Jews from Libya: Cross-currents and Concretizations of Identity in Israel Today
A lecture by Professor Harvey E. Goldberg, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Published: Wednesday, December 09, 2009
In 1949 more than 35,000 Jews lived in Libya, but close to ninety percent had left before Libya attained its independence in 1952. Harvey E. Goldberg's definitive work on the topic, Jewish Life in Muslim Libya (University of Chicago Press,1990) combined historical and anthropological perspectives in its depiction of the changing relations between Muslims and Jews in Libya from the early nineteenth century up to the middle of the twentieth century. In his work, Goldberg shows that the cultural and religious worlds of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Libya were deeply intertwined in daily life and largely remained so despite political and social changes under successive Ottoman and Italian rule. He documents the intricate symbolic linkages of Jews and Muslims in different periods and in a variety of settings. His accounts of traditional Jewish weddings, of mock fights between Jewish teams that took place in early nineteenth-century Tripoli, and of the profession of street peddling demonstrate that, despite age-old images of Jews as outsiders or infidels, Jews were also an essential and familiar part of the local Islamic society. Professor Goldberg also edited the volume Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and Culture (Indiana University Press, 1997), the product of a conference which was held under the auspices of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and TA'ALI -- the World Movement for a United Israel, in 1991.