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

The Jews of Tunisia

This Google Map is the third in a series covering Jewish communities in the Maghreb. It maps the places in Tunisia in which there were, and in some cases still are, Jewish communities.

As with the companion maps showing Jewish settlement in Morocco and Algeria, this map does not claim to be complete and comprehensive. However, it is believed to show the location of all the major Jewish communities in Tunisia in the C19th and C20th. Of these, very few now remain, other than the two communities on Djerba and those in the capital Tunis and a few towns such as Zarzis.

As with the companion maps for Algeria and Morocco, the places are listed A-Z using the Latin alphabet. In many cases, there will be variant spellings, due to transliteration from the Arabic language original, so if you do not find a place of interest by searching, try scrolling down the A-Z list. In some instances, there are alternative and now defunct place names dating to the French colonial era (shown in brackets). Where there is a surviving synagogue, it is marked with a star of David. Where there is a Jewish  cemetery, the pin for the community is placed upon the cemetery (with text to this effect). If the location of synagogue or cemetery is not known, the pin for a community is simply dropped randomly in the town or village.

In the case of the capital Tunis, a number of municipalities which are part of the conurbation are shown under their own names – for example, Ariana, La Goulette and La Marsa. The main Jewish neighbourhood in the old town of Tunis is Hara (or El Hara), now usually known as El Hafsia; its synagogue is marked on the map.



Les Juifs de Tunisie   יהודי תוניסיה

The Jews of Algeria

This Google Map shows the principal former Jewish settlements of Algeria. As may be expected, these are concentrated along the Mediterranean coastline and its hinterland but there were significant communities in fertile oases and trading posts in the Sahara.

Of particular interest is the former Jewish population of the so-called pentapolis of the M’zab valley, comprising the ksar (walled town) of Ghardaïa and its four neighbours. The Mzabite (or Mozabite) Jews of Ghardaïa numbered approximately 6,000 at the time of Algerian independence in 1962 but they and their descendants now live in diaspora in France (Paris, Strasbourg) and of course Israel. However, their synagogue survives in the old Jewish quarter of Ghardaïa.

There are presently no functioning synagogues in Algeria. Many were converted into mosques and a few of these are indicated on the map with stars of David despite their current status. Other synagogues are either disused and derelict (as in the case of Ghardaïa) or have been put to temporal purpose.

There are many surviving Jewish cemeteries in Algeria. Where these were identifiable on maps, in the absence of a synagogue building, the pin for the former Jewish community has been placed upon the cemetery.

The map is not necessarily fully comprehensive but is believed to show all the main Jewish communities across the country.



Les Juifs d’Algérie | יהודי אלג’יריה

The Jews of Morocco

This Google Map shows the once very widespread settlement of Jews in Morocco. Stars of David on the map show synagogues; regular pins show Jewish cemeteries, pilgrimage sites (hiloulot) and former communities from the C19th and up to the exodus during the third quarter of the C20th (which peaked in 1948, 1956 and 1967).

The map shows the main centres of population but does not claim to be complete – there were many more small Jewish communities, especially in the Berber villages in the mountains.

The Jewish population of Morocco was made up of three main components. There were the Toshavim, or indigenous Maghrebi Jews – those who were already present in the country before the arrival of the Gorashim, being the Sephardim who were expelled from Spain in 1492. Finally, the Ashkenazim arrived later and settled in the bigger cities and ports. The Jewry of Morocco was therefore characterised by significant internal cultural differences and traditions, with (for instance) some Sephardic Jews regarding the religious practices of the autochthonous Berber Jews as unorthodox and irregular (containing, as they did, folk and syncretic elements).

In the urban environment, the Jewish quarter of a town was known as the mellah: typically, gated and contained within its own walls, and characterised by very narrow pedestrian alleyways. Sometimes, by extension, the word mellah was used figuratively for the Jewish community of a particular place. Note that the words kasbah and medina have no specifically Jewish connotation; both refer merely to the old quarter of a town, with the former term traditionally implying fortification.

In the rural environment – in the interior and the Berber villages – there was not a mellah per se, but Jews tended to live in separate and discrete quarters of settlements adajacent but apart. In this context, the word ksar signifies a fortified walled village.

Many place names in the interior of Morocco are not distinct and unique, and can be transliterated into the Latin alphabet in different ways. However, it is believed that, where two or more candidates exist for a particular place, the correct one has been plotted on the map (any errors identified may be reported using the Contact form and will be rectified). Some place names are tribal or patronymic, for example those prefaced with aït or ouled (both of which mean “sons of”), while others refer to distinctive geographical features, such as ighil (hill) and oued (wadi). Note that the etymology of place names may be either Arabic or the Tamazight (or Amazigh) of the native Berbers.



Les Juifs du Maroc | יהודי מרוקו


The Georgian Jews

This Google Map shows the Jewish communities, past and present, of Georgia, including two sites in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The mapping does not purport to be complete and comprehensive, although all the main centres of population and synagogues should be shown. It is likely that there were smaller communities, or one or two Georgian Jewish families, elsewhere across the country, for instance as part of trading networks along the routes of the so-called Silk Road.

Where possible, the exact locations of synagogues and cemeteries have been pinpointed; elsewhere, a pin has simply been dropped onto the town or village as a general marker. Synagogues are shown with a Star of David.

These days, there are more Georgian Jews (or Gruzinim) in Israel than there are in the Republic of Georgia. The Georgian Jewish diaspora extends to America and Russia, of course, but also Belgium, Germany and elsewhere. As well as the Gruzinim, there was a growing population of Ashkenazi Jews in Georgia (and especially the capital Tbilisi or Tiflis) following its incorporation into the Russian Empire. Formerly, there were also Mountain Jews and Persian or Iranian Jews too in Georgia, and the latter had for a while their own synagogue in Tbilisi.


The Mountain Jews of Dagestan

This Google Map showing the Mountain Jews of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia is a companion to an earlier map showing the Mountain Jewish settlements in Azerbaijan. For the long 19th century and beyond, both Dagestan and Azerbaijan were part of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union (and of course, Dagestan still is a part of Russia), meaning that the border between them was of little significance.

Karchag is often described as a Mountain Jewish village in the vicinity of Quba in Azerbaijan but lies over the (modern) border in Dagestan.

Many of the Mountain Jewish (Juhurim) mountain villages or auls have now been abandoned, but most which were extant during the latter years of the C19th have been positively identified and marked on the map. A pin on the map does not imply an extant Jewish community.

The list below shows the Mountain Jewish villages of Dagestan recorded in the compendious Сборник сведений о кавказских горцах (or: Collection of Information on the Caucasus Highlanders) volume 3, published in Tbilisi (then Tiflis) in 1870. Chapter 3 within this volume is on the subject of the Mountain Jews and section V of this chapter is in the form of a statistical table giving the names of Mountain Jewish communities and their size (expressed as “smokes”, i.e. hearths – that is to say, households) plus the number of rabbis, synagogues and schools. To calculate the approximate population of a village, one might multiply the hearths by, say, 5, so therefore, for example, Tarki may have had a population of 250, Derbent of 1,000, and Magalis of 500 souls.


Russian name in 1870 Name on map hearths rabbis synagogues schools
Tarki Tarki 50 1 1 1
Buinaki   15 1 1 1
Karabudakhkent Karabudakhkent 18 1 1 1
Durgeli Dorgeli 25 1 1 1
Dzhengutay Dzhengutay 6 0 0 0
Temir-Khan-Shura Buynaksk 35 2 1 1
Chir-Yurt Kizilyurt 10 0 0 0
Derbent Derbent 200 1 2 7
Khoshmanzil Khoshmenzil 21 1 1 1
Aglabi Aglobi 6 0 0 0
Nyugdi-Myushkur Nyugdi 68 1 1 2
Rukel Rukel 30 0 1 0
Mugatir Mugarty 29 1 1 1
Maraga Maraga 16 1 1 1
Kheli-Penzhdi Kheli + Penzhdi 18 1 1 1
Gemeidi Gimeydi 22 1 1 1
Madzhalis Madzhalis (Majalis) 100 1 1 2
Yangikent Yangikent 116 2 2 2
Mamrach Sovetskoye 82 1 1 1
Khandzhal-Kala Novyy Usur 30 1 1 1
Arag Ashaga Yarak 87 1 1 2
Karchag Karchag 25 1 1 1
Imam-Kuli-Kent Imam-Kuli-Kent 11 0 0 0
Dzherakh Dzhara 20 1 1 1
Khasav-Yurt Khasavyurt 40 2 2 2
Andreevok Endirey 23 1 1 1
Kostek Kostek 37 1 1 1
Kazi-Yurt Kaziyurt 1 0 0 0
Aksay, or Tashkichu Aksay 81 2 1 2


The location of some known Mountain Jewish communities – such as Buinaki (which is not Buynaksk and was possibly a neighbourhood or outlying village of Makhachkala now swallowed up by the city) – has not yet been established.

The Mountain Jewish population of Dagestan, like that of Azerbaijan, is now much reduced, by emigration within Russia and beyond to Israel and North America.


The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan

This Google Map is entitled The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan but shows the distribution of both the true Caucasian Mountain Jewish settlements and, additionally, those of other Jewish communities in the country – Ashkenazi in Baku and the Russian Orthodox to Jewish convert sects known as the Gerim and Subbotniki.

Formerly there were many Mountain Jewish (Juhurim) mountain villages or auls but most of these have now been abandoned. A few of these have been identified and are plotted on the map. Note that a pin does not necessarily imply an extant surviving Jewish community. Indeed, the approximate location of the long-abandoned historic settlement of Kulgat is shown (to the WSW of Quba, between the villages of Küpçal and Qaladüz). Kulgat has been included because some accounts on the internet either imply it still exists or assert that it is merely an earlier name for the apparently still entirely Jewish town of Qirmizi Qasaba (Krasnaya Sloboda) across the river from Quba. In fact, Kulgat was the precursor of the town, and Sloboda was founded and populated by Jews who had abandoned Kulgat in the mid-C18th; there is, or was, a neighbourhood named after it.

There are various references to Karchag as a Mountain Jewish village in the vicinity of Quba in Azerbaijan. In fact, Karchag is over the (modern) border in Dagestan, Russia.

The location of some known Mountain Jewish communities – such as Chipkent and Devit – has not yet been established.

The Mountain Jewish population of Azerbaijan is much reduced, mostly by emigration. As well as movement from the traditional mountain auls and towns to the cities of Baku and Quba, there has been an international migration to Israel, of course, but also to Canada and USA.


The Jews of Yemen

From mid-June to mid-July 1918, the British Army was actively recruiting in Jerusalem for “short service” (duration of war). Men were invited to enlist in the 40th Bn of the Royal Fusiliers. The new recruits were given army service numbers between J/4883 and J/5274 (and possibly a little either side of this regimental number range), suggesting that about 400 men enlisted in total. The great majority of these, and those recruited elsewhere by the 38th-40th Battalions of the RF, were of course Jewish, giving rise to the jocular Army nickname of the Royal Jusiliers.

Among the newly enlisted men were numbers who stated that they had been born in “Teman” – in other words Yemenite Jews. British rule in Palestine had encouraged a first wave of Yemeni Jews to emigrate from Yemen in the 1890s and 1900s; mostly they settled in Jerusalem and Jaffa. The RF recruits of 1918 had an average age of 27 years and were working men – a labourer, builders, a mason, a butcher, two janitors at the Tachkemoni School, a cigarette maker, a couple of manuscript writers, and many silversmiths and filigree workers. The silversmiths were from the Bukharim quarter, from Sukkat Shalom, from Mishkanoth, from Nahalat Tzedek and especially from Nahalat Zvi. For example, on 24 June 1918, the silversmiths Abraham Levy, Abraham Gershi and Elijah Rachabi enlisted; on 27 June, silversmiths Joseph Arussi and Chaiyim Levy attested. All five came from the Nachlath Zwi neighbourhood (as it is usually spelt in army service records).

We have started a rudimentary Google Map of Jewish communities in Yemen. The German ethnographer Carl Rathjens, who visited Yemen between 1927 and 1938, had it on good authority – viz: the hakham bashi, or chief rabbi, in Yemen, who was responsible for community tax returns in the Kingdom of Yemen – that in the early 1930s there were no fewer than 371 Jewish communities (which makes the number identified and marked on our map seem paltry).  There are very few Jews left in Yemen – some in the capital Sanaa, and some in the northern town of Raydah and its satellite village of Bayt Harash (shown on the map). The rest have left, and their descendants populate and enrich the diversity of Israel and a few places in the diaspora.

The map is updated periodically as and when new information is gathered. 84 Jewish communities in Yemen are currently shown. Latest update: 22 Dec 2017.



Les Juifs du Yémen | יהודי תימן | יהדות תימן


The Jews of Kurdistan

There are very few Jews remaining today in Kurdistan, although, post-Saddam, conditions would be more favourable for Jewish life at least in Iraqi or southern Kurdistan. While a few elderly Jews survive in the larger cities, and there are doubtless not a few part-Jewish Kurds descended from urban mixed marriages, most Kurdistani Jews left Iraq and Iran during the 1950/51 airlift to Israel.

The community was quite insular, unlike many other Jewish communities in the Middle East, including of course Baghdad, where the Mizrahi Jews were cosmopolitan and often had extended family connections across the region. Furthermore, the native language of Kurdish Jews was Aramaic (although Jews in Mosul spoke Arabic) and secondarily the local Kurdish language (generally Kurmanji but Sorani towards the south of the area inhabited).

The Google Map shows the majority of towns and villages of former Jewish settlement in Kurdistan – an invisible country divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey (sometimes called respectively eastern, southern, western and northern Kurdistan).

Blue pins are former Jewish settlements in Iran; red pins in Iraq; green pins in Syria; and yellow pins in Turkey. Question marks show the approximate position of unlocated villages.

The map also gives 1881 population estimates for various larger places; these are taken from Andree’s “Zur Volkskunde der Juden” (pub Leipzig, 1881). There were 25,000 or so Jews across Kurdistan in the 1940s. Following the “Operation Ezra & Nehemiah” exodus to Israel in 1950/51, there are very few Jews resident today anywhere in Kurdistan.



The map is drawn from a number of print and online sources including Ora Shwartz-Be’eri’s fine illustrated volume The Jews of Kurdistan (Jerusalem, 2000) – to which particular acknowledgement is paid and which is highly recommended for family historians with Jewish roots in Kurdistan – and Evyatar Friesel’s Atlas of Modern Jewish History, and the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia.

This article and map were originally published by bluebirdresearch in 2012.


יהודי כורדיסטן