In utmost secrecy, Libyan authorities are attempting convert the Sla Dar Bishi Synagogue in Tripoli into a modern centre of Islamic culture.
“From videos and photos sent to me by local people and diplomats, and after several unsuccessful attempts, it is clear that work is taking place in the synagogue,” said Dr. David Gerbi, a representative of the World Organization of Jews of Libyan origin.”
“Since there are currently no Jews living in Tripoli and since power is in the hands of local authorities (read: militias), it was decided to violate our property and our history. The intention is clear to take advantage of the chaos and our absence.”
“The synagogue is the testament of the Jews, of how they have always been attached to the Torah and to prayer, the capital of 2000 years of presence. It is unthinkable that our sacred place is destined for other purposes. Our ancestors, buried under the highways due to the destruction of the Jewish cemetery by Gaddafi, weep to rest in peace and ask for justice,” Gerbi added.
“What is happening is contrary to the principles of UNESCO and the memory of the history of Libya. Our synagogues have been turned into mosques or documentation centers. It has already happened with the Sla Dar Serussi, where in addition to praying, they studied at the rabbinic center of the Talmud Torah.”
“We had synagogues, cemeteries, mikvaot, study centers and everything was destroyed. Few things are still standing.”
The Sla Dar Bishi synagogue was designed by an Italian Jew born in Tripoli, Umberto Di Segni, son of Professor Vittorio Di Segni who taught in Italian schools. The architecthad been commissioned by the government to design a synagogue, inspired by the Tempio Maggiore in Rome.
After taking power in a coup on September 1, 1969, Muammar Gaddafi prohibited Jews from returning to Libya even just to sell their assets or to visit their country of origin and confiscated individual and collective assets. Those who opposed this were executed or had to flee abroad.
In response to an inquiry, Libyan officials told Israeli news outlet Kan that the damage was caused by maintenance work to renovate the building but did confirm that there was an attempt to erect a building next to the synagogue that could have caused damage to it, but the work had been halted.
the World Organization of Jews of Libyan origin is seeking the support of Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibeh, as well as UNESCO, UN envoy to Libya Ján Kubiš, and the US and Italian embassies in Libya to protect all the ancient Jewish buildings in Tripoli, including the Sla Dar Bishi synagogue.