The Jews of Libya

This Google Map is the fourth in a series showing the former and, in some cases, current Jewish communities across the Maghreb, from Morocco, through Algeria and Tunisia to Libya.

It shows the former Jewish communities in Libya. It is thought that no Jews remain in the country today. However, there were once as many as 44 synagogues in the capital Tripoli alone. This city had a thriving Jewish community (approximately 20% to 25% of the city’s population), concentrated in the old town Hara district – this is the neighbourhood in which the still standing but sadly derelict Dar Bishi or Dar al-Bishi synagogue is marked on the map. However, a good deal of Jewish heritage in Libya has been purposely erased, much in the recent past. The Jewish cemetery in Tripoli was deliberately destroyed to make way for development – the Corinthia Hotel, opened in 2003, now stands on its site. The Bu-Shaif (or Slat Abn Shaif) synagogue in Zliten was also destroyed at about the same time to make way for an apartment block.

Most Jews in Libya resided in towns along the Mediterranean seaboard, the majority in Tripoli. Blue pins on the Google Map are settlements in the historic region of Tripolitania in the west of the country, while green pins mark those Jewish communities in the region of Cyrenaica in the east.

The red pins show Jewish places of settlement in the Jabul Nafusa (the Nafusa Mountains). These are the Berber highlands where, as in Morocco and Algeria, Jews lived alongside the indigenous Berbers and spoke their language (Amazigh). Although as many as possible have been abstracted from sources, it is certain that there were additional, smaller Jewish communities in Nafusa which are not shown on this map, particularly around Yefren (Yafran). In Yefren itself, and to its NE between the hamlets of Qaryat al Maanin and Al Qusayr, are two of the seven Ghriba synagogues of the Maghreb. The word Ghriba means “strange and wondrous” in Arabic, and the Ghriba synagogues are places of pilgrimage to Maghrebi Jews. The most famous is, of course, the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia. All seven of the Ghriba synagogues are marked on bluebirdmaps’ Maghrebi Jewish Google Maps for Algeria  (see pins for Annaba and Biskra),  Tunisia (see pins for Ariana, El Kef and Hara Sghira) and Libya (pins for Qaryat al Maanin and Yefren).




Gli ebrei della Libia   יהודי לוב