There w as tension along the Syrian-Israeli border. “ N obody w anted w ar, but they all were pushed by their speeches and could not go back. And then the Straits o f T iran were closed, providing the fam ous casus b e lli” 37 H is father had left before that. H e had got plane tickets w ithout telling his w ife. O n the day o f departure he go t up in the m orning, told her to pack their belongings, and that they were goin g to France. Unlike the Sofers w ho left before the w ar, m ost Lebanese Jew s did not leave until the Palestinian presence becam e a problem tw o years later. When the Six-D ay W ar broke out in Jun e 1967, Lebanon's president C harles H elou took great care not to entangle the Lebanese arm y in the fighting, and not to allow the other A rab arm ies to utilize Lebanese terri­ tory in their w ar efforts.38 A s Shlom o Levitan recalled: In 1967 there was some tension. There were some demonstrations. One was next to Wadi Abu Jamil. The army came and stayed for a couple of days. But the Muslims understood very quickly and stopped. Proper protection came from the K ata’ib. The Christians were very good. They understood that if the Israelis lost the war, the Muslims would kill them after they had finished with us.39

The w ar itself had alm ost been a non-event. H ow ever, Lebanon d id express form al solidarity w ith the A rab side and it has been claim ed th at had the w ar lasted any longer, it w ould not have been spared from getting involved.40 D espite Lebanon’s non-involvem ent, Lebanon and Lebanese Jew ry were affected irreversibly. The w ar, m ore than anything, politicized the Palestinians in Lebanon,41 increasing both the Palestinian refugee p opu ­

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lation and guerrilla activity.42 If before they could have been regarded as a m ore or less settled com m unity, they were now a revolutionary m ove­ m ent, a com m unity in transition, a people at the center o f A rab support to regain their country. Com m ando operations, which had been launched from Lebanon and Jo rd an into Israel since 1965 becam e a regular feature after the w ar. They resulted in an Israeli reprisal policy aim ed at “ convincing” Lebanese authorities that they should prevent the com m andos from operating out o f their territory.43 H ow ever, the Israelis w ere not alone in having to counter the new m ilitarization o f the Palestinians: Lebanese forces and Palestinians clashed increasingly over the issue o f political and m ilitary freedom , which threatened the fragile Lebanese system . In search fo r stability, which the authorities failed to provide, each Lebanese sectarian com m unity started arm ing itself and looking for an outside protector.44 The Jew ish com m unity in 1967 w as estim ated at between 5,0 0 0 4S and 6 ,0 0 0 .46 D uring the Six-D ay W ar, in anticipation o f trouble from A rab n ation alists or Palestinians, the Jew ish com m unity w as once again protected by the K ata’ib. They used to send us people to take care of us, as we didn't have arms. We were all afraid that the Palestinians would make trouble. So they came to us and used to stay for the night. During the day there was no problem, but during the night. . . a hundred of the K ata’ib came all armed and they guarded us for two or three weeks.. . . The same happened in 1973.47

After the Six-D ay W ar only 3 ,000 Jew s rem ained.4®Until the 1967 ArabIsraeli W ar, the Jew ish com m unity m aintained a fairly high profile. The prim e m inister and several m em bers o f parliam ent continued to visit the synagogue. There were still a few officers in the arm y and the security services. In 1967 they were advised to resign, as “ the governm ent said that it could not deal w ith m ounting A rab and Palestinian pressure” .49 In 1 9 6 8 ,1 5 0 Jew s were still living in Saida. There were still tw o Jew ish banks in Lebanon at that tim e: the Safra Bank and the Z ilkha Bank which had changed its nam e to Société Bancaire du Liban. Som e lim itations were put on non-Lebanese Jew s. They now needed to get w ork perm its, and this led to em igration o f those few Syrian Jew s w ho were still residing in Beirut.50 The general security situation started to decline rapidly. The Beirut raid o f Decem ber 1968 w as as characteristic o f the decline o f Israel’s basic security as it w as o f the destabilization o f Lebanon. On 28 Decem ber 1968 eight Israeli helicopters attacked Beirut airport, destroying thirteen civilian aircraft, in retaliation fo r an attack by tw o A rabs on an £1A1 plane at Athens airport tw o days earlier.51 The Popular Front for the Liberation o f Palestine (PFLP) had claim ed responsibility for the attack. But since the


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PFLP had been operating openly in Lebanon from 1967 onw ards, w ith the know ledge and acquiescence o f the Lebanese governm ent, Israeli policy m akers decided to strike again st Lebanon. At the United N atio n s Security Council m eeting follow ing the Beirut raid , Israel charged Lebanon with "assistin g and abetting acts o f w arfare, violence, and terror by irregular forces and organizations again st Israel” ,32 referring to action s which Lebanese Prime M inister Y ah had described as "le g a l and sacred” .33 R ather than getting the Lebanese authorities to clam p dow n on the Palestinians, the events surrounding the Beirut raid only show ed up the inability o f the Lebanese to counteract the grow ing Palestinian influ­ ence and the ineffectiveness o f Israeli retaliatory policy in the Lebanese arena. A mere three days after the raid, the PFLP bom barded the northern Israeli tow n o f K iryat Shm onah as an act o f counter-retaliation, killing tw o Israeli civilians. The initial clashes between the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese arm y attem pting to im pose its authority took place in 1966. But it w as not until 1969 that clashes between the Lebanese population and Palestinian com m andos occurred. In defiance o f a governm ent ban a dem onstration in support o f Palestinian guerrillas killed in battle w as staged on 23 A pril 1969. V iolent clashes between the security forces and pro-com m ando m archers in Beirut, Saida and in the Beqaa ensued. A state o f emergency w as declared and a curfew im posed.34 T his w as only one o f the incidents, which provided a glim pse o f w hat w as to com e: the co llap se o f Lebanon under w eight o f the A rab-Israeli conflict into 15 years o f sectarian w arfare.

T he C airo Agreem ent: T h e R oad to D isintegration V iolent clashes erupted in 1969 between the Lebanese arm y and Palestinian fighters while Prime M inister K aram i argued that Palestinian com m ando activity on Lebanese territory could easily be m ade com pat­ ible with the sovereignty and security o f the country by introducing w hat he called tausiq (co-ordination) between the Lebanese arm y and Palestinian Arm ed Struggle Com m and (PA SC).33 The M aronites outrightly opposed this idea, upholding their view that the best defence w ould be to curb Palestinian activity so as not to give Israel a reason for attacking. Pressure from Lebanon’s A rab neighbours, how ever, left no room to m anoeuvre and finally resulted in the C airo Agreem ent, which m ost Lebanese C hristians saw as the betrayal o f Lebanese sovereignty.34 O n 3 N ovem ber 1969 the C airo Agreem ent, negotiated by C hief o f S taff G eneral Em ile B oustani,37 form alized the Palestinian m ilitary pres­ ence in Lebanon under pressure from Syria, Saudi A rabia, Jo rd an and

1 Chief Rabbi Shabtai Bahbut, 1920-1950. (Courtesy of the Ben Zvi Institute)

2 Selim Zeitoune in traditional Druze dress. (Courtesy of the Ben Zvi Institute)

3 Rabbi Benzion Lichtman leading a Maccabi parade through Beirut, 1947. (Courtesy of Joseph Lichtman)

4 Joseph Attie, Sami Sulh, Rabbi Benzion Lichtman and Habib Abi Chahla, 1946/7. (Courtesy of Joseph Lichtman)

5 Nino Behar, Joseph Attie, Piene Gem ayei, Rabbi Benzion Lichtman, Yacob S afra, Rabbi Obersi, Isaac Sutton and Murad Chayo. (Courtesy of Joseph Lichtman)

6 The Community Council and Chief Rabbi Benzion Lichtman and his wife. (Courtesy of Joseph Lichtman)

8 W edding at Magen Avraham, 1947. (Courtesy of Salomon Sfinzi and Camille Cohen Kishek)

9 Wedding in Bhamdoun synagogue, 1950s. (Courtesy of Joseph Mizrahi)

10 Public lecture at Magen Avraham, 1951.

11 W adi Abu Jamil, 1955. (Courtesy of Salomon Sfinzi and Camille Cohen Kishek)

12 Summer in the mountains. Bhamdoun 1964/5. (Courtesy of Salomon Sfinzi and Camille Cohen Kishek)

13 A Bar Mitzva in the Spanish Synagogue in W adi Abu Jamil, 1967. (Courtesy of Salomon Sfinzi and Camille Cohen Kishek)

14 Magen Avraham, Summer 1995.

15 The Jewish Cemetery, Summer 1995.

17 The main entrance to Magen Avraham, Summer 1995.

18 Inside M agen Avraham, before the rubble of the war was cleared, Summer 1995.

19 Inside Magen Avraham, 1996. (Courtesy of the Beirut Jewish Community Council)

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Egypt. N asser, as the cham pion o f the Palestinian cause, saw the C airo A greem ent as one m ore act to ensure Egypt’s hold over the Palestinians an d , m ore im portantly, as an act that w ould take aw ay attention from his ow n defeat in 1967.58 Instead, he w ould be seen as solving the problem an d he w ould gain an additional base from which to attack Israel. N eutral Lebanon had been effectively transform ed into a confrontation state with the support o f its A rab neighbours. For instance, Jordan saw the Palestinianization o f Lebanon as a w ay to take pressure o ff its own situ­ atio n in which the Palestinian population w as threatening the Jordan ian m onarchy with a "sta te within a state” . The C airo Agreem ent provided the Palestine Liberation O rganization (P LO ), as an um brella organization, w ith the legitim ate m eans to attack Israel from Lebanon w ith com plete freedom o f m ovem ent while it assured the Lebanese that their integrity and sovereignty w ould not be jeopar­ dized. It further legitim ized the presence o f com m and centers for the PASC inside the cam ps which were to cooperate w ith the local authorities and guarantee good relations. These centers w ould later handle arrangem ents fo r the carrying and regulating o f arm s within the cam ps, taking into accoun t both Lebanese security and the interests o f the Palestinian revo­ lution aries.59 It w as agreed to facilitate operations by the com m andos through assistin g access to the border, m utual cooperation between the PA SC and the Lebanese arm y, and appointing PASC representatives to the Lebanese H igh Com m and. M any o f the existing problem s were exacerbated by the C airo Agreem ent, and it served as a catalyst to the disintegration o f Lebanon an d foreign intervention. M ost M aronites and Jew s saw the agreem ent as signalling capitulation to Palestinian pressures, m ade effective by the support o f A rab states.60 They becam e m ore and m ore suspicious o f other Lebanese, especially those w ho were sym pathizing w ith the Palestinian cause. M utual distrust resulted in all Lebanese political and confessional grou p s - bar the Jew s - establishing their own param ilitaries for protec­ tion . Lebanon’s Jew s, once again , cam e under the protection o f the K ata’ib. The open access to Israel’s border allow ed fo r m ore successful Palestinian attack s and South Lebanon increasingly becam e a target o f Israeli punitive raid s.61 By M arch 1970, Israeli raids on those parts o f South Lebanon from which the com m andos were operating were begin­ ning to lend substance to the m isgivings voiced by m ost C hristians. H ope fo r change w as placed in the election o f a new Lebanese president, Suleim an Franjieh, who w as expected to take sim ilar m easures as Jo rd an had again st the Palestinians,62 m eaning a m ilitary dam pdow n . By that tim e, m ore than 2 4 0 ,0 0 0 Palestinians were living in Lebanon in 1970, grow ing by another 100,000 expelled from Jo rd an as a result o f Black


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Septem ber. The Lebanese Jew ish perception o f events w as captured by journalist Y aakov G al, telling the story o f Shaul Fayena: With the arrival o f the autumn o f 1970, the wheel of success began slowly to reverse. Shaul F., son of one o f the Jewish families in Wadi Abu Jam il and pupil at the Talmud Torah . . . remembers those days well. That was the month which would later be called Black September. Palestinian terror­ ists escaped from Jordan, where Hussein’s soldiers were massacring them. Thousands of them arrived in Beirut and settled in the city. The refugee camps were too small to hold the thousands of “ guests” and so the terror­ ists slowly started to take control of every possible building in the city. The fact that precisely in the “ Wadi” there were many empty homes of Jew s, who had immigrated to Israel, turned the Jewish neighbourhood into a desirable destination for Palestinians. They started to take control of the dwellings opposite the Jewish quarter. Relations with their Jewish neigh­ bours were cool but not hostile. The only troubles were caused by Palestinian children who frequently threw stones at worshippers on their way to the synagogue or simply quarrelled with the Jewish children. The adults were more restrained, but the children found expression for all the hate they were brought up with by plotting against Jewish children.*3

Black Septem ber had been the turning point for Jordanian-P alestinian relations with a clear Jordan ian victory. It w as also a turning point fo r Lebanon. The Lebanese arm y w as no longer united when acting ag ain st the Palestinians once the Palestinians had becom e a sym bol o f the M uslim Lebanese aspirations to ascend politically and socially to the level o f the C hristians w ho were com m anding them in every sense o f the w ord. T h e struggle had begun. In Decem ber 1969 com m unity president Attie published an article in the Toronto Telegram which w as a response to the editor R euben Slonim ’s articles on the latter's visit to the M iddle E ast. A ttie in his article described Leban on 's Jew s as “ loyal to the Lebanon where we live peace­ fully, w ith our fellow citizens, enjoying all rights and privileges w ith n o discrim ination w hatsoever again st u s". At no time had we any concern about the faith of the Lebanese soldiers who guard our synagogue, many of whom are Muslims. We feel exactly the same safety with Muslim and Christian military and police forces. I would like to confirm that Jewish businessmen are free to undertake any commercial activity without having to go into any partnership with a non-Jew. Mr Slonim is perfectly right in reporting that I am not pessimistic about the community so long as there is a democratic republic in Lebanon.64

In the 1960s the com m unity began to dw indle. By 1969 there were few er than 2 ,5 0 0 Jew s, alm ost all in Beirut.65 Som e sources claim that by 1 9 7 0

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the com m unity had even decreased to 1,000.** C onfessionalism in the country had started to erode to a considerable extent, ow ing to inter­ m arriage between m em bers o f different religions and sects, m aking increasing use o f the civil m arriage facilities provided by neighbouring countries such as Turkey o r C yprus. Strong personal and fam ily friend­ ships w ere elevated above sectarian differences, and secular education as well as com m on so cial, business and cultural association s o f various kinds*7 reflected a degree o f integration when Lebanon w as truly a “ Sw itzerland in the M iddle E a st". Y et despite these social developm ents which seem ed to bridge com m unal differences, Lebanon’s fragile political system w as unable to stand up to the w idening gap s between the w ealthy and the poor, especially if the poor were also those with the least political and social pow er - the Shi‘a M uslim s. In addition, the population explosion o f the Palestinian refugee com m unity after their expulsion from Jo rd an increased not only the poverty belt around Beirut but also revived the fear am ong m any C hristians that they were becom ing a m inority, and thus started to reverse the integrative trend. The PLO ’s disregard for its host country’s problem s by creating a “ state-w ithin-a-state” contributed to the de-legitim ization o f the Lebanese governm ent. And finally, Syrian and Israeli concerns over the lack o f stability and control threatening their own security led to the political vacuum left by w arring Lebanese factions being filled by foreign pow ers. In 1970 Suleim an Franjieh w as elected president o f Lebanon. Franjieh w as a tradition al leader, a za‘im from Z gh orta in northern Lebanon. H e saw h im self as an A rab, but nevertheless a C hristian, and viewed Lebanon as p art o f the A rab W orld but with a special role to play. H is fam ily’s friendship w ith Syrian President H afez al-A sad’s fam ily underlined his view o f Lebanon’s closeness to Syria. H e w as elected as a candidate acceptable to both the C hristian and M uslim com m unities - a com pro­ mise candidate w ho w as not chosen on the basis o f strong leadership, but the lack o f offence he caused. Franjieh represented Lebanon’s tradition al political culture. A bout two th irds o f the seats in his parliam ent were held by independents, nota­ bles, an d zu'am a’. In pre-w ar Lebanon the zu’am a * were the m ost im portant interm ediaries between individuals and the state. Ideology oriented parties such as the SSN P, B a‘th or the Com m unist Party did not receive m uch support. In the absence o f real political parties with national follow ings am ong the m asses, political life in the Lebanese Republic becam e the preserve o f shifting alliances am ong politicians who form ed parliam entary or extraparliam entary fronts or blocs. In each constituency, candidates for elections belonging to different religious groups form ed rival lists, polit-


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ical alliances were norm ally tem porary, reflecting interests o f the moment am ong the politicians concerned. In parliam ent and the governm ent, the discipline o f the blocs and fronts w as loose, and politicians changed sides whenever it suited them . The electorate w as only rem embered at election tim e. This naturally led to a high degree o f political alienation o f people from the governm ent, and im peded the developm ent o f national alle­ giance to the state.6* Franjieh’s presidency started sm oothly, m ainly because o f the cooper­ ation o f his Prime M inister Saeb Salaam . H ow ever, as tim e w ent on, he found it increasingly difficult to get his M uslim partners to cooperate in form ing cabinets and m aintaining a political m ajority. The repercussions o f his slow loss o f control were tw ofold: First, it led to increased support o f single-com m unity parties, and second, to a further decline in the secu­ rity situation. Politically this m eant increased support for the K ata’ib from both M aronites and Jew s, m irroring that com m unity’s fundam ental orientations.69 The K ata’ib’s ideology w as protectionist in the sense that it aim ed at preserving Lebanon from the forces o f disintegration. D uring this period in history the party did not have a structured ideology, but "durin g every event, in every crisis, the K ata’ib w as there . . . ; again st unionist projects, again st our neighbours’ schem es and intrigues; again st the ‘Fertile Crescent’ and ‘G reater Syria’ projects; and again st all projects o f union or federation” .70 In every event and crisis, the party w as also there for Lebanon’s Jew s. Lebanon’s Jew s, for obvious reason s, sym pathized w ith the K ata’ib , although few form ally joined the party. They did, how ever, lend their full electoral support to the party’s candidates. Since Lebanon’s Jew s voted as a block in Beirut’s first electoral district, they were courted by many parties. In the 1968 parliam entary elections, 4 ,3 2 9 Jew ish voters were registered.71 In 1969 Jew s m ade up tw o per cent o f the K ata’ib member­ sh ip.72 In 1970 the K ata’ib had 7 0 ,000 m em bers, 82 per cent o f whom were M aronite.73 The decline in security w as particularly crucial for the Jew ish com m u­ nity. In Decem ber 1970 a bom b exploded in the Selim T arrab sch ool.74 T his w as the first such incident since the turbulent tim e o f 1947/8. It w as seen as such a departure from the co-existence between the Jew s and the other com m unities that the M inister o f Interior K am al Jum blatt publicly apologised. Yet this bom b w as a sign for w hat w as to com e as the secu­ rity situation in the country deteriorated, the governm ent o f Suleim an Franjieh increasingly lost its credibility, and inter-com m unal tension rose. Changes were becom ing evident in the com m unity. The Alliance w as still open in 1970, but the num erous synagogues that had flourished had been closed. Only M agen Avraham rem ained. The year 1970 also signalled the end to the yearly pilgrim ages to Saida to the tom b o f Ben

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A bisam ak and the m ausoleum o f Z ebulon.75 O n 6 Septem ber 1971 the com m unity’s secretary A lbert Elia w as kidnapped as he left his hom e. Initially, it had been suggested that he had been abducted by Palestinians. Later, how ever, it w as reported that Elia had been taken to Syria.76 Syrian involvem ent cannot be dism issed, especially since it w as E lia w ho had gone to investigate the deteriorating position o f Syrian Jew s earlier that year,77 a situation the Syrian regim e did not w ish to highlight. H is fate rem ains unknown to the present day. In 1972, it w as tim e for the next parliam entary elections. They have been described as the freest and cleanest in Lebanese history, despite discreet Syrian intervention.78T radition al patronage flourished again. Franjieh and Prime M inister Salaam decided to sm ash the deuxième bureau , which had becom e too independent. T h is, how ever, opened the floodgates to an unprecedented m ilitarization o f Lebanese political groups and faction s, beyond the control o f the state. The Palestinian N ation al M ovem ent as w ell as the C hristian resistance and Shi'a Im am M usa al-Sadr’s Am al miUtia grew in this environm ent.79 In m any w ays these parliam entary elections were another turning point in Lebanese foreign and dom estic politics. They signified the replacem ent o f C airo w ith D am ascus as the external center o f allegiance fo r Lebanese M uslim s. D am ascus acquired virtual veto pow er over m ajor decisions concerning Lebanon’s dom estic and foreign policy: it now becam e custom ary fo r Lebanese politicians to go to D am ascus.80 Since the beginning o f the seventies and after its defeat in Jo rd an the PLO had transferred its headquarters to Beirut. Lebanon becam e, by the m id-seventies, the m ain operational b asis for the Palestinian quasi-state, w ith its bureaucracy, arm ed forces, institutions and activities. It is esti­ m ated that by 1981, the Palestinian econom y generated m ore than 15 per cent o f the gross dom estic product in the Lebanese territory.81 A t the sam e tim e, during 1 9 7 1 -2 , Lebanon w as faced w ith the estab­ lishm ent o f the PLO on its territory. U p to Septem ber 1970 the guerrilla m ovem ent had been based in Jo rd an , which shared the longest border w ith Israel. From there the PLO had pursued a policy o f eroding the strength and w ill o f Israel by using guerrilla operations to show up Israeli failure to m aintain effective control and provide protection w ithin the country.82 Israel, in return, had a policy o f retaliation not only dispro­ portionate to the original attack , but also aim ed at punishing the country h osting the guerrillas. The com bination o f attracting unwelcom e Israeli m ilitary strikes again st Jo rd an and the fear o f losing control o f Jo rd an to the Palestinians w ho had set up a “ state-w ithin-a-state” , shaped the deci­ sion o f the Jordan ian m ilitary and political elites to stop the erosion o f their state's authority by force. T akin g advantage o f the PLO ’s m istakes and provocations, the Jordan ian s precipitated a confrontation w ith the


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Palestinian organization and drove it out o f Jo rd an .*3 D uring w hat is known as Black Septem ber, the Jordan ian arm y attacked refugee cam p s, forcing those w ho were lucky enough to escape, over the border in to Lebanon. Lebanon, now w as the only state left that shared a border w ith Israel and had insufficient m eans to control the PLO . Im posing control over Palestinian actions in Lebanon w as not an easy task for the Lebanese governm ent. The Palestinians received m uch support from Lebanese M uslim s and this, in return, caused disunity within the political elite. N evertheless, in Jun e 1972, a C om m andoLebanese A ccord w as draw n up. It tem porarily suspended attack s on Israel to spare Lebanon from reprisals. Som e Palestinian groups, how ever, did not feel bound by that accord. Com m ando operation s again st Israel continued, a s did Israeli strikes again st Lebanon. O n Septem ber 16, Israel launched a m ajor ground and air attack again st 16 A rab villages, destroying 150 houses and killing 35 Palestinians, 18 Lebanese soldiers and 35 Lebanese civilian s.*4 D espite the high casualties, Israel saw such operations a s necessary. M oreover, this action w as condoned by the United States. Secretary o f State W illiam R oger endorsed Israel’s contention that priority should be given to com bating the current w ave o f “ A rab terrorism ” and expressed no reproach fo r Israeli attack s on Palestinian bases in Lebanon.*5 The Lebanese governm ent responded by ordering the com m andos to leave all Lebanese villages, confining them to the refugee cam ps and on ly allow ing them to carry w eapons in those cam ps. The Palestinians acceded; but the Israelis were not satisfied. O n O ctober 15, the ID F spokesm an announced Israel’s new policy: “ We are no longer w aiting fo r them to h it first. T his is the operative phase o f our pledge to hit the terrorists w her­ ever they are and they are in Leban on .” 86 Israeli President Chaim H erzog elaborated on this statem ent, saying: “ We are not engaged in reprisal, b u t in a w ar again st terrorism . The very presence o f terrorists in the are a between the border and the Litani R iver is a provocation.” 87 In spring 1973 the situation had not changed m uch. The Leban ese arm y w as trying to restrain the Palestinians w ithout any tangible resu lts. In A pril, Israel staged raid s on Palestinian targets in Saida and B eirut.** An Israeli com m ando unit landed in Beirut and killed three PLO lead ers in the Verdun quarter. D om estic and external developm ents w ere converging into a crisis that Franjieh and the groups he represented w ere incapable o f coping w ith. Prime M inister Salaam had resigned over th e Israeli raid on Beirut. H e had asked the Com m anding O fficer Iskan der G hanim to step dow n, but when this m ove w as not endorsed by President Franjieh, he resigned him self.89 H is resignation brought forth an oth er political crisis, sparking clashes between the Lebanese arm y and th e Palestinians. H eavy fighting ensued w ith the Palestinians firing rockets a t

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Beirut airport and the Lebanese A ir Force bom bing Burj al-Barajne.90 Palestinians and the leftist-A rabist Lebanese N ation al M ovem ent accused the Lebanese security forces o f com plicity.91 The subsequent outburst o f PLO violence in Beirut led to a direct Lebanese-Palestinian confrontation. Syria then closed its border as a threat to Lebanon, openly denouncing w hat it described as Lebanese com plicity in a foreign inspired plot to com plete liquidation o f the Palestinian com m ando m ovem ent.92 The m essage w as clear: Lebanon had to com e to an understanding w ith the Palestinians. T his understanding cam e in the form o f the M elkart Agreem ent. The Agreem ent w as concluded on 17 M ay 1973. It reaffirm ed Lebanon’s su p p ort fo r the Palestinian cause, but banned com m ando presence and w eapons from the cam ps. Further, all com m ando operations from Lebanese territory were suspended according to the decisions o f the Jo in t A rab Defence Council. Lebanon’s sovereignty w as to be respected. A dditional aspiration s were to re-establish the atm osphere before the clash es, the reduction o f suspicion and the cancellation o f the em ergency situ ation .93 Lebanon’s political crisis, how ever, w as not solved. The influence o f p olitical and m ilitant Islam w as grow ing throughout the A rab w orld, and w ith it grew the assertiveness o f Lebanese M uslim s. Franjieh w as no longer seen as the candidate o f com prom ise. Shi‘a deputy M ohsin Sulim described him as follow s: “ Suleim an Franjieh is an extrem ely nice person, but not a great intellect. H e has chosen assistan ts o f the sam e cast and surrounded him self with sons o f old fam ilies. In doing so he is paralysing Lebanon for these fam ilies have not the slightest interest in p rogress.” 94 The M iddle E ast oil revolution further added to social and econom ic tensions in Lebanon. Socio-econom ic gap s were w idening with the influx o f oil revenues. Soaring prices, political and adm inistrative corruption, labour dem ands, student unrest and protests, and the grow ing political dem ands o f the Shi‘a com m unity contributed to the disintegration o f society. Governm ental authority w as challenged not only by dom estic constituencies dem anding a reallocation o f pow er but also by Israel’s raids on the South and Syria’s renewed claim to Lebanon. A s tim e went on, the M aronites and Jew s increasingly perceived the events o f the 1970s as m oving again st their interests.95 The clashes had convinced the Lebanese C h ristians m ore than ever that Lebanon w ould not regain its sovereignty until all Palestinians left. The country, in which the Jew s had felt perfectly a t ease, w as com ing ap art at the seam s. From 1973 onw ards, led by the K ata'ib , President Franjieh, and form er president Cham oun, the Christian com m unity prepared for its ow n show -dow n with the Palestinians.96 In O ctober 1973 another w ar between Israel and its A rab neighbours broke out. Once again , Lebanon m anaged to rem ain uninvolved. In the


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w ake o f the w ar, Lebanese C hristians advocated settlem ent w ith Israel. R adicals am ong the Lebanese M uslim s denounced this as a “ surrender plan ” ,97 highlighting inter-com m unal tensions. The seeds o f m utual suspi­ cion sow n earlier were beginning to grow . In the m eantim e, Beirut’s Jew s had learned to live with their new Palestinian neighbours. The proxim ity o f the Palestinian refugees did not m ake the Yom K ippur W ar an easy tim e. For m any Jew s it m eant days o f fear and prayer, staying glued to the radio. W hile their M aronite friends openly displayed joy over Israel’s victory, Lebanon’s Jew s m ostly ju st felt relieved. In 1974 hardly a week passed w ithout som e villages in South Lebanon being hit by Israeli raid s. Between June 1968 and June 1974, the Lebanese arm y counted m ore than 3 0 ,0 0 0 Israeli violations o f their national terri­ tory.98 C lashes between Palestinians and Lebanese C hristians w ere also increasing while the political situation w as deteriorating rapidly. The Palestinians declared the M elkart Agreem ent invalid, no longer feeling bound to restraint again st Israel or respect o f the Lebanese establish ­ m ent.99 N ot surprisingly Lebanese Jew ish em igration w as also on the rise. Jew ish em igration w as not directly related to discrim ination, antiSem itism or inter-com m unal hostilities. R ather it w as the result o f the onset o f a subtle econom ic decline from the presidency o f C harles H elou onw ards. Stringency in the country’s econom ic life led m any Lebanese, predom inantly C hristians and Jew s, to transfer their business interests ab ro ad .100 M oreover, Jew ish em igration should be seen within the context o f overall em igration from Lebanon. Between 1959 and 1962, 14,700 Lebanese left in the afterm ath o f the first civil w ar. D uring the period o f stability which follow ed, the num ber w as considerably low er. Between 1963 and 1972 only 5 ,2 0 0 em igrated. The onset o f the second civil w ar essentially m eant that everyone w ho had the m eans left or sent his fam ily abroad. The num ber o f em igrants between 1975 and 1979 w as 5 3 ,0 0 0 , between 1980 and 1983 it w as 3 3 ,0 0 0 , and between 1984 and 198 7 it w as 6 8 ,4 0 0 .101 Ju st as com m unal priorities changed over tim e, so did the assum ptions and conditions, which gave rise to the 1943 Pact. By 1975 there w as little room for a sw ap between C hristians and M uslim s regarding the external dim ension o f the Pact. The 1969 C airo Agreem ent and the 1973 M elkart A ccord, signed between the Lebanese governm ent and the PLO , follow ing tw o m inisterial crises, exhausted C hristian tolerance o f Palestinian excesses.102 Relative deprivation grew and w as increasingly articulated in the discourse o f “ rich C h ristians” and “ poor M uslim s” .

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T he Second C ivil W ar T he event, which is generally considered to have triggered the Lebanese civil w ar, w as the inauguration o f a Church in ‘Ayn al-R um ana attended by Pierre Gem ayel. Shots were fired from a passin g car into the congre­ g atio n , killing one o f the K ata’ib leader's body guards. The attack w as traced back to the Palestinian D em ocratic Front. Later in the day a bus carryin g guerrillas o f the Palestinian A rab Liberation Front w as passin g through the sam e suburb. The bus w as fired at by K ata’ib m ilitiam en, k illin g twenty-seven. Soon every neighborhood and village had its m ilitia. Lebanon w as being tom ap art by sectarian conflict and foreign intervention becom ing w h at H enry K issinger in Years o f Upheaval described as a "p ro state b o d y ” over w hich all "factio n s and forces o f the M iddle E ast still chase their eternal dream s and act out their perennial nightm ares” .103 The Sw itzerland o f the M iddle E ast had fallen prey to the inability to uphold its neutrality in the face o f the sw eeping currents o f the A rab-Israeli conflict. From 1975 onw ards Lebanon becam e Palestine’s surrogate battlefield. F or m any Lebanese, the m atter appeared self-evident. The resistance organ izations were pursuing their struggle on Lebanon’s hom e territory, and the neighbouring A rab countries were in turn brandishing threats and interventions, while the Israeli arm y w as escalating its retaliatory opera­ tion s in contem pt o f national sovereignty. Lebanon succum bed to a state o f w ar, the victim o f conspiracy; if the country had not deliberately been saddled with the Palestine issue by regim es only too happy to be relieved o f it, and perhaps even pleased to see the m in o f Lebanon’s prosperity and political equilibrium , it w ould have had enough resources to deal w ith the changes w ithin its society.104 Every combatant was convinced he was defending his Lebanon from an outside threat, since the enemy was mentioned only obliquely, the goals presented with all kinds of detours, and explanations reduced to the claim o f the "plot.” The gunmen poised for ambush were anonymous, murderers remained undiscovered, and kidnapping victims disappeared for good.105

The internal dim ension o f this w ar pitted Shi‘a , Sunnis, D ruze and various Lebanese and Palestinian left-wing forces again st the M aronites. It w as their goal to establish greater political and econom ic equality and a m ore A rab identity for Lebanon. H ow ever, the "le ft” w as by no m eans reducible to a uniform political, social, econom ic or ideological structure. Indeed, it w as not easy to delineate or trace the "le ft” w ithin the Lebanese context, where the situation presented itself as a juxtaposition o f forces


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that were products o f very uneven so cial, econom ic and regional devel­ opm ents.106 W hile m ost Lebanese up to the present day tend to shrug o ff responsi­ bility and cling to the notion o f having becom e the victim s o f som e greater plot, others, such as social scientist T heodor H an f, have suggested th at it w as, in fact, the irresponsibility o f the Lebanese political class w hich prepared the ground for disaster. An appalling social policy had raised social tension to breaking point. T his w as com pounded by the region al dim ension. “ All o f them underestim ated the external threats, clun g to unarm ed neutrality in a region bristling w ith arm s, and underm ined the already lim ited pow ers o f the state in perilous tim e.” 107 The problem underlying the w ar w as one o f m inority-m ajority inte­ gration. Instead o f the political leaders balancing the different com m unities and creating a basis fo r a w ider Lebanese identity, the com ­ m unities were m utually suspicious o f each other. They did not tru st the form al institutions to be pow erful or im partial enough to protect their local interests.108 T hus, sectarian allegiances em erged as the prim ary affiliation even before the 1975-6 w ar when the political system w as suffering from the strains o f national developm ent. Increasing pressure for fairer representation and equitable distribution o f w ealth and statu s cam e to be supported by the various sectarian m ilitias. Invoking the issue o f legitim acy or illegitim acy o f an entity w as one w ay o f declaring this civil w ar, for the issue w as the nature o f the state and at the ro o t the “ debate” w as aim ed less at convincing the other party than in silencing it.“* The M aronite status quo forces form ed the Lebanese Front com prising the K ata’ib, Cham oun’s N LP , Franjieh’s Z ghorta party, the O rganization o f M aronite M onks, as well as m ore extrem ist groups such as the G uardians o f the C edars, the Tanzim , the K isrw an Front, and the Z gh orta Army o f Liberation. The C hristians w ho were united in their hostility to the Palestinians and their defence o f “ Lebanoness” started training in the m ountains with w eapons supplied by Israel.1,0 O ver 100,000 Palestinians had taken refuge in Lebanon after the 1948 w ar, a total sw ollen m ainly by natural increase to about 2 7 0 ,0 0 0 by the mid 1 9 7 0 s.111 It w as this large num ber which caused the fear o f pow er­ sharing within the M aronite com m unity. If these refugees had been absorbed into the Lebanese system as citizens it w ould have threatened the uneasy political balance, depriving the M aronites o f their dom inant position in the governm ent. A s it w as, their presence had already tipped the m ilitary balance num erically again st the C hristian establishm ent. The Palestinians thus reinforced the M aronites' fear o f being surrounded by a “ M uslim se a ", exacerbating the sectarian split. T h is feeling o f vulnerability m ade the M aronite K ata’ib appeal to Israel a s the

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fighting started in 1975. They approached the Israelis not only as com m on enem ies o f the PLO but also appealed to Israel as a kindred m inority vulnerable to the pressures o f the M uslim w orld.112 They looked tow ards Israel as an im portant factor o f equilibrium in the region, one with which they already had a certain affin ity.113 Israel, at that tim e, w as m ore than w illing to help anybody as it had surplus revenue from the w ars o f 1967 and 1973 as w ell as R ussian w eaponry. T o Israeli decision-m akers it w as cheap and m ade sense polit­ ically to help the M aron ites.114 Israel’s response, how ever, w as lim ited to m ilitary aid under the policy o f “ helping the M aronites to help them ­ selves” .115 D uring the w ar and the follow ing years the Palestinians succeeded in takin g control o f virtually all o f South Lebanon. In order to m aintain this control and operational freedom again st Israel, the PLO had a vital interest in a w eak M aronite governm ent at the w orst, and a strong M uslim governm ent at the best. Israel, conversely, had a strong interest in m ain­ taining the status-quo and even strengthening the M aronite position in order to create a friendly, anti-PLO governm ent. In term s o f security, this w ould have m eant the extension o f Lebanese governm ent control over the South and the disarm ing o f the Palestinians. Israel w as not the only country trying to protect its interests by inter­ vening in the Lebanese civil w ar. Concerned about the establishm ent o f a m ilitary cabinet and the possibility o f future m ilitary rule in Lebanon, Syria intervened in 1976 in order to restore peace.116 Syrian intervention, how ever, m ade everything w orse; all m ilitias started fighting with parti­ tion in m ind.117 M oreover, Syrian President H afez al-A sad’s real aim s were to preem pt an Israeli invasion and to gain control over Lebanon, never having relinquished Syrian territorial claim s from the m andate period. By intervening in Lebanon and resolving the crisis, A sad w ould not only end a situation that threatened Syrian interests but w ould also dem onstrate that Syria w as the m ost effective A rab pow er in that part o f the M iddle E ast.118 Further, the Syrian m ilitary feared that Israel could attack Syria by advancing either through Jordan or Lebanon. In order to create strategic depth and keep D am ascus protected, it w as necessary for Syria to have control over the Beqaa V alley in east Lebanon. H ow ever, Syria’s deliberate policies o f destabilisation were aim ed at preventing a strong M aronite governm ent which could lead to secession and the creation o f a pro-Israeli C hristian state.119 Lebanon thus becam e an im portant factor in the Syrian-Israeli deter­ rence dialogue. Israel felt threatened by the intrusion o f the considerable Syrian forces into Lebanon and their deploym ent in the vicinity o f Israel’s northern border.120 A ccording to this logic, both states needed to be in Lebanon, in order to deter the other from advancing. Both states were


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vying for strategic depth and proxy arm ies. Syria had been using Palestinian factions such as as-Sa'iqa to carry out a w ar by proxy again st Israel. From 1976 onw ards, the Israelis set up their own proxy arrange­ m ent, with m ainly C hristian forces in South Lebanon, in order to protect its northern border. The first tw o years o f the w ar m ay be seen as a sequence o f conflicts between changing opponents and allies, each o f them characterizing one phase o f the w ar. Syrian intervention in 1976 returned the country to a relative norm ality between 1977 and 1981. A fourth o f the population had taken refuge ab road , reducing dom estic needs, and thus the w ar had not yet m ade a m ajor im pact on the national econom y.121 A fter 1978 the situation becam e m ore com plex: conflicts ran congruently or overlapped; instead o f one w ar, there were now several.122 Syrian-Christian confronta­ tion as well as Israeli intervention in the South had becom e added dim ensions. O ver the years it becam e a w ar o f the C hristian Lebanese Forces again st the Syrians, the Palestinians and the D ruze; an Israeli-P alestinian-Syrian conflict; a C hristian-C hristian battle for control; and a w ar between the Shi(a and the Palestinians in the South all before the Israeli invasion o f Lebanon in Jun e 1982. Am ong the sm all num ber o f non-com batants were the Jew s.

Decline o f the community When the civil w ar broke out there were between 2 ,0 0 0 and 5 ,0 0 0 Jew s in Lebanon.123 M ost o f the expensive shops in the fashionable H am ra district were still owned by Je w s.124 O ne Jew ish fam ily had actually been in ‘Ayn al-Rum ana to visit friends on that fateful Sunday in 1975 when the w ar began. The change in atm osphere w as obvious even to the m ost unobservant. Vehicles suddenly disappeared from the road and guns and autom atic w eapons becam e prom inent. When the fam ily returned to their hom e right on the front line between the C hristian quarter and the Palestinian neighbourhoods, the street had becom e a battlefield between the K ata’ib and Palestinian fighters - the Jew s caught in the m iddle. Com m unity life and econom ic activity in W adi Abu Jam il virtually cam e to a stan dstill, with the exception o f the prayers, which did not cease. Public prayer w as m oved from M agen Avraham to a less dangerous area in one o f the sm aller alleys.125 D uring the autum n o f 1975, in several w eeks o f extrem ely violent fighting, Beirut’s port and its financial, touristic, and com m ercial center were destroyed. So, too , w as a large p art o f W adi Abu Jam il - all being essentially in the sam e area - at the cro ss­ roads between E ast Beirut and W est Beirut. W adi Abu Jam il had becom e a battle field between the pro-status q u o

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m ainly C hristian forces and the anti-status quo coalition o f Sunni, Shi‘a , D ruze and Palestinian forces early on in the w ar - as had m ost interface areas o f the city. The sch ools w ere closed, and econom ic activity w as severely restricted.126 Jew ish lives w ere, fo r the first tim e, in serious phys­ ical danger - not from Palestinian radicalism , A rab nationalism or anti-Sem itism , but from an ethnically divided society at w ar w ith itself. An estim ated 2 0 0 Jew s were killed in the cross-fire between w arring faction s in 1 9 7 5 -6 .127 The first Jew ish death in the w ar occurred in O ctober 1975. The victim w as an old m an w ho had been the shammash a t the “ Srour” synagogue and the “ El-M an” Beit H aM idrash. H e had found his place in history a s the com panion o f Jo sep h Trum peldor, the hero o f Tel C hai. H is nam e w as Y ousef Salem , but he w as better known as Abu R affoul. H e had been a popular figure in Beirut, w ho loved to laugh and to m ake children laugh. C harles M izrahi, in an article published in L a Voix Sepharade , recalled that Abu R affou l used to spend the second seder w ith his fam ily every year between 1970 and 1975. In O ctober 1975 the Jew ish quarter bore the calm o f an area under siege. It w as under the protection o f the K ata’ib. But that autum n, M uslim K urds started appearing in the quarter and the Jew ish fam ilies took up arm s. O n the last Friday o f O ctober 1975, the m ain street o f W adi Abu Jam il w as deserted. N o one crossed the road except fo r the cats. Abu R affo u l, w ho w as a m an o f habit, rose early and decided to go to the bakery to buy bread. For that he had to cross the besieged ro ad , and thus Y ousef Salem “ becam e the first m artyr in a w ar which didn’t concern him ” .128 H e w as sh ot by a sniper from one o f the ro o fs. H is body lay in the street fo r som e tim e until som e K urds sought to retrieve it. The sniper sh ot at them a s w ell. Unw illing to risk their own m en, the K urds sent three Jew s out to retrieve the body. Am ong those w ho had been “ volunteered” w ere Josep h El M an and Isaac Fayena. “ W ith the guns in their backs, the K urds forced them to cro ss the Jew ish quarter, beneath the gaze o f their w ives and children, w ho cried and begged, and to w alk to the ro ad where Abu R affoul lay .” 129 The K urds prom ised that if the tw o Jew s did not return alive from their m ission that they w ould eulogize their deed in all Beirut new spapers and even photographed them before their departure.130 Their trem bling fam ily m em bers in the m eantim e were desperately trying to call the Jew ish fam ily living near the location o f the sniper. Finally, one young w om an got through and soon the C hristian gunm an knew that there were three Jew ish men approaching w ith a white flag in order to recover the body o f A bu R affoul which still lay in the m iddle o f the road. Isaac Fayena m uttered prayers all the w ay to the body. They collected the body and


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carried it to an am bulance, which took it to the m orgue until the situa­ tion had clam ed dow n. “ In W adi Abu Jam il they w ould say that Abu R affoul didn’t w ant his friends to be killed for his sake, and above all not Isaac Fayena, w ho used to invite him to kiddush and to dinner every Friday. And that fo r Isaac Fayena, he had intervened from heaven.” 131 T h at evening m any o f the rem aining Jew s left W adi Abu Jam il am idst the fear that there w ould not be a minyan for the kaddish for Abu R affou l’s funeral. The Fayenas rem ained, but not for long. The Syrian intervention in the civil w ar in 1976 and consequent Syrian control o f the city triggered their m igration first to Bham doun and later to the hom e o f friends in the vicinity o f the port. N o t far from the H oliday Inn where the K ata’ib fighters em bedded them selves and were fiercely attacking the Syrians, the Fayenas m ade the painful decision to leave Lebanon. M aking use o f good relations Isaac Fayena had with Palestinians before the w ar, he asked one o f the com m an­ ders for help in getting his fam ily out o f the city. A fter a “ don ation ” and under cover o f darkness the Fayenas left Beirut on a vehicle belonging to w hat som e w ould call terrorists.132 A t the height o f the civil w ar, the Palestinians and M uslim s were advancing and the Jew s took shelter in M agen A vraham . W adi A bu Jam il had becom e caught in a fierce battle between the PLO and the K ata’ib. The C hristian m ilitias, headed by Bashir Gem ayel and D ani Cham oun, attem pted to occupy W adi Abu Jam il in order to rescue the Jew s. The PLO , however, and its left-wing M uslim allies got there first.133 R abbi Chreim , concerned about the w elfare o f his com m unity, phoned Prime M inister K aram e and Interior M inister Jum blatt for help. At that point there still w as a Lebanese governm ent and the arm y had not com pletely disintegrated along sectarian lines. Before the governm ent troops arrived to rescue the com m unity, PLO leader Y asser A rafat took the opportunity to m ake a hum anitarian gesture. H e sent his men with food and w ater for the Jew s trapped inside the synagogue and ensured that they w ere not harm ed.134 It has been claim ed that “ largely because o f Israeli retaliation , and also m otivated by thoughts o f gaining political advantage, the Lebanese left-w ing forces supplied the Jew s with food and w ater.” 135 But the further developm ent o f this incident proves otherw ise. The PLO placed guards on the prem ises o f the synagogue in order to protect it from van dals.136 And then Druze w arlord and M inister o f Interior K am al Jum blatt, one o f the leaders o f the Lebanese N ation alist M ovem ent, evac­ uated Chief R abbi Chreim and his fam ily to Bham doun.137 From Bham doun he travelled to Beirut on a daily basis to tend those m em bers o f the com m unity who had not left. In 1978, R abbi Chreim left for Sao Paulo to head the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity in that city. H is son, Shlom o, w ho opted to im m igrate to Israel

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in stead , believes his father’s decision to go to Brazil w as based on the fact th a t between 1968 and 1978 m any Lebanese Jew s had gone to Sao Paulo. "T h e y needed him and he felt that going to them w as the right thing to d o ." 138 Though the m ain synagogue and tw o other sm aller houses o f w orsh ip rem ained open until 1984, the spiritual life o f the com m unity declined rapidly. The synagogue in Bham doun becam e inactive in 1975. A s the situation becam e alm ost unbearable, m ost Jew s fled to the m oun tains. They found tem porary shelter in the m ountains and in the re so rt o f Aley, south o f the city. When they returned they found that their h om es had been looted. M any o f the Jew s w hose property w as destroyed o r stolen left the country. A bout 1,000 w ho tried to restore their busi­ n esses were discouraged by a renewal o f hostilities between M uslim s and C h ristian s, and they decided to go to o .139 T oufic Y edid Levy opted to leave Leban on : After 1975 there were hardly any people left - about 150. Only the doctors stayed. We had no problem with the government. Personally, during the 1975 War, I had to travel because the square where I lived was an import­ ant center. There were bombardments and I had to leave.. . . I left Beirut for two years and went to Milan. I have a niece who lives in Milan. After that I stayed with my nephew in Sao Paulo, in Brazil. My sister lives there as well. I stayed six or seven months with her, but wasn’t able to get a resi­ dence permit. So I returned here.. . . My house, my work were all in Beirut.140

T h e civil w ar caused a sizeable segm ent o f the com m unity to em igrate, leaving the com m unity w ithout a rabbi and a shochet. A rabbi had to be brough t in from Italy or Syria. By the end o f the first phase o f the civil w ar in 1976, only som e 2 ,0 0 0 Jew s were left in the country.141 By the end o f 1 9 7 6 ,4 ,5 0 0 had em igrated to C yprus, the United States and W estern E u rop e,142 leaving a very sm all com m unity o f between 4 0 0 and 500. It w as often difficult to find a minyan as the w ar had taken its toll on the Jew ish quarter, which w as situated right on the greenline. M ost Jew s had fled the area and dispersed. The w ealthier m em bers o f the com m unity had fled to E ast Beirut or the safety o f the m ountains. The few rem aining Jew s w h o lived in W est Beirut were old, poor and sick. In 1978 a tourist w ho had m et w ith m em bers o f the Beirut com m unity reported that it had becom e difficult to get a minyan on Shabbat, with on ly 60 Jew s left in dow ntow n Beirut and another 450 spread throughout th e m ountains, unw illing to leave their refuge for religious services. The sch ool had been closed, along w ith m ost o f the other infrastructure in the country such as the banks and post offices. Jew ish m erchants, who were now m ore or less unem ployed due to the circum stances, stated that they d id n ot believe that "B eirut w ould ever again be w hat it w as in the p a st". Every evening the electricity w as cut o ff and only in a few areas on the


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M uslim side did life resem ble n orm ality.145 They also reported that two w eeks earlier M uslim s had w atched die C hristian quarter being bombed as if it had been a theatre perform ance. Syria had taken control o f Beirut and as-Sa'iqa had set up a num ber o f checkpoints. W artim e responses are generally a good indicator o f underlying com m unal h ostilities, a s “ o fficial” fighting is often abused to setde scores. D uring the Lebanese civil w ar m any such scores were indeed settled, m ainly between Druze and M aronites dating back to the w ar o f 1860 none with the Jew s. N either during the A rab-Israeli w ars, nor the tw o civil w ars, were the Jew s victim ized for their religious affiliation . The appearance o f Israeli aircraft over the city stopped the shelling of C hristian Beirut. But fear continued to pervade w ith arm ed men being the only ones on the street. Between the M uslim and the C hristian quarter w as no-m an’s lan d, W adi Abu Jam il, the greenline, which w as haunted by snipers. The prevalent feeling w as that the M uslim s and their Syrian allies were only w aiting fo r the right m om ent to elim inate the Christian m inority.144 In Ju ly 1980, journ alist Y oel D ar gave an equally depressing descrip­ tion o f the com m unity, one w hich, in m any w ays, sum m ed up the silent despair o f the uninvolved victim s within a w ar-tom country. If im agin­ able, the situation had deteriorated further. Lebanon’s once prosperous Jewish community, one o f the oldest in the world, has nearly disappeared. Lebanese Jews who have left the country have reported that only a few dozen remain, most o f them poor or too old or too sick to move, and who look to Jewish relief organizations to help. All others have left in recent years because o f the tense situation and the fear of a renewal o f the civil war between Muslims and Christians.145

There were only 2 0 0 Jew s left by 1980 and m ost w ere suffering because o f the bad econom ic situation. Lebanon’s econom y, which had survived above and beyond the first years o f conflict, w as starting to collapse under the strains o f the w ar. The m ajority o f the Jew s had fled to the m ountains, leaving only 2 0 in Beirut fo r w hom Syria perm itted a shochet to visit Lebanon from D am ascus periodically.144 W hile Jew s w ere not harm ed for their religious affiliation it w as reported that four Jew s were killed solely for this reason .147 Yet m ost Lebanese Jew s still preferred to stay in Lebanon. In an article published in L a Revue du Liban D ikran T osbath asked w hat w as left o f the once flourishing com m unity in 1980. Where are those who organised active community life? Those who voted as a constituency of thousands of voices as one for Joseph Chader? Who is still here from among the Atties, the Bercoffs, the Mizrahis, the Anevis, the

The Beginning o f the Exodus


Romanos, the Mograbis, the Albarenes, o f the Farhi tribe, o f the Dichys, the Heloinis, the Benjamins, the Ben Judas, the Stamboulis, the Sidis, the Liniados, the Delbourgos, and the Grunbergs, the Doubines, the Berakhas, the Danas, the El-Nekaves, the Chayos, the Browns, the Olchaneskis, the M anns, the Kouguells, the Israels, the Doueiks, the Lawis and Levys, the Cohens, the Abrahams, the Elias, the Mandils, the Srours, the Saades, the Hazans, the Matalons, the Saadiyas, the Safras and Totahs (some vague poor cousins?). The Tarrabs, the Hararis, the Telios, the Spigels, some Yedids, some Danas, have not budged.14*

F o r T osbath the com m unity has already becom e history - a history o f n am es which are slow ly escaping Lebanon’s m em ory. O f those w ho fled, not everyone w ent to Israel. And those w ho did, o fte n left when the tim e cam e for their children to go to the arm y.149 L eb an ese Jew ry preferred em igrating to Europe and to the United States w h ere they often settled am ong other Lebanese exp atriates - M uslim and C h ristian - to m aking Aliyah. W ith them they took a deep feeling o f regret a n d the m em ories o f a prosperous and uncom plicated life.

6 The Israeli Invasion and Beyond: Renaissance or Decline?

The Israeli invasion o f Lebanon in 1982 "discovered” the "lo st” com m u­ nity o f Lebanon’s Jew s and raised its profile w ithin Israel and w orld Jew ish organ izations. Few had know n about the existence o f a functioning and thriving com m unity in Lebanon; m ost had vaguely assum ed th at Jew s living in A rab countries had all left in and around 1948. M oreover, the lack o f persecution kept Lebanon’s Jew s w ell out o f w orld attention. In 1982 this situation changed as first Israeli soldiers and then Israeli and Am erican Jew ish journ alists cam e to talk to Lebanon’s "la s t” Jew s. For the sm all com m unity which like other Lebanese had been living in a w artorn country since 1975, the Israeli invasion cam e as a m ixed blessing. The benefits o f the Israeli presence were the newly opened avenues which brought w ith them relatives now living in Israel, increased m obility, friendships, a boost to Jew ish life, and an increase in basic security and living stan dards. The Israel Defence Forces w ere hailed as the liberator o f Lebanon - an end to w ar and a return to the status quo ante bellum. But as the invasion increasingly failed to achieve its aim s hopes fo r Lebanon and then hopes fo r Lebanon’s Jew s began to dw indle. When Israeli forces redeployed in 1984, they left behind shattered d ream s-M aro n ite , Jew ish , and Israeli. A bove all, how ever, the invasion o f 1982 m anaged to achieve w hat decades and even centuries o f Lebanese political struggles failed to do: it transform ed the apolitical Jew ish com m unity w ho had been friendly w ith everyone into a com batant - a com batant w ithout arm s.

O peration Peace fo r G alilee O n 6 Jun e 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. O peration Peace fo r G alilee’s official objective w as security. In the broader sense, this included peace

The Israeli Invasion and Beyond


w ith Lebanon as w ell as the Palestinian issue, which encom passed the future o f the Israeli O ccupied T erritories o f the W est Bank and G aza Strip, the Israeli-Syrian deterrence dialogue and Israel’s position in the M iddle E ast. A ccordingly, the g o als o f the w ar can be sum m arized as: firstly, the elim ination o f all Palestinian presence and influence from Lebanon; secondly, the creation o f a new political order in Lebanon by establishing a M aronite governm ent that w ould, in effect, be a protectorate o f Israel; thirdly, the expulsion o f Syrian troop s from Lebanon; fourthly, a peace treaty w ith Lebanon; fifthly, the destruction o f Palestinian nationalism in the W est Bank and G aza Strip and, finally, the freeing o f Israel from p ast national traum as such as the 1973 w ar.1 The Israeli aim s were the result o f Israel’s deepened com m itm ent to the Lebanese C hristians and the changed position vis-à-vis the Syrians. The Syrian role w as no longer perceived as convenient to Israeli security inter­ ests, and therefore the Syrian m ilitary presence needed to be rem oved. The notion em erged that once Israel acted in Lebanon, but on a w ider scale than South Lebanon, it could crush the Palestinians and neutralize the Syrians. It w ould then place Lebanon in the hands o f its M aronite allies and sign a peace treaty. In term s o f security, this w ould establish a m ore com prehensive security arrangem ent than the lim ited version in South Lebanon. In a w ay it w as like substituting a proxy-m ilitia w ith a proxygovernm ent so that a new order could be created. A blow to Syria could even set in process a dom estic disintegration o f that state as w ell.2 R egarding these broader aim s o f G eneral Ariel Sharon’s "gran d plan ” , it becom es d e a r that peace fo r G alilee in fact w as not the m ain objective o f the w ar. R ather, the m ain and indeed the join t M aronite-Israeli objective o f the w ar, supported by Lebanon’s Jew s, w as attaining a basic change in the politico-strategic situation in Lebanon, requiring the destruction or neutralization o f all m ilitary elem ents which m ight inhibit the election o f a Lebanese president w ho w as allied w ith Israel.3 It took six days for the Israeli arm y to reach Beirut in Jun e 1982, which w as then besieged for three m onths. The Shouf w as occupied for a year (until Septem ber 1983), and the w estern Beqaa and the south fo r three years (until Jun e 1985). The expansion o f the w ar from the initially approved 4 0 km incursion to the entering o f Beirut can be regarded as a m anifestation o f the change from decades o f clandestine aid to the M aronites to a full alliance w ith them . If dealing a m ajor blow to the PLO as a political force w as the raison d'être o f the entire operation, it w ould require the occupation o f the w estern p art o f Lebanon all the w ay to Beirut.4 The confrontation w ith the Syrians w as deliberately provoked as p art o f the im plem entation o f Sharon’s "gran d p lan ” . The ID F on Jun e 9 attacked Syrian tro op s and m aintained the attack for four day s.5 The rationale fo r the expansion o f the w ar on this level w as that a review o f


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond

Israel’s security statu s ordered by Sharon in 1981 had indicated th at Syria w ould probably attack Israel in late 1983 o r early 1984.6 T h us, the exp an ­ sion w as justified on preem ptive grounds. H ow ever, the expansion o f w ar aim s w as not as w ell thought-out a s it seem ed. The prem ises on which the wgrand p lan ” w as based, nam ely, the cooperation o f the M aronites and the capabilities o f m ilitary force, had been grossly overestim ated. When Sharon unleashed the w ar in 1 9 8 2 , his strategic calculation s proved correct. H ow ever, his erroneous interpreta­ tion o f the Lebanese situation w as to m ake a m ilitary victory a political disaster fo r both Israel and Lebanon.7 Indeed, the w ar m irrored faithfully both Sharon’s personality and his w orldview . It w as his belief th at Israel should use m ilitary pow er to change the face o f the M iddle E ast, extending its m argin o f security to offset any possible negative change in the balance o f pow er between Israel and its neighbours in the future.*

The last family in Saida In 1962 the Alliance school in Saida closed as the com m unity started to shrink, but it w as not until the shohet left in 1972 th at it becam e clear that the Jew ish presence in Saida dating back a thousand years o r m ore, w as com ing to an end. Life fo r the com m unity, o f which 3 ,5 0 0 Jew s who can still be found on today’s electoral roll, w as goo d . It w as safe, relations w ith other Lebanese w ere friendly, and as the com m unity w as sm all everyone knew everyone else. The religious and spiritual leader w as R abbi H abib, w ho also carried out the role o f shohet. The head o f the com m u­ nity had been Y osef Politi, w ho had been a successful textile m erchant, ow ning houses in Said a, Beirut and Bham doun as w ell as orchards and a sh op.9 W hen he im m igrated to Israel he w as succeeded by Y osef Levy. Said a’s fam ilies w ere very tradition al. Shops closed fo r Shabbat and holi­ days; kashrut w as observed. But when the civil w ar started, Beirut’s shochet left, and kosher m eat could only be obtained under difficult circum stances. Passover m atzot w ere another problem . They cam e from H olland via Beirut until the w ar. Since the fighting broke out, how ever, the rem aining Jew s in Saida had becom e increasingly isolated. In 1975 only one Jew ish fam ily w as left in Saida - the fam ily o f Y osef and Jam ila Levy, w ith their children M ichel, M alk a, Itzhak, G old a and Ju stin e, a grandm other and Y o se fs brother. Jam ila Levy had com e to Saida from Beirut, but her fam ily had originally been from D eir al-Q am r. Y o sef Levy’s fam ily w as originally from H asbaya but had m oved to Saida 150 years a g o .10 Y o sef Levy w orked as a tailor. H e m ade uniform s fo r the Lebanese arm y and consequently had good relations w ith the local and national adm in istration .11

The Israeli Invasion and Beyond


In 1975 when the civil w ar broke ou t Z ak i Levy w as finishing his seco n d ary education. H e had gone to the Frères M aristes school and had t o travel through the troubles to Beirut to the French Em bassy in order to ta k e his final exam s. "W hen I cam e back from Beirut the w hole city w as o n strike and shut dow n .” H e then left fo r France to study pharm acy. H e h a d been studying for tw o years when his father suddenly died; he had to retu rn an d, as the eldest, take charge o f the fam ily. In 1980 his uncle also d ie d and Z ak i had to w ork in the fam ily-ow ned orange groves on the ro ad a lo n g the A w ali river.12 H is sister M alk a soon m arried and she and her husband left fo r Brazil, w h ile the other fou r siblings continued their education. Y itzhak, at that tim e, w as enrolled in an advanced com puter course and his sister Justin e w a s in her first year o f a French and A rabic literature degree. Their y ou n ger siblin gs, M ichel and G olda were still attending the local C hristian h igh school. O n 5 Jun e 1982 the Israeli A irforce dropped leaflets over the city ask in g the population o f Saida to leave, but the Palestinians prevented everyone from leaving a s Z ak i Levy distinctly rem em bers. "F rom Friday u n til M on day we stayed in the hom e. O n W ednesday m ore leaflets were d ro p p ed because the ID F w as on the verge o f entering Said a. I took my m other and aunt and left for M arjaoun . O n the road I saw my first Israelis a t a roadblock. I w ent to a soldier and spoke to him in English and told him I w as Jew ish . A fter the ID F had entered Saida we returned to our h o u se .” 13 L ater, when Israeli troop s w ere claim ing the streets o f Saida one after th e other, they w ere taken by surprise by a lone w om an, shouting in broken H ebrew : “ D on’t sh oot - w e’re Jew ish .” The w om an w as Jam ila Levy. The soldiers w ere surprised to find her and her fam ily. The fam ily h ad decided not to leave as people had started looting hom es. The Israeli soldiers w ent through all the streets and started roundin g up all m ales between 18 and 5 0 , ordering them to assem ble at the sea shore. Z ak i Levy, w ho did not w ant to leave his fam ily, went to one o f the officers. The soldier ordered him to go to the sea shore alon g w ith the rest. So Z ak i told him that he w as Jew ish . The officer w as taken ab ack and asked fo r proof. So Z ak i Levy took the officer back to the fam ily hom e w ith the mezuzzot and other religious articles. The ID F let the Levy fam ily stay in their hom e, supplying them w ith fo od and w ater. W hen asked about his life in Lebanon as a Jew , eighteen year old M ichel Levy, gave the follow ing im pression: M y friends include Christians and M uslim s, Palestinians and Lebanese. After the Israeli invasion, all o f my friends were in shock. But none o f them w as ever politically minded. O r if they did talk politics, it never affected our


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond

relationship. I w as never looked on with suspicion. I w as never viewed as a Zionist agent. Everybody, o f course, knew that I w as Jew ish, but it never mattered to anybody.14

Z aki Levy recalls that relations w ith Lebanese neighbours w ere alw ays very goo d , and there w ere no political tensions until the P alestinians arrived in 1970. The Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976 ad d ed to the problem s. “ Everyone knew how badly Jew s were treated in S y ria.” 15 The Levys w ere the last fam ily o f the once thriving com m unity in Saida. When the others left because o f the civil w ar, the keys to the shuttered synagogue w ere put into their h an ds.16 The Levys lived in a sp acio u s second-floor flat on the edge o f the area in Saida referred to as the casbah , located on the seashore across the street from the custom s building and above a fish-m ongers and barbershop. In fact, the tw o sh ops w ere ow ned by Palestinians w ho were good friends o f the Levy’s. When Jerusalem Post journ alists visited the Levy fam ily on a Friday they found the house freshly cleaned for Shabbat. The tiled floors shone, the flowered chair and sofa covers were crisp and bright. Family portraits loom down from the high w alls. The salon has a beamed ceiling and a tiny balcony, which affords a view o f the Crusader port. Cracks in the w alls indicate the age o f the house, but the place is com fortable. The Levys have a large tv set and kerosene heaters. M ezzuzot are fixed to every doorpost. And the pride o f the salon is the large hanukkiah, which M rs. Levy says was made in Dam ascus many years ag o .17

The Levy’s reaction to the Israeli invasion is rem iniscent o f others am ong Lebanon’s Jew s. They were pleased to see Jew s and happy to receive kosher m eat from Israeli soldiers. Jam ila Levy also had relatives in Israel w ho had left Lebanon years earlier and had settled in H olon , a T el Aviv suburb, which h as a sizeable Lebanese com m unity. The Israeli presence enabled M ichel Levy to travel to Israel to visit his relatives. W hen asked w hether he w ould contem plate m aking Aliy ah, M ichel w as not so sure. H e did not believe that there w as m uch o f a future fo r him self an d his fam ily in Lebanon. But he still needed to finish his last year in sch ool before any decision could be m ade in any case. C haracteristic o f the early days o f the Israeli invasion o f Lebanon w as the hope the Levys and the com m unity as a w hole placed in the possibility o f an Israeli-L eban ese peace. The Jerusalem Post journ alists described the Saida synagogue as follow s: The electric lights on the peeling blue w alls are working, as are the old-fash­ ioned long-bladed fans in the domed ceilings. The place has been cleaned

The Israeli Invasion and Beyond


and brightened somewhat, and the IDF Chaplaincy Corps has left some prayer books, Shabbat candles and prayer shaw ls in the cabinet. M rs. Levy attended the Tisha B ’Av services, which the army held the previous week. She says she w as thrilled to see a mirryan here again, and reminisced about the happy times here when she w as a girl, especially the holidays like Simhat Torah, Hannukka and Pessach. . . . But even a non-observant Jew feels the sadness inherent in an abandoned synagogue o f a vanished community.1*

The synagogue is said to date back to the period o f the second tem ple. It is expan sive, its ceiling vaulted, and its floor is m ade o f w hite m arble im ported from Italy. The ceiling w as decorated w ith 12 large oil lam ps m ade o f silver, and a crystal chandelier. Four study h alls, tw o sanctuaries and a m agnificent w om en’s section were also p art o f the structure. Legend holds th at m any years ago one o f Said a’s governors planned to turn the synagogue into a m osque. When he w ent to the synagogue to discuss his project w ith the Jew s, a poison ous snake suddenly appeared and w rapped itself aroun d the neck o f the governor. O nly after the governor declared that he w as renouncing his plan , did the snake release him . A m ore recent story tells o f an A rab w ho sought shelter in the synagogue during O peration Peace fo r G alilee. H e broke in through one o f the w indow s. When he returned hom e at the end o f the fighting and proceeded to light a kerosene lam p w ith a m atch, his clothes caught fire. H e w as seriously burned and died. Form er leader o f the com m unity Y osef Politi w atched the ID F entry into Said a on television from his new hom e in Israel. O ne o f the pictures shown w as o f a T orah scroll bearing the nam e o f Y osef ben M enachem Politi - a scroll he had donated to the synagogue 30 years earlier. H e recalled that there w ere a total o f 18 scrolls in the Saida synagogue. "Seven scrolls I sent to Israel. Five scrolls were taken by Jew ish fam ilies to whom the scro lls belonged, tw o scrolls I sent to the synagogue o f the Saida com m unity in R io de Jan eiro . O ne silver-crow ned scroll w as sent w ith a m agnificent ark to the com m unity in Sao P aolo. T w o scrolls were sent to Brooklyn in the U SA. And the last, which rem ained in Said a, w as the Torah scroll found by the ID F so ld iers.” 19 The dispersion o f the scrolls parallels the em igration pattern o f the Saida Jew s. The rem oval o f the last scroll to Israel sign als the conclusion o f a long history. W ith the ID F w ithdraw al from Said a, the rem aining m em bers o f the Levy fam ily also left. R epresentatives o f the Israeli adm inistration had advised the fam ily to leave for fear that they w ould becom e victim s o f "terrorism ” . The Levys locked their house, shut w indow s and d o o rs, took a few personal belongings, photographs and m em entoes. They had told their neighbors that they w ere m oving to Brazil to join their co-religion­ ists there, but in fact they left their hom e for Israel, crossing at the R osh


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond

H anikra checkpoint. The younger children, Ju stin e, G olda and M ichel began their new life on the religious kibbutz o f Be’erot Y itzhak, betw een Lod and Petah T ikva. The eldest Yitzhak and his m other joined relatives on the outskirts o f T el Aviv.

R enaissance in B eirut The Israeli invasion becam e the backdrop fo r num erous very personal stories and encounters, which are recounted here to give an im pression o f Beirut Jew ry in 1982, the atm osphere o f renaissance, and a fleeting breath o f Jew ish life. These accounts encom pass all the n ostalgia o f Lebanese Jew ry today, w ithout the bitterness caused by the collapse o f Israel’s plans. The contacts that were reopened between fam ilies in Lebanon and their relatives in Israel, and the rediscoveries o f Israeli soldiers w ith Lebanese roots provide a glim pse o f the richness o f Lebanese Jew ish life. O ne such personal encounter with the p ast w as that o f R aphael Sutton, w ho w as the young m an w ho had fled H alab in 1947 on the day o f h is barm itzvah. H e had em igrated from Lebanon to Israel in 1948, convinced he w ould never return to the place which had provided him with a second bar mitzvah and refuge from Syrian persecution. In 1982, R afi Sutton returned to Lebanon as an ID F colonel. It had been 37 years since the b ar mitzvah when he once again entered the synagogue in Bham doun. T he tow n had been captured by the Israelis in Ju ly after intense Israeli-Syrian fighting alon g the Beirut-D am ascus highw ay. When Sutton first visited the synagogue as an adviser o f the ID F civil adm inistration in the area, the tow n w as humm ing w ith holidaym akers. A fter their departure, only 4 ,0 0 0 local residents rem ained - am ong them three Jew ish fam ilies. As he entered the synagogue vestibule, Col. Sutton immediately spotted the three plaques, which he remembered from the old days, paying tribute to those who had contributed to the building o f the synagogue in 1945. Three beautiful chandeliers were still hanging down from the vestibule ceiling. But as he entered the sanctuary itself, he noticed that the 12 crystal chandeliers, which were once there, were no more. The Ark w as wide open, with no scrolls in it. For a moment Sutton feared that the synagogue had been vandalized by Syrians or terrorists who had occupied the town before the Israeli army ousted them. He did, however, notice that the furniture w as in perfect condition, the mikvah w as in good order, prayer books were intact in their racks. The soldier even found the list allotting seats by names.20

The M uslim and C hristian residents o f Bham doun w ho had shared their sum m ers with the Jew s from Beirut fo r decades, had w atched closely over

The Israeli Invasion and Beyond


the building in their absence. T hus the building, fo r which no effort or m oney had been spared, despite the fact that there w as no perm anent Jew ish com m unity in Bham doun, did not fall victim to sectarian w arfare o r foreign arm ies. A nother story stum bled upon by journ alists w as that o f Susie A ssalan , w h o had used the open border to visit her brother in Jerusalem . In his hom e she told o f her life in Lebanon, as a Jew ess m arried to a G reek O rth od ox. O riginally horn A lexandria, Egypt, she had been studying at th e Am erican U niversity o f Beirut when she m et her husband, V ictor. They m ade their hom e in E ast Beirut, where everyone knew that she w as Jew ish an d her husband C h ristian, com m enting that m ixed m arriages were actu­ ally quite com m on in Beirut. H er husband w as a prosperous investm ent ban ker. A t the beginning o f the civil w ar their three children w ere 1 6 ,1 2 an d eight. She recalls the w ar as follow s: The last seven years have been a nightm are.. . . Only armed men dared be out on the street after dark, and even for them it w as dangerous. My elder son w as injured when a bomb w as tossed into the lobby o f a cinema at two in the afternoon. Thank God he wasn’t badly h u rt.. . . The PLO have prac­ tised terror for terror’s own sake. There is no military objective to be achieved by that kind o f thing. It got to the point that a trip to the super­ m arket had to be planned like a sortie into enemy territory.21

She had prayed fo r the Israeli invasion to happen. D avid Frank’s account o f the couple the Jew ish Times refers to as Ju les an d Jocelyn is sim ilar. Frank m et them during his m onth ID F reserve duty in Lebanon. Ju le s, a law yer and m em ber o f one o f Lebanon’s distinguished M aron ite fam ilies w as m arried to Jocelyn, a Lebanese Jew . They had m et w hen they w ere in their late tw enties, had fallen in love and decided to get m arried. “ There w as som e opposition to the interm arriage on both sides, b u t they resisted it. A t one point Ju les’ father asked him to confer w ith a p rie st.’’ H e w ent to see Boulous N eem an, head o f the M aronite church an d a friend o f the fam ily. N eem an told him : “ H ave no fear, my boy. W hen her forefathers could already read and w rite great literature, your an cestors and mine w ere still p agan s living in caves.” 22 A ccording to a Lebanese Jew ish businessm an w ith close contacts in W est Beirut, som e 4 0 Jew s lived through the Israeli siege o f the city. “ H e sa id that prior to the arrival o f the Israelis, som e 150 Jew s had been living in the w estern p art o f the city and about 100 in the east. W ith the outbreak o f the fighting, m ost o f those in the w est fled. The 4 0 w ho rem ained w ere m ostly elderly, he ad d ed .” 23 A different source estim ated that in Ju ly 1 9 8 2 , at the height o f the battle between Israeli forces and the PLO , there w ere an estim ated 300 Jew s in Beirut.24 N obody w as killed, but there w as con siderable dam age to Jew ish property.


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In w hat R obert Fisk described as one o f the cruellest ironies o f the w ar, Israeli shellfire raked across the Jew ish quarter o f W adi Abu Jam il. It destroyed the ro o f o f M agen A vraham , the very building which h ad been under K ata’ib protection as well as guarded by the PLO . When the Israeli bom bardm ent sw ept over the quarter, the 50 elderly Jew s w ho h ad not for one reason o r another left their hom es, were sent fleeing to other parts o f the city. Only 15 remain in the narrow streets, where militiamen o f the Shi‘a Antal movement patrol past rubble and garbage heaps. The pretty little synagogue o f white and yellow stone had already had its windows smashed by a car bomb, which exploded a quarter o f a mile away. But two Israeli shells apparently fired by a gunboat off the coast - punched two huge holes in the roof o f the building some days late r.. . . As is the custom in Sephardic syna­ gogues o f the M iddle East, the pulpit is in the centre o f the building surrounded by a rectangle o f chairs. At the back, the Torah Ark appears to be untouched although several glass shards hang from the ceiling.25

O ne o f the rem aining Jew s in W adi Abu Jam il during the Israeli invasion w as 70-year-old Y acob Eskenazi. H e w as joined in the battletom neigh­ borhood by M uslim and C hristian refugees. D uring the fighting m ost of the rem aining Jew s fled to the east to the Israeli occupied area o r the C hristian enclave around the p ort o f Jounieh. The open border to Israel created opportunities fo r Lebanese Jew s to visit relatives and the Jew ish state. Israel offered citizenship to them in Ju ly 1982, but none were reported to have responded to this overture.2* Leban on 's Jew s, despite the experience o f prolonged w ar, w ere h appy to visit but were ultim ately com m itted to their life in Lebanon. O ne account tells o f a group o f w ell-dressed m en, wom en and children w ho “ sa t on the terrace o f a coffee house in R osh H an ikra, Israel's border poin t with Lebanon, enjoying the view o f the co astal plain stretching all the w ay to the g u lf o f H a ifa ". The group, which seemed like typical tourists who visit the scenic border town, chatted in a mixture o f Arabic and French and occasionally in Hebrew. They were indeed tourists but hardly typical. They came from the north, from Lebanon. Speaking in Arabic and French marked them as Lebanese nationals. But their usage o f Hebrew indicated that they were members o f the small Jew ish community o f Lebanon, a minuscule, alm ost non-existent com m unity.. . They said they came to see Israel, visit relatives and then go back home. They said their life in Lebanon w as good, business w as good and they would do a lot o f thinking before they would decide to immigrate to Israel.27

A nother exam ple w as Elie K alache’s tw o teenage sons w ho were am ong

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th o se w ho took advantage o f the increased m obility and the open border t o Israel. K alache w as the director o f the social services fo r the K ata’ib for th e H azm iyeh area. H e had been to Israel earlier and now w anted to send h is son s to see the country and attend school. H e found them a place at H ad assim boarding sch ool, aw ay from the fighting in Lebanon.2* O ne evening in 1983, T oufic Y edid Levy received a phone call from a frien d telling him that he had som eone w ith him w ho w anted to see him . Levy w as surprised to com e face to face w ith his nephew w ho had left L eb an on at the age o f 16. When he returned he w as 4 0 .1 didn’t recognize him at first but I recognized his voice. He stayed only one hour. I wanted him to spend the night, but they wouldn’t let him. He came with the K ata’ib. The K ata’ib had met him in Tel Aviv. They said they would take him to Beirut. But they did not want trouble so he had to sleep at a K ata’ib member’s house in the East, while I lived in the West near the Italian Embassy. He came and we talked. I asked all about the family.29

A m on g the Lebanese Jew s w ho returned to Lebanon in the context o f O p eratio n Peace for G alilee, w as also Josep h Lichtm an, son o f C hief R ab b i Ben Z ion Lichtm an. H e w as w orking for Israeli m ilitary intelligence in 1982 and m et w ith representatives o f the M aronite G uardians o f the C e d a rs in Ju ly . D uring this m eeting Lichtm an asked to see Pierre G em ayel. T h e M aronite representatives “ looked at him as if he w as crazy” . H e rep eated his request: “ C all Pierre Gem ayel and tell him the son o f the ex­ ch ie f rabbi w ants to m eet w ith him .” They m ade the call and the next day, a Saturday, Lichtm an w as invited to B ikfaya. “ Y ou should have seen the lead ers takin g a step back and the body guard driving me to B ikfaya. Amin received me and we began to talk. We w aited fo r 15 m inutes and Pierre cam e. W hen I show ed him the photographs I had brought alon g, he c rie d .” 30 Shaul Fayena, w hose fam ily had left Lebanon only a few years earlier d u rin g the early years o f the civil w ar, and w hose father had been forced b y the K urds to retrieve the body o f Abu R affoul in 1975, had volunteered fo r the G olani brigade. In 1982 he, too , go t the opportunity to return to th e city o f his birth. The im ages o f w ar tom Beirut from which his fam ily h ad fled w ith Palestinian help, had not changed. In the central m ountains D ruze m ilitiam en controlled the area; K ata’ib soldiers were on the streets in Beirut. A rtillery battles took place between the tw o, the Israelis often cau gh t in the m iddle. Shaul all o f a sudden found him self in the position o f a m ediator. H is Beirut accent opened the w ay fo r him to talk to both sid es and the conflict w as regulated tem porarily. A t the end o f his tour in Leban on Shaul Fayena returned to the yeshiva he attended, taking w ith him the m em ories o f “ a beautiful and brutal land called Lebanon, a


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com m unity yearning fo r life in W adi Abu Jam il. A distant w orld, which the blood o f a civil w ar brought to its end” .31

A failed peace The extent to which dream s, hopes and expectations o f Lebanon’s Jew s w ere tied to uO peration Peace for G alilee” becom es clear w hen form er Beiruti Jew s w ho had left because o f the civil w ar, started returning in anticipation o f the restoration o f their ‘o ld ’ life. They believed th at there w as goin g to be a genuine peace between Israel and Lebanon an d the Jew ish com m unity w ould regain its form er vibrancy and glory.32 H opes for peace were plunged into darkness with the assassin ation o f Bashir Gem ayel on 15 Septem ber 1982, when the K ata’ib h eadquarters were bom bed. W ith him Israeli hopes fo r a peace treaty and Jew ish Lebanese hopes fo r peace and prosperity died. For the position o f Jew s in Lebanon as for Israeli-M aron ite relations, Bashir G em ayel's death w as a crucial turning point. N o other M aronite leader com bined the ability to govern Lebanon in these difficult circum stances w ith a p olitical orientation acceptable to Israel, let alone a pro-Israeli one.33 H is assassin ation left his supporters w ithout a leader; it left Israel w ithout the foundation fo r its plan s. Until today m any M aronites and Jew s, as w ell as som e Israelis, believe the fate o f Lebanon, the M aronite-Israeli allian ce, an d the Lebanese Jew ish com m unity w ould have been quite different had Bashir not died. Lebanon w ould have been a free place fo r all com m unities. It w ould have been a rough beginning, but the M uslim s and the Druze w ould have stayed behind B ashir through peace w ith Israel. B ashir’s plan to incorporate the Lebanese Forces into the Lebanese arm y and all other m ilitias w ould have resulted in a national arm y under his con trol.34 H is brother Amin w as elected to succeed him as president o f Lebanon. H e not only had a different vision fo r the country but also failed to inspire Israeli enthusiasm . Amin G em ayel’s aim w as to consolidate his pow er throughout all o f Lebanon, not ju st w ithin the C hristian com m unity. T o help him the ID F evacuated Beirut, Israeli soldiers being replaced w ith a m ulti-national peace-keeping force.35 In m any w ays Am in’s adm inistra­ tion w as a return to the tradition al pattern o f Lebanese p olitics, an allian ce between a M aronite president and the Sunni zu'am a’ o f Beirut. Am in did not w ant an alliance w ith Israel. H e had to accept Israel’s m assive pres­ ence in Lebanon and realized that it could also be used to counter-balance Syria and the rem aining PLO .36 A fter Bashir G em ayel’s death, Israel started to discover that B ashir Gem ayel did not fully represent the K ata’ib , th at the K ata’ib did n ot repre­ sent the w hole M aronite com m unity, that the M aronite com m unity did

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not speak fo r all Lebanese C h ristians, and that Lebanon’s C hristians were no longer assured o f their ascendancy.37 It soon becam e obvious that Amin Gem ayel w as m ore interested in keeping good relations w ith the A rab states than becom ing an ally o f Israel. Israelis w ere realizing that they w ere no longer dealing w ith the Lebanon as represented by the M aronites. They were becom ing painfully aw are that Lebanon w as based on a coalition o f com m unities. The new President Amin Gem ayel did not agree to a single w ord w ithout first having the approval o f the Sunni prim e m inister.38 D uring the negotiations for the 17 M ay 1983 Agreem ent, the president insisted on having M uslim backing fo r everything as he did not w ant it to be seen as yet another M aronite agreem ent w ith Israel. The Israeli negotiating team could only accept the dw indling results o f the talk s as dom estic pressure in Israel from the public outcry over the Sabra and Shatila m assacres, m ade it param ount that a treaty be produced to justify the w ar. The agreem ent fell short both o f Israel’s security and Leban on 's polit­ ical requirem ents. The treaty term inated the w ar w ithout installing peace. A t the sam e tim e, the Lebanese w ere threatened by Syria w ith the renew al o f civil strife if the treaty w ere ratified.39 Seen from D am ascus, Israel had got from the Lebanon w ar w hat it w anted - a political deal w ith the Beirut governm ent, an enfeebled PLO and a broad band o f Lebanese territory on its northern border under its direct control.40 It w as this conclusion that led Syria to pressure the Lebanese not to ratify the agreem ent, in order to prevent the grow th o f Israeli influence. O n 5 M arch 1984, follow ing talk s between A sad and G em ayel, the Lebanese C abinet decided to abro­ gate the 17 M ay Agreem ent, leaving Israel w ithout any political gain s.

T h e W ar C ontinues, 1 9 8 5 -1 9 8 9 The Jew s w ho had hoped that Israel’s presence in Lebanon w ould lead to a revival o f the com m unity were disappointed. W adi Abu Jam il once again , in 1984, becam e caught in the cross-fire due to its greenline loca­ tion. T his renewed round o f fighting w as between the arm y o f president Amin Gem ayel and H izb’allah , which had em erged in response to the Israeli invasion. A fter the fighting, in 1985, cam e the kidnappings which paralysed the com m unity. And in the sum m er o f 1985 Israel decided to w ithdraw its troop s from Lebanon. The failure o f “ O peration Peace for G alilee” had d isastrou s conse­ quences fo r the Jew s and the M aronites in Lebanon. The M aronites lost their preferential political standing which had, by extension, protected the Jew s and the Jew s, as a result, lost their neutrality and security. Syria alone rem ained the arbitrator o f their future, and the equilibrium am ong the


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various com m unities com prising Lebanon had been upset in their disfavour. The M aronite com m unity had split into the Lebanese Forces still loyal to Bashir G em ayel’s ideas and now under the leadership o f Sam ir G eagea and Elie H obeika, and the K ata’ib led by Amin G em ayel and K arim Pakradouni, advocating a pro-Syrian orientation. The Jew s, a s far as they were p olitical, sided ideologically w ith the first but continued to m aintain relations w ith all M aronite politicians. A bove all, how ever, they kept a low profile. A ttem pts at bringing the civil w ar to an end were em bodied in the 1985 T ripartite M ilitia Agreem ent. The tim e seem ed ripe as m ost Lebanese actors w ere w ar w eary and w eakened. Palestinians, D ruze and Shi‘a forces had reached a stalem ate situation , w hile the Lebanese Forces w ere w eak­ ened by internal strife. H obeika had m anaged to topple G eagea and opened the path for possible Syrian arbitration . T h us, in Septem ber 1985, the leaders o f the three m ost pow erful m ilitias - D ruze w arlord W alid Ju m b latt, Am al leader N abih B ern, and Elie H obeika representing the Lebanese Forces - m et in D am ascus to negotiate a com prehensive settle­ m ent for Lebanon.41 The envisioned settlem ent rejected all form s of partition , federalism , confederalism , and cantonization, but did not attem pt to reform the confessional system . The pow ers o f the president w ould be curtailed w hile those o f the prim e m inister w ould be increased. C hristian-M uslim confessional parity w as to be instituted in parliam ent and the civil service. But the agreem ent w ent further, revealing th at Syria, in fact, w as not an independent arbiter but hegem on. The agreem ent stated that “ Leban on 's A rabism found its true expression in its distinctive relationship w ith Sy ria.” H istory and geography were central to these relations. These relations had to be tran slated in each o f the countries into legal fram ew orks above the w him s o f any political faction. Syria w ould define Lebanese foreign and dom estic policy, and Lebanon w ould effec­ tively consent to Syrian m ilitary deploym ent on its territory.42 The d raft o f the agreem ent provoked m assive outcry, which H obeika unsuccessfully tried to suppress. M any M aronites and Jew s felt that if Lebanon w as going to lose its independence to Syria, then the last ten years o f fighting had been in vain. For Lebanon’s Jew s Syrian hegem ony w as the w orst option available. H obeika continued to push fo r the agreem ent, w hile fighting ensued w ithin the Lebanese Forces. H obeika w as then forced to resign and the change o f com m and invalidated the M ilitia Agreem ent.43 The agreem ent had been "S y ria’s second attem pt to im pose a settlem ent o f the conflict in Lebanon by treaty. The first agreem ent, the D am ascus Agreem ent o f 1976, foundered on the opposition o f the Lebanese Left and the PLO , the second on that o f the C h ristian s.” 44 In 1986 fighting in the Palestinian cam ps around Beirut broke out. Lebanese politicians, such as N abih Berri, w ho w as intent on not letting

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the "sta te within a state” reem erge, accused all Palestinians o f "w antin g Lebanon back and not Palestine” . The w ar o f the cam ps turned into a w ar o f Antal again st the Palestinians, follow ed in 1987 by Antal's w ar again st the D ruze, Sunnis and the Left. L ater on that year another enemy w as added to AmaTs w ars: H izb’allah. The Lebanese civil w ar between 1986 and 1988 w as characterized by fighting w ithin the respective cam ps.

Hostage-taking Between 1984 and 1987, 11 leading m em bers o f the Jew ish com m unity w ere kidnapped by the O rganization o f the O ppressed o f the Earth which claim ed links w ith H izb’allah. Only four bodies have been recovered to date. The Lebanese governm ent, lacking central authority in the on-going civil w ar, w as im potent. The kidnappings o f Lebanese Jew s were subsum ed w ithin the kidnappings o f Lebanese M aronites, Shi‘a , Sunnis and foreigners, becom ing ju st another statistic w ithin the context o f sectarian w arfare, ethnic cleansing, intra-com m unal strife for leadership, and a country unable to extricate itself from the sp iral o f violence, which had taken on a life o f its ow n. The O rganization o f the O ppressed o f the Earth in all cases dem anded th at Israel cease its operations in South Lebanon, w ithdraw from the secu­ rity zone, and release all prisoners from K hiam prison. They stated that if their dem ands were not m et other Israeli spies w ould be executed.45 O n a different occasion they claim ed that they had killed all the prisoners, but m ade the release o f their bodies conditional on a total Israeli w ithdraw al from South Lebanon and the release o f all Lebanese and A rab prisoners from Israeli jails. The three bodies that were found, all bearing the evidence o f torture, left little hope fo r any o f the eleven victim s still being alive. The first victim o f the spate o f kidnappings by the O rganization o f the O ppressed o f the Earth w as R aoul M izrahi. H e w as the owner o f a sm all electrical tool shop and w as abducted from his hom e on 10 Ju ly 1984. H e w as in his early 50s and lived in the W est Beirut district o f Sanayeh. H e died on 25 Ju ly 1984. When his body w as found on a deserted beach near Beirut’s airp ort, the incident did not receive m uch attention in the local press. H is disappearance w as follow ed shortly after by that o f Selim M ourad Jam o u s, the then secretary o f the Jew ish com m unity. H e w as kidnapped on 15 A ugust 1984 and nothing h as been heard o f him since. In 1985 H aim H allala Cohen, a departm ent store accountant, fell victim to the Islam ists. H e w as kidnapped on 29 M arch 1985 and killed on 26 D ecem ber o f the sam e year. H e w as only 39 years old. H is body


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w as found 48 hours later in the center o f old Beirut near the C appuchine Church Saint-Louis near the entrance to W adi Abu Jam il. H e left behind his w ife Sheila and three young children.46 A t a m em orial service held fo r him in L os A ngeles, his sister-in-law D r R osem ary Cohen noted the tragic irony that her “ brother-in-law w as given the opportunity to go to Israel. But he did not w ant to go so a s not to face the possibility o f killing h is A rab friends. H e chose to stay in Leban on .” 47 O nly a day later 52-year-old D r Elie H allac w as kidnapped on 30 M arch 1985. H e had been the vice president o f the com m unity, an d a prom inent Beirut paediatrician. H allac w as know n as the doctor o f the p oor because he treated patients w ithout distinction to background,48 an d he provided free consultancy fo r non-Jew ish children. T oufic Y edid Levy rem em bers H allac’s kidnapping vividly. At eight o ’clock that night someone came that I knew. He tapped at the door, gave his name, and I recognised his voice. It w as Dr H allac’s chauf­ feur. He said to me: ‘They have taken Dr H allac - Hizb’allah or Am al. They’ve taken H allac and I’m searching for him.’ I said: ‘Where are you going to search for him? Leave this until tomorrow morning. Who is going to leave their home now?’ There w as fear all over Lebanon. I w as afraid. He agreed to leave it. I was awake all night. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t let m yself sleep. I got up the next morning at seven o ’clock. I went down to his house. I had to see what he wanted me to do, because I w as the secretary (of the community). He said to me: ‘At nine we are going to Nabih Bern.’ H e w as the head o f Amal in our sector. So we went to ask him to help us. We didn’t know this w as only the beginning o f the kidnappings. He w as their doctor. He gave them treatment for free---- We were told to go away and not com e back for a while. I went to the house o f the wife o f the community secre­ tary who had been kidnapped earlier. As soon as the poor thing saw me she went white. ‘What are you doing? Your name is at the top o f the list.’ . . . I went to my cousin’s and called the community president. He w asn’t there . . . I waited an hour, I was trembling, I was afraid. I kept on asking myself: ‘I’m at the head o f the list - am I indispensable?’ I phoned Jo e (the commu­ nity president) - he told me three had been kidnapped.49

D r H allac’s w ife R achel proclaim ed the innocence o f her husband an d in a desperate appeal dem anded that the kidnappers produce p ro o f o f h er husband’s crim e. “ M y husband stayed in Beirut to tend to the ill a t 'A y n al-M reisseh . . . where the m ajority are M uslim .” 50 There were som e in itial reports that D r H allac w as being held together w ith Isaac Sasson . T h ese were follow ed by claim s that he w as w orking as a doctor am ong h is cap to rs.51 H ostage M ichel Seurat as w ell as the journ alist Jean -P au l K aufm an claim ed to have encountered him during their detention.52 H e died on 18 February 1986, but the com m unity h as not been able to recover his body. H is w ife and children m oved to France soon afterw ards.

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Elie Y oussef Srour w as kidnapped on the sam e day, on 30 M arch 1985. H e w as a 68-year-old m erchant and had also been in charge o f preparing the dead fo r burial according to Jew ish law . H e died on 30 Decem ber 1986. H is body, too , h as not been returned. Sixty-five-year old Isaac Sasson disappeared the follow ing day on 31 M arch, raisin g the num ber o f h ostages to four in three days. H e w as the com m unity president and the director o f the pharm aceutical com pany F attal. H e had been kidnapped w hile travelling to the city from Beirut International A irport. H e w as returning from a business trip to the United A rab Em irates on behalf o f Fattal 6c Fils. W hen the news o f the kidnap­ ping o f three other Jew s earlier in the weekend spread, friends w arned Sasson not to travel to W est Beirut. The com pany sent a car w ith police guards to take him to E ast Beirut. But eyew itnesses reported that when arm ed men stopped the car, the guards offered little resistance.53 H e died on 19 Jun e 1987. The location o f his body rem ains unknow n. A m onth later Isaac T arrab , an internationally recognized retired m athem atics professor aged 70 w as kidnapped. H e w as taken on 18 April 1985 and killed on 1 Jan u ary 1986. H is body w as returned to the com m u­ nity. Yehuda Beniste w as kidnapped on 15 February 1986. H e w as 70 and a form er m anager at the Safra Bank. The O rganization o f the O ppressed o f the Earth confirm ed on 12 Jan uary 1987 that Yehuda Beniste “ a M ossad agent” had been executed fo r “ the aggression o f the Z ionist entity again st our oppressed people in Jeb al A m al, Said a, the w estern B eqaa, the G olan and Palestine” . They did not intend to release his body o r those o f the others in order to set an exam ple. H is son Ibrahim had been taken w ith him and killed the sam e day. Their execution coincided w ith a large Israeli operation in South Lebanon aim ed at finding tw o soldiers w ho had been taken hostage by the Islam ic resistance.54 H is body w as returned. The tragedy fo r the Beniste fam ily w as further com pounded when Y ehuda’s other son Y oussef, a m erchant, w as also kidnapped on 18 A ugust 1985. H e w as 33 when he died on 30 Decem ber 1986. The location o f his body rem ains unknow n. H enri M ann w as the eleventh victim . H e w as 4 0 . The date o f his kidnapping is not know n. H e died on 30 D ecem ber 1986 and his body h as not been recovered. N one o f those kidnapped had been involved in Lebanese politics o r in the A rab-Israeli conflict. They had stayed because o f their com m itm ent to Lebanon - as Lebanese. Y et there is no doubt that they w ere seen as Z ion ist agents by their kidnappers. T his becom es quite clear when years later in 1993 Israeli Prime M inister Y itzhak R abin told representatives o f the fam ilies o f terror victim s that when he served as defence m inister in the unity governm ent eight years earlier, he had received a m essage from


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a Shi‘a organization threatening to kill three prom inent m em bers o f th e Lebanese Jew ish com m unity if the ID F did not w ithdraw from the secu ­ rity zone. R abin had not given in to the ultim atum , and die three w ere killed.55 The Jew ish com m unity repeatedly approached the Lebanese govern­ m ent, the em bassies o f the United States, G reat Britain and France, a s w ell as the United N ation s in an effort to obtain inform ation ab o u t the unre­ covered bodies. Little hope rem ained that the victim s were still alive. U nfortunately for Lebanon’s Jew s, they w ere not high on an yone's list when it cam e to discussion s on prisoner release and hostage n egotiations. So all the Jew ish com m unity council could d o w as to condem n d ie a ssa s­ sinations and equally the silence o f the M uslim religious authorities in the face o f such “ falsification o f Islam ic precepts” .5* A ppeals continued to be m ade to the Pope, the United N ation s, the Islam ic Conference, the L eague fo r H um an R ights, and the International Red C ross. T hose M uslim Lebanese politicians w ho did try were also unable to m ake an im pact. Shi‘a Am al leader N abih Bern condem ned the k id n ap ­ pings. O n 4 A pril 1986 he declared that the kidnappings “ falsify the im age o f Beirut which is built on co -existen ce.. . w hoever kidn aps a Jew ju st because he is Jew ish only helps Zionism and h as nothing to d o w ith p atri­ otism o r the struggle” . D ruze w arlord W alid Jum blatt repeatedly called fo r the hostage question to be disassociated from the political problem s57 - but also to no avail. In 1989 the m urder o f U S soldier W illiam H iggin s, brought the situation o f the kidnapped Jew s back into the intern ation al arena. In 1991 a Sw iss Jew ish organization dem anded th at the Jew ish h ostages should be included in the list o f hostages discussed in the b road er fram ew ork o f M iddle E ast hostage negotiations.58 In D ecem ber o f th at year the Conseil Communale again called fo r the release o f the rem aining seven Jew s. In a statem ent they stressed that it w as im portant to deter­ mine the fate o f the h ostages while progress w as being m ade o f the issu e o f W estern h ostages. “ We call again on the captors, on states, an d o rg an ­ izations w ho can influence them , on Lebanese officials and in tern ation al organ izations, to reopen this case and to w ork to return ou r cap tiv es.” 59 In 1993, U N D eputy President for Political A ffairs, Bennon Sab an , sen t a letter to the International Com m ission fo r Jew ish C om m unities in D istress, stating that the U N efforts to obtain any reliable in form ation about the h ostages had failed.*0 Until today, no m ovem ent on th is issu e has been m ade.

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T h e End o f the C ivil W ar T h e end o f the civil w ar finally cam e in 1990. W ith it tw o separate but interconnected peace processes began, the first being internal national reconciliation and the second being the external, regional M iddle E ast p eace process. Both processes w ere w elcom ed by Lebanon’s rem aining Je w s as they ultim ately were seen a s leading to a decline in inter­ com m unal and regional tensions. The optim istic scenario could even lead to a n orm alisation o f relations between Lebanon and Israel, bringing w ith it the possibility fo r the Beirut Jew ish com m unity not only to live in peace an d security but also to flourish and grow . The m ost obvious political ch an ge th at cam e about w ith the end o f the civil w ar w as in the reduction o f the pow ers o f the M aronite president vis-à-vis the Sunni prim e m inister, th e cabinet and the parliam ent. Im portant for both peace processes w as the 1989 T a 'if A ccord w hich, u pon ratification in 1990, proclaim ed Lebanon’s second republic. The acco rd s contained tw o key elem ents, the first dealing w ith the specific con stitution al arrangem ents in Lebanon, and the second addressing SyroL eban ese re la tio n s/1 The T a ’if Agreem ent did not significantly alter the pow er-sharing arrangem ent o f the 1943 N ation al Pact in the sense that con fession alism is still the b asis fo r coexistence in Lebanon, despite the claim that ultim ately confessionalism w ill be abolished. If the end to con fession alism m eans a sim ple m ajoritarian dem ocracy, such a m ove w ou ld be d isastrou s fo r Lebanon’s rem aining Jew s a s w ell as C hristians w ho w ould all becom e a religious m inority in a M uslim state.

The reconstruction o f nation and community T h e reconstruction o f Beirut h as in recent years increasingly becom e synonym ous w ith national reconciliation o r arguably even replaced it. T h e continued Syrian presence, unofficially sanctioned by the interna­ tio n al com m unity w ith the 1991 G u lf W ar and officially sanctioned with the Syro-Lebanese T reaty o f Friendship and Brotherhood, has m ade genuine reconciliation an im probability. A s long as those w ho fled the country during the civil w ar are unable to return fo r political o r econom ic reason s, any reconciliatory process w ill rem ain incom plete. In the absence o f such reconciliation, politicians and the business com m unity have becom e tran sfixed on the reconstruction o f the city, sym bolizing at least an architectural healing o f w ounds. Jew ish money h as not been insignificant in the reconstruction project and h as provided the disunified Lebanese polity w ith am m unition to


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond

continue its tradition al pow er gam es. In the sum m er o f 1995 a debate w as sparked when D eputy N ajah W akim claim ed that Israel held a num ber o f shares in Solidère. T his debate found its w ay into the m edia w here, fo r exam ple in an-N ahar,62 a lengthy article w as published in defence o f Lebanese Jew ry, explaining that Jew ish shareholders o f Solidère h ad received their shares in return for property in W adi Abu Jam il w hich w ould be dem olished as p art o f the reconstruction o f Beirut. Lebanese Jew s holding shares were not the sam e a s Israel holding sh ares. The Jew s w ere loyal citizens and were innocent o f the charge im plied by N ajah W akim . W hile the state w as on a clear path o f reconstruction the individual Lebanese m inority com m unities also em barked upon a path to recovery. The M aronite com m unity, the Jew ish com m unity, and the Palestinian refugee com m unity, w ere, in m any w ays the w orst afflicted. The m ain problem for the M aronites, as the real losers o f the w ar, w as o f a polit­ ical nature evolving around their future w ithin the state. The Palestinians were faced w ith further dislocation , a state which did not w ant them , neighbours w ho blam ed them for the w ar, and the end o f w ork perm its and benefits. It w as clear Lebanon w as intent on trying to recover from its 15-year-long traum a, and it w as going to do so w ithout the Palestinians. The Lebanese Jew s were even w orse afflicted. They w ere dispersed and had num erically shrunk to under 100. M ost o f those w ho rem ained were old - they were literally dying as a com m unity. In 1991 only a brother and a sister were still living in W adi Abu Jam il. The quarter instead had becom e hom e to Shi‘a refugees and K urds. T he rest o f the Jew ish com m unity had all found safety in E ast Beirut and the m ountains. Being dispersed, the com m unity has alm ost ceased to func­ tion. It h as been difficult to get a minyan fo r high h olidays, never m ind Shabbat. There w as no functioning synagogue. In 1992 Lebanon staged its first parliam entary elections since the end o f the w ar. The electoral roll revealed that there were still 6 ,3 2 6 Jew s registered to vote. At the polling station at the Anglican School in Q antari 4 0 0 Jew ish voters w ere registered. But the electoral officer at the tim e said that none o f them had voted nor w as he expecting them to .63 The oldest voter on the list w as bom in 1881 and the youngest in 1971. In 1993 it w as reported that 50 T orah scrolls which had served the Jew ish com m unity in Beirut were being brought to Israel via a third country. G uardianship over these T orah scrolls w as accepted by C hief R abbi Eliahu Bakshi-D oron, w ho prom ised to grant the first T orah scroll to the synagogue o f K ibbutz Ein G ev.64 In 1994 five Sifrei Torah w ere sm uggled out o f Syria and deposited for safekeeping in Beirut. T hese, to o , w ere eventually destined for transfer to Israel. The Syrian Jew s w ere in the process o f leaving as Syrian president H afez al-A sad, as a concession

The Israeli Invasion and Beyond


within the fram ew ork o f the M iddle E ast process, had decided to lift the travel and em igration ban fo r Syrian Jew s. A D utch journ alist that year conveyed a sad picture o f the rem nants o f the once vibrant Lebanese com m unity: "T h e Jew ish cem etery, in W est Beirut on w hat w as until now the Green Line, is rather abandoned and in the last three years there were only tw o funerals, attended by no m ore than six people. The situation o f the large sy n ago gu e. . . is no better.” 65 A s the political situation in the country stabilized and the reconstruc­ tion o f the city go t underw ay, the state o f the cem etery and the synagogue were also im proved. M ines w ere rem oved from between the graves, barrels and sand bags which had served as protective barriers fo r the fighting m ilitias were dism antled, and alm ost fifteen years w orth o f over­ grow th and w eeds w ere cleared in stages. We had to go to the army and they sent twenty soldiers to clear it o f bombs that had been put there during the w ar by the Christians and M uslim s. One side o f the cemetery w as M uslim, the other Christian. So each laid mines and we could not enter the cemetery until it had been secured. For six months the army disarmed the m ines.. . . We could not even bury our dead there during some periods o f the war. Neither the army, nor the Christians or M uslims would let us pass. We had to take our dead to S a id a .. . . When the Israelis were here, the army rabbi said the prayers and performed the necessary rituals for the funeral.66

In 1996 the Conseil Communale had the graves sufficiently cleared to order a survey. The grand synagogue o f M agen Avraham also had years o f rubble rem oved in 1995/6, from p arts o f the collapsed ro o f and from debris squatters had left on the floor. G raffiti on the w alls w as rem oved. The next step fo r the com m unity in the preservation o f the synagogue w as to fight for the building to be officially recognized as a historic landm ark. W hile the m ajority o f the houses in W adi Abu Jam il w ere uninhabitable and earm arked fo r dem olition, the synagogue had becom e the sym bol for the survival o f the com m unity - even if only as a historic m onum ent, a fleeting m em ory o f Lebanon’s Jew ish and indeed m ulti-com m unal past. Com m unity life has virtually disappeared. T oufic Yedid Levy, w ho in his eighties spent m ost o f his life in Beirut and took on the role o f the exec­ utive secretary o f the Conseil Communale, lam ented the state o f the com m unity: We do not even have a synagogue. All o f them have been destroyed. And although many Jew s live in this part (East Beirut), nobody goes there (West Beirut). All has been occupied by M uslim s. So we have meetings in the house o f M r Joseph (the community president). For Rosh H ashana and for Pessach. The big families make their own arrangements, we say our prayers at home. Everyone lives so far from the others. One is in Broumana, another in Bikfaya, others in Jounieh. How can they come for prayer? So to get a


The Israeli Invasion and Beyond

mitryan is difficult___ I cannot even get a mitryan at the cemetery. I go on my own and say lots o f little prayers. What can I do? I cannot arrange for people to com e.*7

T hose Jew s w ho have rem ained still exhibit their deep attachm ent to the com m unity and have no plans to leave. “ The w ay o f life th at w e have here cannot be found anyw here in the w o rld .. . . A ge is also a factor fo r m any. The easy life» habit, fear o f the unknown - all convince them to sta y .” 68 W hile the rem aining com m unity is generally an old one, the average age being 6 5 , there is a sm all num ber o f younger people. Som e are studying at the university, som e are in still in high school - none are planning on leaving. Indeed, not all is death and decay, in 1988 a baby boy w as bom into the com m unity and the Syrian authorities perm itted the D am ascus rabbi to travel to Beirut to perform the brith m ila. In 1994 one o f the youngsters celebrated his bar mitzvah.

7 Conjectures, Considerations, £«