Some 100 Jews Remain in Beirut, Afraid to Identify Themselves

About 100 Jews remain in Beirut, living in an oppressive atmosphere in which they are often afraid of identifying themselves as Jews, according to a report published in the Dutch daily Trouw by a correspondent who recently visited Lebanon.

As recently as 1975, some 1,000 Jews lived in the city. In the mid-1950s, about 7,000 Jews lived there, according to the report.

The large-scale exodus took place starting in 1985, when 11 prominent Jews were kidnapped by the Shi’ite Hezbollah militia. Four of the kidnapped Jews are known to have been killed. Nothing has ever been heard of the other seven, who are presumed to be dead as well.

The Jewish cemetery lying in the border area between West and East Beirut is sorely neglected. During the past two or three years, only two people have been buried there in ceremonies attended by only about six persons, the Trouw article said.

The great synagogue in West Beirut is likewise in shambles. In the Wadi Abu Jamil quarter, where once many wealthy Jews lived, only two Jews remain — a brother and sister who are both married to non-Jews.

The former houses of Jews, who were often forcibly evicted, are now often occupied by Shi’ite families from southern Lebanon.

Jews now living in East Beirut are often afraid of identifying themselves as such. One Jew told the Trouw reporter that the position of Jews in Syria is in some respects better than in Lebanon since they can identify themselves as Jews.

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