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Testimony

Full Text:

SHLOMO:

I was born in Benghazi, the city is not that big, the city is small, I always went by foot almost, or the bicycle, only a few people had cars, of the Jews.
Interviewer: who had cars?

There was Licco, Licco Gerbi had a car, the Arabs had cars, there was no where to go with a car, the Jews lived almost all together, around the synagogue, the synagogues, at least during my time, there were only two, there were other synagogues but they were closed, because when the Jews left

Interviewer: in 1948

Until 1952 there was no longer any need for these synagogues. Two were open, one was open every day, there was also there the [H] Bet Din, the Rabbi stayed there, at that time the rabbi was Rabbi Madar, [H] may his memory be of blessings, [I] the other was open only Saturday morning, Shaharit, only for Shaharit, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it was open, we lived

Interviewer: Selihot also?

Selihot this is during the month of Elul, we used to go to Selihot. [Pause to put on microphone). We used to live right near the synagogue, [A] Slat lBramli (the synagogue of Bramli) [I] it used to be called, it was the big temple and Arabic style, all [H] arches [I] arches

Interviewer: are there pictures of these synagogues?

Yes, [H] there is [I] in the book [H] Jewish Libya [I] there is the picture of Slat lBramli there. There was the other synagogue called [A] Slat lKbira [I] the big synagogue, the one that was open every day and the women at our time did not pray, they went to synagogue only in the holidays, on Saturday or weekdays they did not go, now, even work in Benghazi, almost all where merchants, they worked from 9:00 in the morning till 1:00, at 1:00 everyone closed, 1:15 everyone went to pray Minha, after Minha everyone went home, for lunch and then siesta, in the summer we went to the beach. The stores would reopen at 4:00 till 8:00; from there we would go to Aravit, then at home. In the summer there was the beach, Giuliana, it was called, there were barracks there that the community would rent for the whole summer, all the Jews almost had a barrack there, so after Minha everyone went to the beach, a 4:00 the men would return, the women and children would remain till 6:00, 7:00, the entire summer like that. In other words, like the places, how do you say [H] bilui [I] pastime there were almost none there, then we, in our youth we went to the coffee shop, we went to play bowling there, billiards, or to the movies, or going for long walks along the sea, 'lungo mar', the walk along the sea was very beautiful, there was the harbor, on Saturday we used to go there along the sea, watching the harbor, looking at the ships boarding disembarking

Interviewer: who built this, the Italians?

Everything the Italians, but most recently, in the years 61, 62 they began rebuilding it, a Greek company, that came there, they began to rebuild all of it, making a walk along the sea and the harbor, they began also to build the new city, they started near the Jewish cemetery where used to live the blacks there, there were the barracks of the blacks, they began there, Libyan blacks, poor, Arabs. In one of the barracks there, they used to do the laundry, they sold [A] peanuts [I] they were drudges, they had the carts with the ass, they transported things. The Jewish community was like one family, in short, how many where we, 50ish families? In the holidays all together, [H] hasfa halila (G-d forbid) [I] in the funerals together, they were all religious, there were some that were a little less, a little more, they were a few who traveled on Saturday who were considered less religious, anyway, they were all religious, when one did not go to synagogue two three days they go right away to find out what happened to him, it means that something happened. Everyone prayed. On Saturday, like I told you, there were two minyanim, there was [A] Slat lBramli, [I]they did the [H] first minyan [I] the first minyan, then [A] Slat lKbira [H] minyan sheni (second) [I] that of the wealthy, the aristocrats.

Interviewer: Why, why the difference?

Ah, all the wealthy went to the [H] minyan sheni

Interviewer: Why, how does one know that was for the wealthy? Isn't it strange to say, this is for us, we the rich.

Not that it was for them, it was almost like that, you understand, all the wealthy came, went late to the synagogue,

Interviewer: So one was earlier than the other.

Yes, the first yes, [H] minyan rishon [I] was earlier, I do not remember what time it was. When we finished the first minyan, when the first minyan was finished, the second minyan was at the [H] sefer (Torah), [I] more or less or before the sefer. You understand. Now, as for school, I went to Hebrew school till the fourth grade, fifth grade, it was Talmud Torah in Via Marittima, near the sea there, then

Interviewer: Was it only a Talmud Torah?

No, they called it a Talmud Torah, it's name was Talmud Torah, but it was a school completely, we studied everything, mathematics, geography, everything but all in Hebrew, all in Hebrew, till 52, 53 until Libya had its independence they closed the Hebrew schools we had to go to Italian schools, the boys to the school of the friars, Institute of la Salle, and the girls that of the nuns, and Talmud Torah became only Talmud Torah, in effect, only to learn the Torah, so we went to school till 4:00, from 8:00 till 4:00, with [E] break [I] at noon from 12:00 to 2:00 I think that's how it was, we went home to eat, then we returned to school, then from 4:00 we went to Talmud Torah, the kids, not the girls, just the boys, we went to Talmud Torah to learn Torah

Interviewer: So the Arab government closed the Hebrew Schools?

I do not know if they closed them, as far as I know they did not close them, but they did not want to pay for the teachers.

Interviewer: First the teachers were payed by the Arab government?

Yes, [H] yes from the Office of Education, [I] there was also an Arab teacher, it was obligatory to learn Arabic, English, and all other subjects in Hebrew. Then we were lacking Hebrew teachers, who were the teachers the last years, Rfali Labi [H] may his memory be of blessing [I] was the director and teacher also, Erminia who is his daughter, Moshe his son, these were the teachers, then there was Zarug, Lea Zarug, the daughter of Zarug, there was also for a little while the son of Rabbi Rahamim Madar and there was Genah, Ada Genah, she was also a teacher. There weren't teachers, anyway after the Hebrew school we all went to the Italian school and the nice thing is that there was an Italian school had subjects only of sport, and design, and singing. So the Jews did not go and they did not miss any lessons, the Jews did not go to school on Saturday. The last years, you know that in each class there was a crucifix, in every class, they were monks, after all, they were priests, the first lesson they prayed, all stood up, they did their prayers, the Jews and Arabs did not say anything, the last years, there was a Fratel Roberto, he wrote a prayer, that according to him would go well with all religions, including Jews and Arabs, and compelled everyone to say it. There was I and Clemente Meghnagi we did not want to say it and we were expelled from school, the last year, we were expelled from school. I went to England to study Television, with the brother of Clemente Meghnagi, Lillo, we were there for one year at Cambridge, then the family Meghnagi all moved to England, we, I after two years, so we left Libya,

Interviewer: Where there Arabs in these Italian Schools?

[H] Of course, Arabs, Jews, and Christians.

Interviewer: Didn't the Arabs have their own Arab schools?

There were those who went to an Arab school, but there were those who went to Italian schools, they were there.

Interviewer: what was the difference, who were those who went to Italian schools?

I don't know, Arabs, they were those who studied there, it was all mixed, in fact, why did we not pray, they could not force the Arabs,

Interviewer: because they were the citizens...

So even the Jews did not pray, but then when they did this prayer, I don't know, before they were praying angel of G-d, Ave Maria, I don't know, these things, then they, I don't know, he wrote this prayer this one all can say, we pray to G-d, I told him to pray to G-d with the crucifix, doesn't work for me. So, one day, I saw written outside, Shlomo and Clemente Meghnagi have been expelled from the school

Interviewer: did they write why?

They did not write why. But when I asked him he told me because you did not want to pray, then all the others would rebel, I don' know, so

Interviewer: and the Arabs prayed?

There were those who prayed and those who didn't, anyway against the Arabs they could not do anything, and ...

Interviewer: Do you remember how life was in 48 when so many people left or were you a little boy?

No, I was a little boy, but I remember when the Aliyah began, when the Aliyah began, I remember that every family that left they would have a celebration, there were songs that they sang in Arabic, there was one that said [A]:"Prepare yourself that your ship is coming, prepare yourself that your ship is coming, prepare yourself that your ship is coming, or you will remain going around in the Hara (twuta kan giak el babur, twuta kan giak el babur, twuta kan giak el babur, ula tkgad fel hara ed dor), [I] I remember this and there was another [A]:" (lIhudi li ghandu gheria, imshi ma duar naliya, imshi lblad el horia, ikurtus sulum u ighesh sinor) [I] because here they worked in the [H] bet ariza (packaging plant, mostly fruits then) [I] they sang like that.

Interviewer: So they were happy to go on Aliyah.

[H] Of course, of course

Interviewer: And those who remained behind, it must have felt so empty for them.

Listen we were supposed to leave in 1952 with my aunt Olga, but many went with false documents, and we were waiting for these documents, until we received it, until we received this false document, there was a family that was arrested there with this document, so we got scared and we remained. For six months all our suitcases were ready, we were sleeping only on mattresses, without beds, for six months, and then after these six months they closed completely the Aliyah and we, everyone wanted to go, everyone, well maybe not everyone but almost everyone, until they closed the Aliyah, so we stayed there...in Tripoli.

Interviewer: How many went?

About 5,000.

Interviewer: after the Aliyah, how many remained?

About 280, 270, this is only in Benghazi. I think in all of Libya there were about 50,000, then in Tripoli remained about 5,000

Interviewer: and about 280 in Benghazi, is this people or families?

People, about 50is families.

Interviewer: So the city remained very empty.

Yes, it was like a family. There were people from Tobruk, Derna who moved to Benghazi, there was the family Dabush, they were from Tobruk, the family Zuares they were from Derna, and there was from Barce they all moved to Benghazi after the Aliyah. Anyway, the life of Benghazi there was a complete Jewish life, Kashrut, there was a Kosher butcher, not restaurants, there was no need, but one could find meat, one could find everything. Matzot were being made in Tripoli, Kosher wine, was made in Tripoli,

Interviewer: The Meghnagis I think made the wine.

No, Dagdush, Dagdush, I think, Dagdush made wine, made Arak, there was everything. I remember as a kid in Benghazi, it was forbidden for the Arabs to buy alcohol, not wine, not Arak, they had these laws, instead the Jews, the Christians could get, I remember I used to go buy Arak for the house, I was going in the street, all the Arabs said, come, put it inside and I will pay you double, just leave it there in the store I will pay you double [laughs].

Interviewer: and you did it?

No, no I was afraid.

Interviewer: What were you afraid of?

If a policeman went by, and saw this, it was prohibited, for the Arabs it was forbidden, for us it was permitted. For Pesah every family got a lamb, every family, and they slaughtered the lamb the eve of Pesah, [H] ben arbaim (twilight) [A]not [H] written in the Torah, actually [I] the Rabbi, shohet, would pass from one family to the other, would do the slaughtering,

Interviewer: For how long did they keep the lamb?

In the same day they brought it, they brought it in the morning, in the evening the shohet came, and slaughtered, and then they prepared the tannur for the matzot, the matzot were made at home, [A] ftera (matznot) [I] a month before we were at the Talmud Torah so they brought the wheat to the Talmud Torah, the wheat for Pesah, and they brought the women to clean it till the week of Pesah, they would take it to the mill to grind this wheat, they would bring it to the Talmud Torah, and all the Jews went there to get the flour, for Pesah and every day, after shaharit, after the synagogue, we had to make these matzot because they were good only fresh, if they weren't fresh they weren't good, and the Kippur, same thing. At Kippur it was the custom to take one hen for every female, a rooster for every male, and in Benghazi, there was not the market of chicken, only the last years they did it, then, but there weren't, there were Arabs who raised these chickens at home, and every so often they would go sell, 2, 3, they would go around in the street, and only by chance you found them, if you find them, you buy, so one or two months before Kippur we began to accumulate these chickens, we would buy them here or there, there were families like Labi or Dabush who would look only for white chickens, they were a bit hard to find white one, because they were of many colors, they were brown, black, and they were kept at home or on the roof, or in a place in the house, until the night of Kippur, and the same thing, the shohet would go by

Interviewer: where did they actually slaughter these, in the house?

Yes, in the house, in the house

Interviewer: Even the lamb?

Even the lamb, even the lamb, they did everything at home.

Interviewer: the children watched this?

No, the small children no, they would not let them watch. And the evening of Kippur all of them stayed there to clean these chickens,[laughs].

Interviewer: they did the Kapparot first, right?

No, first of all we did a chicken for each person, then furthermore we did the Kapparot, the kapparot you gave away, you did not eat them, the kapparot you gave to the poor, they were not eaten, not like here. Everyone did one or two chickens for Kapparot, it depends, and they gave it to the poor.

Interviewer: not to poor Jews?

Jews, yes, to poor Jews, only Jews.

Interviewer: were there many poor?

They were a few. Maybe before the Aliyah there were many, but after the Aliyah there were a few. There were.

Interviewer: In Benghazi fewer than in Tripoli?

Yes, because there were, even the community was small, I remember there was a woman, there was my Uncle, Aron, husband of aunt Elena, every Friday, when he went shopping, he went shopping even for her, and he would send me and Sifo to take it to her. There the shopping for Shabbat was only done Friday morning, not before, Friday morning, after Shaharit, you saw all the Jews with a bag, they would go to the market, and there, the Arab markets, there was a market for fruits and vegetables, only for fruits and vegetables, there was a market for meat, there was a market for fish, you understand, they went to the markets and bought

Interviewer: was there a kosher market, for the meat?

No, there was not a Kosher market, there was one Kosher butcher, he was an Arab and there was a Jewish Mashgiah, and he was in the market of the Arabs.

Interviewer: Men did the shopping not the woman, no?

Yes,

Interviewer: why?

Why, because woman did not go out, you know, that Arab women went out with covered faces, they almost did not go our at all, only the very modern went out a little, so even the Jewish girls did not go out, well they went out on Saturday for a walk with their husbands, but a woman alone, when she went out alone, the Arabs did not look well on her, so shopping was done by men, there was only one who did the shopping, Miriam Zaruk, she would go shopping

Interviewer: Did they leave her alone, they did not bother her?

No, no, but she did the shopping, the only woman, perhaps, in Benghazi who did the shopping.

Interviewer: so if they did not harm her then it means that...

No, not that they would do something to her, just that the Arabs would not look well on her, a woman who went, for them a woman must stay at home, you understand, and given that we were living among them it was necessary to do like their customs,

Interviewer: but the Jews dressed a la European?

A la European, and even many Arabs dressed like that. There were Arabs who wore [H] Abaya kazot (dress like that)[I] but the majority with a tie and the jacket, and even in the Summer, even in the Summer one would go with a jacket and tie, every holiday one had to go to the tailor to have the jacket made,

Interviewer: every holiday?

Every holiday, Pesah and Rosh Hashana

Interviewer: so two a year.

Yes, two suits a year, and they were made, not bought ready, and it was to size, they were made to size.

Interviewer: there were some women who dressed with baraccano, no?

Yes, the old ones, for example there was my grandmother, there was Masauda [H] may her memory be of blessing, [I] and who else, very few, ah, aunt Sarina, Sarina Tammam, the wife of Masaud Tammam.

Interviewer: Wasn't there an old woman who was smoking the narghila?

No, narghila, no, the women o Benghazi did not smoke, it was, the narghila, even the men, the narghila was found only in coffee shops, not at home.

Interviewer: what was inside?

Tabacco and there was the filter of water, that's all. Only in the coffee houses, whoever wanted a narghila would go to the coffee house, would have a tea, a coffee and the narghila. But at home they did not keep them. Jews did not smoke the narghila, just the Arabs.

Interviewer: do you remember any eccentric people? There was a [A] "busahdiah".

[I] Oh, yes, Busahdia, they were Arabs, busahdia is usually black, he was all black, he used to go around asking for alms, he used to go ask for alms, what did he do, he used to take bones of a lamb, dried bones, he used to make a belt of bones, and he used to make a belt of tin, how do you call them [H] cans [I] cans, cans empty so they would make noise, he used to put them around his feet, and on his belt, and he used to take the his ass, and he put these cans on him too, he took a drum, and he would go around, with the drum, and he wore a mask on his face.

Interviewer: why did he do all this?

I don't know, he put the mask on his face, and he went around in the markets to ask for alms, the children ran away from him they were afraid of him [laughs].

Interviewer: I remember parents saying to their children if you don't behave I will send you the busahdia.

Yes, they were scary [H] really [I] with that mask, what was the mask a piece of leather made with holes for e eyes, the mouth, and he put it on his face, and will all the noise he made, and he used to dance, he went around dancing.

Interviewer: did he do it to be scary or was he crazy, or did he do it for entertainment to get more money?

I don't know, he went around asking for alms, then [H] what is important, interesting [I] there were many people who asked for alms, Arabs, they asked for it singing, singing, they would go from house to house, or from store to store, and they would sing.

Interviewer: do you remember any songs?

No, I don't know, no, I don't remember, but they sang, they sang the songs that said they needed food, that they needed something, and one could give also bread not just money, they accepted bread, food, whatever, anything. There was an Arab there, Mansor, who worked with the Jews. During the day he worked in stores, he worked as a drudge from one place to another, and in the home he would clean. There were small children who went to school, they did not come back at noon at home, he would go to each house at noon to pick up the 'kapitas' with lunch in it and he would take it to school to these children so that they would eat something warm.

Interviewer: and he would not take it for himself to eat?

No, no, there was trust there, even with the Arabs, yes there was trust. Friday night he went to various homes of Jews to turn off the lights, the Shabbat [laughs].

Interviewer: was he payed?

For this no, they would give him to eat couscous, sometimes he would sing, when he wanted to eat, when he was going up the steps he would sing [H] Shabbat Shalom [A] and coucous and mafrum [I] that means I want to eat. He was singing like that [laughs].

Interviewer: but for taking food to the children

Yes, for that he was paid. They would call him to clean up the house, to do, in other words, do drudge work for the shops, he worked always with Jews, and in the holidays, Succot for example, the Arabs knew they would bring.

On Pesah they brought us a tannur made of terra cotta, they would go around selling it, they brought it around Pesah time and [H] Motzae (at the conclusion) Pesah, Motzae Pesah, [I] I remember that in Benghazi they made, the Jews made bread at home, and then there was the oven, and they would bring it there to the oven to bake.

Interviewer: the oven of the Arabs?

Yes, the oven of Arabs.

Interviewer: Weren't we worried about Kashrut?

What about Kashrut, [H] nothing, [I] listen, the Sepharadim could eat [H] Pat (morcel, usually bread) of the Arab [I] the Sepharadim yes, the Ashkenazim no, [H] why [I] the Arabs also did not eat pork, they did not eat these things, [H] Pat of the [I] the Sepharadim ate there. We made the bread at home, then we would take it to the oven to bake.

Interviewer: How did they know that this is the bread of this family and not that?

Some put the initials of the family on the bread with the knife, they put initials, you understand, they used to do with the oven, they used to do it weekly, they said look we make for example very day we make 3 or 4 loaves of bread and once or twice a month we would make [A] kagk (cookies) [I] so what did we pay about 4 5 piasters a week, you understand, so, the problem is bringing it there, coming back from school in the summer, we had to bring the bread there, to the oven, then bringing it back home.

Interviewer: the children did this?

Yes, male children, and on Saturday, usually, the lunch of the Jews for Saturday was either rice or pasta, and it was taken to the oven to re-warm.

Interviewer: with meat?

Yes with meat, the meat was on top, and yes, we had to take this too to the oven to warm it up, oh, and [H] Motzae Pesah [I] the Arabs took to the synagogue, outside the synagogue, they brought rolls uncooked, dough, to use them as leavening because the Jews of Libya, at Motzae Pesah they made a special bread called Mimuna, made with cumin and they put an egg on top, so to have leavening since during Pesah there was no leavening, the Arabs brought these uncooked rolls, dough, and the Jews used them as leavening for this kind of bread.

Interviewer: What was the meaning of the egg in the Mimuna?

I really do not know there were some who put eggs, there were others that put two eggs on these breads, but I do not know the meaning, I do not know. But in Pesah, also, it was customary all the Jews, it was customary to go on a short trip to some garden where there were plants of fruit to make [H] the blessing on the trees [I] [A]zrda (excursion)[I] it used to be called.

Interviewer: why did they do this?

[H] The blessing on the trees [I] it is done, in the month of Nissan, so the Jews made it during [A] Hol haMoed Pesah [I] they went to do this little trip, it was during Hol haMoed [H] Pesah they would go from morning to night [I] to the woods of Delitorio or another garden that had trees, trees that were already in blossom of fruit, and they did the blessing on the trees there. [H] What else is possible.

Interviewer: [I] What else about the Mimuna that we did?

That's all the Mimuna, that's all, ah, there is also Motzae Pesah, it is called [A] the evening of the Hes uNuar [H] Hes is Hassa (lettuce), Nuar is flowers [I] who was engaged (male) brought to the fiance these, he brought her flowers and [H] hassa, hassa [I] because [H] green [I] to do [H] a green year [I] took it to the bride to be with a gift.

Interviewer: What does a green year mean, beautiful?

Yes, fertile, so he brought her this, brought a gift, it was called Hes uNuar, and in that occasion, [H] there was matchmaking [I] you understand [H] other matchmaking [I] the weddings, I remember, the weddings there lasted seven days, seven days. When they began there was, I think it was Wednesday before the [H] seven benedictions [I] that was the [H] groom [I] the groom had a party for his friends, [A] Yaghni [H] mesibat ravakut, (party for singles) that's it, for his friends. They made a roast, in the oven, half he sent to his fiance, and she also had a party for her friends, with a gift, on Saturday, before the [H] seven benedictions [I] it was called [A] the Shabbat of the girls [I] the Saturday of the girls, and that Shabbat was for the bride, she had a party for her friends, and then The Hanna I remember when they made the Hanna, the Hanna for us was only for the women, generally the men did not go, they went only the women, and the groom went when they put the Hanna in the hands of the bride, they put in his gold sterling (coin), they put it in his hand, a symbol of wealth, [H] Shefa (prosperity)

Interviewer: [I] He kept these?

He would leave them for her, for the bride, as a gift, as a symbol of wealth. As for the seven benedictions, the custom is not like here, the seven benedictions they used to do, [H] first of all [I] during the day, not in the evening, they did the seven benedictions, they gave orgeat as a beverage because it was white, pan di Spagna (sponge cake), Amarette (almond cookies) and white confetti. Brit Mila, they served orgeat, amarette, and blue confetti, and when it is a girl pink confetti.

Interviewer: Did they have a party for the birth of a girl?

Yes, they had a party, but small, not like the brit. In the brit, the house where there was a brit, they took these baraccani, red baraccani, they hung them on the wall, according to what I head, because there was [H] a decree against doing britot when there were decrees, forbidding brit, maybe in the expulsion of Spain, there was once a decree not to do brit, and the Jews did brit but [I] no one knew where there was a brit they would hang red laundry outside, who sew that there was red laundry hanging, like red sheets, knew that there was a brit, and he would enter to assist in the brit.

Interviewer: You think this is a custom that is due to Spain.

[H] from the expulsion of Spain [I] and then we did, one day before the brit we did Hallel, all the kids of the Talmud Torah would go to the house where there was the brit, they read the [H] Hallel Gadol, and they gave these kids chick peas, boiled chick peas, they gave them also money, and candy. Then in the evening the Zohar was recited, in the room of the [H] birth [I] they would put the [H] the chair of Eliahu haNavi [I] this is a chair, they put there two [H] rimonim of Sefer Torah [I] and they used to put also the dress of the [H] sefer Torah [I] in Benghazi, in Libya, the sefer Torah they did not take it out like that, it was covered with, how do you call it, in Arabic it was called the Harf, made of velvet and decorated with silver ornaments, so this dress is put on this [H] chair [I] there, [H] the chair of Eliahu haNavi, and on the [H] chair [I] on this chair the evening of the Zohar you put a dish of sand where the Orla (foreskin) was placed of the brit, there were those who put the utensils of the brit, the knife, and things like that, and they put [H] besamim. [I] The besamim were made of carnations, ground carnations, when these were ground, the women did this the evening of the Zohar, and they sang while they did this, there was a special song.

Interviewer: Do you know the song?

No but I have it written. They ground them with the mortar and pestel and they used to put one egg, two eggs, they put eggs whole in this besamim and this besamim also was put on the [H] chair of Eliahu haNavi.

Interviewer: how did they put the eggs, were they cooked?

No they were raw. They were raw. When they did the brit, they would give these eggs to the women who could not have children and they wanted kids, they swallowed them during the brit. And then the [H] mitzvot of the brit were sold there. [I] The Sandak, the father of the son,

Interviewer: of the son or the daughter?

The custom is to give it to the father of the wife, for the first son, that's how we used to do it, and who held the legs of the child, that was sold, who held the basin that held the utensils, that was sold, who held the dish of the sand where they put the Oral was sold, and they also sold, there is besides the knife, there is [A] Saks (clips), [I] that one that does, how do you call it, besides the knife there is a utensil that holds that signals where to cut, and the blood, when it gets stained with blood thy show this blood to all, [H] blood of the brit [I] even this was sold. You understand.

Interviewer: Why did they buy these people?

Mitzvot.

Interviewer: And to whom did they give the money?

I don't know to whom they gave the money, the Mohel, no the Mohel did it for free there.

Interviewer: there were Mohalim?

Yes there were, at first there were moahlim, but then, the last years there were not, there was only Zaruk, he was the mohel, in Benghazi, though, there was a brit every morte di papa (expression; death of a pope= rare). Brit or wedding were very rare, it was small, there were no more. But a brit was [H] so nice, [I] there were also special songs of the brit, that they sang them.

Interviewer: Do you remember them?

Yes, there was during the brit, when they brought the child [H] Baruh hem atem ke al emunah, yo baruh haba bshem hadonai. Baruh haba beshem adonai. Hayeled ha yolad yhye besiman tov, yigdal vyihye kemo gamrato, yagle vyatsliah, innazer ni ka tov. Amen ke nya aseh ha el adonai, u baruh hab beshem adonai [I] this is a song they sang then when the Sandak takes the child, he goes under the chair of Eliahu haNavi and he says [H] Ashre tivhar kare bhol hatsereha, [I] they answer him [H] nishbah betuveteha kedosheh aleha, shalom alehem, alehem shalom [I] and they gave the child to the Mohel to give to the Sandak, to do the brit.

Interviewer: and the first son the Sandak is the father of the woman and then?

Yes, the first child is the father of the woman, then the father of the male. [H] This is the respect that they did, first of all [I] the father of the woman. [H] that's that's, what else can I tell you. That is how life was, really.

Interviewer:[I] was life beautiful, nice?

Truthfully as a child it was nice, I don't know as a child who did not have preoccupations of work, anyhow, even we, as children thought only about Israel, [I] when we went walking, every evening we went walking, there was nothing else to do, after dinner we went to the cinema or caffee, or just walking, if we met up with a group of young Arab men, it was certain, it was certain that we would end up in a fight, you understand.

Interviewer: did they hurt you?

They hit us or they cursed us or something they did.

Interviewer: did the Jews defend themselves or not?

The last years no, maybe before I don't know, I did not know, there was Dabush only, the sons of Dabush yes, they did not fear anyone, they hit, they went to jail, no one could touch them without getting it back, the sons of Dabush yes.

Interviewer: How did the Jewish community view the children of Dabush, as heroes or?

No, no, look they said to them you don't start, but if they give it to you, give it back.

Interviewer: and only the youth? Were there other limitations for the Jews, because they lived in an Arab country, were they free to do anything?

Yes, yes, they were free, it was all free, just leaving the country a whole family could not. They did not give us passports. I remember I had to go to England to study, I asked for a passport, I had to bring documents of citizenship, so who gave the passport, the Minister of Interior, [H] Minister of Interior [I] who gave the citizenship documents, the Minister of Interior [H] Minister of Interior, same office [I] the same office had to give these two documents, you understand? I remember I filled out the form, where were you born, how many times did you leave Libya, [H] never [I] nothing, the father where was he born? In Libya, How many times did he leave Libya, never [H] never [I] and the grandfather, the same, they sent us [H] go return [I] for months, then I had to get [E] travel [I] document, a temporary pass, for six months, I had to be there one year, to renew it was a big deal, and to enter England with this? They did not let us, they let us then enter. I had permit to work in England from Libya, they gave it to me in Libya, and at the airport in London they annulled it because we did not have a passport, they said go to [E] the home office [I] and do it again. When I finished from England I did not want to return to Libya, I went to Milano to the Ort, to study at the Ort, I stayed there almost two months, they called me at the police headquarters and told me that your pass is about to expire you need to leave Italy. I said look I have to renew it, they said you are from the Jewish race? Libya will not renew your pass, in ten days you will have to leave Italy. I had to leave Italy and went back to Benghazi. After two years we were able to leave, my mother with her name before the wedding, and two brothers we sent them there to Italy to study at the Ort, and then the rest of the family succeeded in exiting, they let them leave also, then at the customs, at the exit from Libya they stopped us at the customs, they searched us, they took all our gold, even the wedding band, then those on the ship they gave it back, just the wedding bands, instead all the gold they took it.

Interviewer: Did they know that you were leaving forever?

[A] No, [H] really [I] the reason that we said was medical, for my mother, and someone had to help her, the father the same, but it seemed like they knew, when a whole family was leaving.

Interviewer: so you left with passports?

No, without passports, with passes, [E] travel document. [I] Like tourists, like tourists only, we ere in Italy for ten days, then we came here (Israel). Really, the truth life in Benghazi was beautiful, we were all together, it was beautiful, but we were always all thinking of Israel.

Interviewer: Did you think of Israel because you were afraid of the Arabs?

No, because we wanted to go to Israel, [H] Zionism, really Zionism [I] we wanted to go to Israel. [H] but the problem [I] there was no contact with Israel. All that we heard was from the radio or [H] hear say [I] there was no contact, no letters, nothing. You could not mention the name Israel, it was prohibited. I remember when I returned from England I had with me a can of Kosher meat, so Kasher was written in Hebrew, and then they found between the notebooks and books an Israeli postage stamp, ay, ay, ay, they gave me a hard time, there was the office of, how do you call it, [H] Misrad haHerem, misrad haHerem haAravi (Office of the Police) [I] they took me there, then in the siddurim, the books of prayer I had a little Magen David, they told me this is from Israel, you have been to Israel, until the President of the community came, Susu Giuili, may his memory be of blessing, he said he was responsible, that these books were from Benghazi, in fact these books had the stamp of this office, when they let them go out, they put the stamp, for this Magen David, and this meat they said it is from Israel, but it is written made in England, I remember very well, made in Cardiff, made in Cardiff, of Tel Aviv, this one we leave here and we will eat it, this is very tasty, Israeli meat. They took it [laughs].

Interviewer: I remember once there was an Arab funeral, and everyone was running and shouting, and the Jews were scared, I don't remember much, I was small, what can you tell me?

No, maybe not a funeral like that. The Arabs had a holiday that they did [A] Esawuya, where they hurt themselves and with knives they cut themselves, and they came to the Municipal square, there, with drums, and with knives, swords, they cut themselves with swords, they ate [H] tsabar, [I] cactus with the thorns, they ate them, and they swallowed nails, and they ate, yes Arabs, Muslims, they did it for this holiday, every year, every year, they even ate glass, glass broken, they broke bottle of glass and they swallowed them.

Interviewer: did they die?

I don't know, they left behind blood, and we wanted to watch but we were afraid for them, they marched all over the city and they stopped at the Municipal square and did all these things. They hit themselves, they called it Esawuya, they did it during the day.

Interviewer: when they had funerals did we know about them?

Yes, they passed by saying "Allah uAkbar, Layla ilaAllah, yes they did like this, they came by.

Interviewer: Can you remember stories that happened to you, your family, friends?

To me no, I remember though, once a girl was kidnapped. She used to go sewing classes in the neighborhood, not far, to an Arab woman. One day, she was coming out of there, there was her neighbor, a girl, she told her listen, I want you to come with me, she was talking to her, her brother with the car, the brother of this Arab, took this girl, pushed her in the car and took off with her, I remember it was the eve of Succoth, I was building a Succah, and my uncle said to me did you hear what happened to that girl, she was kidnapped. So all the Jews went looking for her, until they found her there, she was there for a few days with them.

Interviewer: Did they hurt her?

No, no because they found her, brought her to the Sheik. You know there, every zone had a sheik, an Arab that they respected that he is responsible for this zone. They brought her to him, he had girls there, she stayed with them till they cleared everything up, and they took her home.

Interviewer: and what did she tell about the episode?

I don't know. I don't know. I remember that she was kidnapped and the Arabs said that if he succeeded in marrying her, then we will also, everyone had a girl in mind, you don't want to marry them, we will marry them.

Interviewer: The Jews did not want to marry them?

Really the young men of that time were older, and they did not get married, there was Moshe Labi, Raulino, my uncle, in other words, they were a bit old but not married, and there were girls, there was Dora Gerbi, Mariuccia Bramli, her sister, there were girls, the daughters of Zarug.

Interviewer: Why didn't they get married?

I don't know, I think we were like a family, as if we were brothers and sisters, in fact the last wedding that there, that I attended in Benghazi was my uncle's uncle Mamus with Dora, then we left, then after that there was that of Sifo Tammam with Erminia, and all the others were with Tripolitanians, they got married to Tripolitanians.

Interviewer: So that's what the Arabs said, you don't marry them we will.

Yes, yes.

Interviewer: did they expect the girls to become Arabs?

If they married them [H] of course, of course [I] what do you think.

Interviewer: so did you ever work there?

In Benghazi, yes I worked. When they expelled me from school I went to work with my uncle, then I worked during vacation, vacation was three months. There, school started after Succot, just after Succot, during Pesah there was no vacation, just the first two days and the last two days, so summer vacations were long, they were three months, so I worked, and after I returned from England I worked then with a company of a Palestinian.

Interviewer: So you worked for Arabs, or where they Christians?

Yes, they were Arabs, I worked also with Jews but then I worked with a company of a Palestenian, they were really nice, they treated me very well. In fact they wanted to send me to Italy because they imported hydraulic lifts, then motors, refrigerators, then electro domestics, furniture, they wanted to send me to Italy to study refrigeration and pump repairs. When we had the thing, the permit to leave Libya, I told them I had to leave with my father, they told me look, we will give you a letter to the company and before you return to Libya go there to study and then return here.

Interviewer: So you had a good job?

Yes, it was a good job, it was a good job, I repaired radios, and I was selling electro domestics and

Interviewer: and they allowed you not to work on Saturday?

Nothing, yes, they respected everything, Saturday, holidays. Not only that, when an Arab entered on Saturday at the house of a Jew he would throw away his cigarette before he came in. They were respectful, [H] in truth [I] they were respectful. [H]That way [I] life was beautiful, they were respectful, only the youth were a bit, let's say, were annoying, but generally [H] so [I] life was good, it was calm.

Interviewer: do you remember any of the times of the Italians?

No, I was too small, in 1945 the war ended, I was five years old. [H] That's all, that's all that I remember.

Interviewer: [I] Judith Roumani's father was hurt.

I don't remember. He died in 43 44 [H] something like that. [I] I was a little child.

Interviewer: so Jews worked for Arabs and Arabs worked for Jews.

Yes, yes, look many Jews were agents, representative, they used to import things, generally from Italy, I remember there was my uncle who sold, exported skins/hides, fresh hide from bovines, goats, lamb, wool and goat fur, the Arabs worked there, they packed them, ship them, then he used to sell also fabric, the Arab baraccani. I remember the Arabs used to come from the desert, bedouins, they came to order material, 10 meters of this, 12 meters of that, he used to buy them some tea and sugar, he used to leave them there in the warehouse, they made the tea, they drank the tea, and he prepared the order. When the order was ready, all packed they brought all their money with them, the bedouins brought them with them, you know, I saw them not once, more than once, they took all the money, they gave it to him and they said: "[A] Jew, [I] you take what we owe you and give us the rest. They gave him all the money, they had faith, he took what they owed him and returned the rest. The bedouins did that.

Interviewer: How was your personal life, describe your house?, was it an apartment?

Look, there were apartments, we lived in an Arab house [H] Arab house, [I] houses that were built, let's say, a little old, the house, we were ten people, we lived in four rooms, 3 bedrooms and one dining room, there living rooms were not used, living rooms were not used, dining rooms yes, in all the houses. There we ate together, we ate as a family, sometimes only breakfast everyone ate in a hurry to go to school, but lunch and dinner all together, [H] there isn't [I] everyone...Then there we cooked with charcoal, in the morning the lunch was placed on the fire till noon, then at noon everyone ate together, one could not heat up two three times [laughs], everyone had to eat together, after lunch, the woman put dinner on the fire till night, at night, after Aravit all together, all had dinner together.

Interviewer: what type of lunch did you eat, what type of dinner?

Italian food, Italian cuisine, and oriental cuisine, we made a lot of pasta, pasta asciutta, spaghetti, they made these couscous, mafrum, beans, beans with tomatoes, beans with then with meat, a lot of bread was eaten, potatoes not much, much bread, much meat, at lunch and at dinner we ate meat in Libya, but small pieces, but we ate it twice a day, a little fish.

Interviewer: wasn't laundry day the day for fish?

Laundry day was a day of rice.

Interviewer: which day was it?

Every family had a different day, generally Tuesday or Wednesday, because there was this black woman who did the laundry and she had three or four families and every day she went to another family to do laundry, and laundry day they made rice because it was easy to make. They put it on the fire and chick chuck.

Interviewer: there were ovens at the end.

No, yes, at the end there was gas, but before there was charcoal and primos. Friday without primos one could not finish, but it made noise, the noise that this primos made, no it wasn't big, but it made noise, with the pump, it was pumped, they put what is it neft, not benzine, petroleum, they filled it with petroleum, and it made noise, and Friday when that was turned off, it was known that Shabbat was about to start [laughs], they put the canoon (clay pot) with charcoal, and also the dfina [H] hamim (type of cholent), [I] they left it on the charcoal all of Shabbat. They put fine charcoal, so a slow fire remained, it was covered with a blanket or the like, and it was left like that.

Interviewer: and it was left till Shabbat, but before they took it to the oven.

No, not Hamim, the rice, the rice was taken, the Hamim was cooked all night, slowly, slowly. How was Hamim made? There was a cow leg, [H] leg [I] potatoes, beans or chick peas, actually beans, stuffed intestines, kishke, but not full of flour, full of meat, meat rice, yes 'msran' full of meat and rice, that's what was made. [H] That's Hamim, Hamim is [I] breakfast [laughs].

Interviewer: they ate that for breakfast?

Yes, after Shaharit, this is in the morning, then in the afternoon, around two three, depends if it is summer or winter we would lunch, either rice or pasta.

Interviewer: and that's what was taken to the oven.

That's what was taken to the oven. At times they also made, not only hamim but also 'nukidis' or arisa which is cooked wheat, this was lunch on Shabbat But if you came in Friday night or Saturday afternoon all Jewish families, almost all Jewish families had the same meal, all the same meal.

Interviewer: it was actually Jewish food?

Yes, couscous, mafrum, was of the Jews, nukidis was of the Jews. The Arabs made couscous but different, a bit thicker, a bit...they made it differently, this is [H] really [I] of the Jews, then Saturday night they used to make Hraimi, spicy, with

Interviewer: Friday night or Saturday night?

Friday night, [H] it is a mitzva to eat fish [I] they made Hraimi, just a custom, even here they say [H] haohel dag, byom dag, nitzal mdag [I] that means, who eats fish, on the day [H] dalet, arba (four) gimel (three) [I] seven, the seventh day, Saturday, nitzal mdag=medinah shel gehinam (he is saved from fish=from country of hell). You understand? [interruption]

A gift from the aunt to the parents for their wedding

Interviewer: we are looking at a silver bowl, made by hand, in Libya, by Jews or Arabs?

I do not know, but there were many Jews who made this kind or work, in fact, [H] the Rimonim of Sefer Torah [I] in Libya were all of silver, not like here of "nerosta" (stainless steal) and all silver and all hand made, and there were also those of gold, and the same the etzba (pointer) of the sefer torah and the keter (crown) of the sefer torah, because on the holidays the sefer torah came out with the crown on Shabbat no only with the rimonim, they were all of silver, made by hand by Jews. Then the Sefer Torah, when they put it back in the Aron Kodesh (arc) they took off these silver rimoni, and they put rimonim of wood, these also were decorated, made by hand, but of wood, maybe so that they wouldn't steal them, I don't know, because the silver ones were put away with a key. When the Sefer Torah came out on Shabbat and holidays, they put on it the ones of silver.

Interviewer: So you were describing your house, you had four rooms.

Ah, no living room, dining room and three bedrooms, the kitchen and the bathroom. We, [H] really [I] our economic situation was not much, only my father worked, we were ten people, and those whose situation was better lived in apartments, but all the same there, living room there wasn't, it wasn't customary, they used dining room, and bedrooms.

Interviewer: and when one wanted to host someone?

Around the table in the dining room.

Interviewer: did they invite guests for meals besides the holidays?

Everyday no, but if it so happens that someone finds himself in ones house, they would not let him leave without eating, even you now you will not leave without [H] nothing doing [I] we are Libyans [laughs] [H] there is nothing to help, [I] we are not [H] Americans. [I] Even my wife said don't forget [H] ma pitom [I] I remember my uncle Aaron, the husband of aunt Elena, every Shabbat he had one poor Jew whom he invited every Friday night, Shabbat to come eat with them, every Saturday [H] guest [I] sometimes he was late, he would not let anyone touch the food until he arrived.

Interviewer: I also heard that people did not talk about the other..

Truthfully life, I don't know, life there ran by itself, easy, I don't know, it seemed easier, you know, natural, even with religion, one did not think about religion, we are Jews and that's how we live, it was known, if you went to an Arab's house you could not eat, you did not eat, the Arabs knew it, that you could not eat by them, you went to a Jewish home, and you ate, automatically without much a do, you understand, one did not think, I don't know [H] this is not so, this is so [I] it was all [H] like this, strangers, strangers, [I] it went smoothly, this was life, it was like that.

Interviewer: It was different from the Jews of Tripoli where they suffered.

How different.

Interviewer: The life in Benghazi was different from the one of Tripoli, there were many poorer Jews. No?

Look Tripoli I did not know it, but it was a bigger community, so it is normal that they had more poor...

Interviewer: maybe life went smoothly because there were few people, and

No, I talk about religion, like you see here, in Israel, Rav Ovadia Yosef said this is not done, and that is not done, and one thinks about, and you saw that, no, this was not thought about, {h] secular, religious [I] there wasn't this secular, religious, all were Jews, all went to pray, there were those who observed less than others, that's all. There were a few families that traveled on Shabbat, and that's all.

Interviewer: and what did people say about that?

Nothing, nothing, everyone did what he wanted.

Interviewer: they did not say don't go with those people or

Absolutely not, absolutely not, nothing, I remember when the for example the butcher was Arab and there was a Mashgiah, and they wrote on the meat not only Kasher, but also the [H] Parshat haShavua (weekly Torah portion) [I] because the word Kasher even the Arab can write it, so they wrote the name of the Parshat haShavua, every week it change, and there was a notice there to the community at the synagogue that one cannot buy meat if the Mashgiah is not present, for example if we two are there and you took meat, and we saw from where it was cut, Ok, the Mashgiah went out to drink something, we could not get meat, we had to wait till the Mashgiah came, otherwise that meat was considered not Kasher.

Interviewer: Why?

For certainty, [H] that's all, [I] for certainty, to be sure that the Mashgiah is there and that one was not cheated. The meat is kosher. I remember once, may his memory be of blessing, Rabbi Madar was there buying meat, and there was the Mashgiah who was making [H] nikur, [I] do you know what is a nikur, there are certain parts that we cannot eat, of fat, veins, the Mashgiah was making this nikur and said he was finished, then came Abdullah, the Arab butcher he showed the Rabbi look rabbi, the mashgiah did not do the nikur well, you see he should have taken out that part also, he told him, no, whatever the mashgiah did is right, and it was not correct, the masghiah [H] really [I] did not do it well, but the rabbi said that the Arab needs to be shown that whatever the mashgiah does is correct, he has to do what the masghiah says. [H] that's what there is.

Interviewer: In the meantime the meat wasn't right?

No, maybe he left a little piece that escaped him, but the Rabbi showed that one must trust only the mashghiah. [Interruption]. [H] What can I tell?

Interviewer: how was the family, you said that they ate together, did they go out together?

[H] In reality, what [I] the girls on their own and the boys on their own, the girls played by themselves and the boys, they went out at times, together, and we used to play outside a lot, even there, outside of the house, ball, or marbles, we played outside in the street. For example, poultry there, I told you, if you wanted to buy poultry you had to find occasion when someone... to slaughter the chicken, you have to go to the shohet, to do the slaughtering, sometimes, the shohet one finds in his store, he works, so in the street they would do the slaughtering, in a corner in the street they did the slaughtering [H] and that's all. [I] It wasn't that there was a place, just in the street, and then they covered it with sand and [H] that's it.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the woman who sold peanuts?

Ah, they were black, they were poor, this was their job, they bought these peanuts, and they roasted them at home, but they roasted them in a manner, I don't know, with sand, since, look, they put the sand in a pan to heat up, then they put the peanuts inside, then the heat is uniform, you understand, they covered them with sand and the heat was uniform, because they did not have oven, charcoal, so they could not have uniform heat, so they put it in the sand. But they came out very good, they added salt, it was really good, it was special, and they sold it for [H] half [A] grush [I] half a piastra, one piastra.

Interviewer: I remember that my father took it on Saturday.

So he took it without money.

Interviewer: yes.

They trusted the Jews, they even went to coffee shops on Saturday and got a beverage and didn't pay, and paid after Shabbat, but they had a lot of trust, they gave. These black ones they used to be in the markets, and they used to sell.

Interviewer: What kid of films did you have?

American an Egyptians, with subtitles in Arabic and in English, not translated, many Egyptian. There was a cinema that once a week showed a film in the afternoon just for the women, so that the Arabs could go, only women, men could not go in. Because the Arab women could not go out, so once a week these women could go, even the Jewish women went, only women, not men.

Interviewer: If you could redo that life, would you redo it?

Yes, truthfully yes, yes.

Interviewer: But without the Arabs?

Even with the Arabs, I don't know, maybe because I had no responsibilities, I went to school, I came back, I played, it was more beautiful, it was more beautiful.

Interviewer: because people were closer, there were no telephones?

There was nothing, there was the radio, yes, there was a telephone, but where was the telephone, not in the houses, in the office, in the office, to call abroad you had to go to the post office, you had to wait half a day to call abroad. I remember when, there were those who went to Italy in the summers, with the ship, all the Jews went to accompany them to the harbor [laughs], I remember very well, every ten days there was an Italian postal cargo that arrived, the 10, 20, 30 of the month arrived there. It arrived in the morning and departed in the afternoon and they let us go abroad, and before they left, a sailor walked by with a drum announcing: "Chi non parte a terra, chi non parte a terra" [laughs], (who is not traveling to the ground) to let all the visitors descend.

Interviewer: Any more stories to tell me, that you remember?

No, this was the life.

Interviewer: Have you ever been to a funeral?

Yes, there was there [H] Chevrat Rabbi Gershon, [I] that is [H] Hevra Kadisha [I] that was called Hevrat Rabbi Gerhon all were volunteers without getting paid, and there were those who were [H] Haverim, they were called Haverim there, who belonged, but they did not do anything, so they paid, they gave money, 'tormim' (donations), haverim bhevra kadisha, and chevrat rabbi gershon, and torbim, and there were those who worked, they did all that is necessary for the dead.

Interviewer: What did the women do when one died?

Oh, when there was a death they made a noise, [H] habibi [I] there was a time that they even brought [H] mekonenet (mourner)[I] a professional mourner, Jewish, yes once I saw them, they hit on the table with a stick.

Interviewer: also themselves?

Yes also themselves, on the chest on the face...

Interviewer: yet it is forbidden, how is it that they do all the religion.

This is [H] forbidden in the halacha [I] but they did it.

Interviewer: What do you think, the Arab influence other influences?

Could be, the Arabs did this, the Arabs did this [H] but the mekonenet there is in the Tanach, on the mekonenet there is, but this [I] hitting oneself is forbidden, but they used to do it, and when they went out with the dead from the house, then all the women were yelling, yelling,

Interviewer: were men and women together in funerals?

No women did not go to funerals, only men.

Interviewer: So when did they yell.

At home, when the dead was leaving the house, the women did not accompany the dead only the men. And in Benghazi, at least, I know that when the father died, the children, the sons, did not enter with him to the cemetery. When they took him to be buried the sons did not enter inside [H] because they say even the children [I] the sons could not help you now. [H] Now go to (inaudible, I think on your own) yesh lo kedaot chi catuv Jacov, Yitzhak vayikberu Yacov banav, Yacov vesav banav (the reference is it is written that they buried Isaac, Jacob and Esau his sons) that was the custom in Benghazi, the sons did not go, no matter what age.

Interviewer: so they do like all the Jews, as soon as he dies they try to bury him right away.

Yes, yes. They sat on the ground, they lit candles, and at times they made the Tahara in the house and sometimes in the cemetery. When there was a death right away the shamas, he is the one who was told, he quickly gathered these haverim, and they did everything that was necessary. They prayed in the house of the dead for a week and for an entire year, every Saturday they went to the house of the dead to read mishnayot.

Interviewer: tell me about the zohar, you mentioned it re: the brit.

We read Hallel. In the afternoon in the Talmud Torah, the kids read the hallel, and they were given these chick peas, and candies, and money.

Interviewer: What is [A] Tibyit?

That is even here it is [H] learning, [I] they do it the seventh day of Pesah, Oshana Rabah, Shavuot all night, Pesah till midnight or so. They read the [H] Torah, Nevim, Ktuvim, tehillim, and there is, everyone has his reading, oshana rabah, they read the Zohar.

V [I] when was selihot?

It was at five in the morning, it started at five, the last years, they said before it started at midnight, this I do not know.

Interviewer: and one went from door to door

Yes, before, the shammas, went to wake up the people, but the last years no. At five they did Selihot, then shaharit, they had coffee, arak.

Interviewer: for Friday night, before kiddush they used to do Shir Hasherim?

No that is in the [H] synagogue [I] synagogue, before, Friday afternoon we read in the synagogue [H] parshat hashavuah, shnaim mikra, and ehad targum (expression: read very carefully, twice in the Hebrew and once in Unkelos). Before minha, shnaim mikra, ehad targum yom shishi parshat hashavuah [I] of that week, then minha was prayed, then before aravit of erev shabbat we read all of shir hashirim, and in Shavuot it was customary to read azharot, Shavuot was two days [H] sheni azharot, ehad ta'ase mitzvot [I] then we read azharot and half of megillat Ruth the first day and the second day the second part, then they read, the women in particular came to hear it [H] the ten commandments [I] in Arabic, translated in Arabic. [Sings a little in Arabic] It was long, not all could read them, there were few who knew how to read it, they red the ten commandments in Arabic, but they were long, for example [H] you must not have another G-d [I] in Arabic it is very long, it is written, yes I have it written. Bar Yohai, [H] for example, [I] Friday night, after synagogue, we did Shalom Aleichem, then Eshet Hail then we used to sing before the Kiddush, Bar Yohai, but there were those who sang Bar Yohai in Arabic, in Hebrew and in Arabic, and the same for Pesah we read it in Arabic and Hebrew. The majority did not understand Hebrew, they knew how to read it but did not understand it so they translated it in Arabic the Hagadah.

Interviewer: Did they speak Judeo Arabic. How was it?

In Libya, it was Arabic, but different from the Arabic, why, in our Arabic there were many words in Hebrew, words in Italian, and French. I don't understand it either. There were times when we went out with Arabs and Jews, and when we spoke to the Arab we spoke automatically his Arabic and when we spoke to the Jew we spoke a different Arabic without even being aware of it.

Interviewer: Can you give me an example of a sentence?

For example [H] bo hena [I] come here the Jews say [A] tala anaya, with the Arab [A] tala ohn. Tala ohn. Anaya the Jews say, the Arabs say Ohn. I don't want [A] Ana man habush, [I] the Arabs say [A] man redish [I] you understand, it is different, sometimes when I spoke between us Jews the Arab could not understand all of it, he could understand some, and when we talked together, it came naturally without being aware of it, speaking with Jews with Judeo Arabic, and with the Arab, Arab Arab. In Livorno, I told you when I was in Livorno even they, the Italians there were words in Hebrew, for example, "hanno shahtato oggi", (did they slaughter today)? [Laughs] what is this shahtato. My wife says that even in Morocco they were like that. The Judeo- Arabic was different from the Arabic of the Arabs.

[Interruption]

Interviewer: You were saying that during the Brit Mila they put in the room of the woman.

On the door of the woman who gave birth they would hang this, what is it called, a prayer [H] to guard the child. There were customs, [I] when he did his first BM the infant, they used to write on the wall they designed a hand against the evil eye. They were very afraid of the evil Eye, in the names of the Jews there were names, like Ehwatchu=hotch (fish, against the evil eye), Hamus ([H] against the evil eye, [A] five, amos is Hamos) Ehwetcha (little fish), [I] you understand they believed a lot in the evil eye.

Interviewer: You wanted to tell me of Hellula.

Even here there is Hellula, [H] but first Purim, Purim, there were three Purim, there was the normal Purim that was celebrated by all Jews, then the other Purim they called it Purim (inaudible sounds like di gibonim, shel sheker, Purim katan beivrit (small Purim in Hebrew), one they called it Purim Shrif, the other Purim Berghel, [I] why because there were [H] decrees [I] in Tripoli, they wanted to kill all the Jews,

Interviewer: When?

I don't remember, but when came a new leader called Berghel who annulled all this, the first and the second. And all these in the [H] hodesh Adar [I] month of Adar. [H] All in the month of Adar. There is in Purim, in Synagogue they pray Mi Camoha, and in Purim Berghel and Purim Eshrif also they did Mi Camoha as it is written here the whole story [he is reading in a book which prayers for the special Purims: Praising what G-d did. I am Avraham Ben Refael Halfon, he is writing the story exactly how it happened, the seed of bad people, the year of Taf Kuf Nun Gimel (1853), came to the city nine ships on 21 month of Av (inaudible because it is too fast) the bad man was looking for tricks how to kill the Jews, 60,000 mahbub which is money in the times of the Turks, continues quoting the story].

Interviewer: And the Hellula what is it?

Hellula of Lag Baomer, is for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, a week before that the Hellula for Rabbi Meir Baal haNes. This is done here too. There are many things, for example, three times in the year they read the ten commandments, Parshat Yitro, Parashat Vaithanan and Shavuot, this is our custom, that all the synagogue attendees stand, before we read in the Tanah, they sing "The day of receiving the Torah at Sinai" this is unique to Libyan Jews, there isn't anyone who has this. [Sings]. This exists just by us. There is by us also on Shabbat haGadol, the Shabbat before Pesah, they don't sing the regular part they sing for Shabbat haGadol a different song, [sings]. A Hazan that catches a synagogue in Israel does not let anyone be a Hazan, it is a problem in Israel, that is why there are not Hazanim in the next generation. The majority of synagogues in Libya there are no Hazanim. I was always praying here, I have a moral obligation to pray as a Hazan. I was there when they founded the synagogue, in Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I do everything, there is no Hazan, I am the Hazan. From Kol Nidre till the end of Yom Kippur I do everything, the Torah, the Shofar alone, all this. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipppur ad public fast days the reading of the Torah is different. [He sings regular Torah tune, and then the High Holy Days tune]. We have on Shabbat, during Minha [sings]
 
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