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