Crowd Forces Libyan Jew Out Of Synagogue The last remaining members of the Jewish community in Libya were driven out more than 40 years ago. Despite this, David Gerbi came back to Libya to help the rebels as they ousted Gadhafi in a six-month uprising. Gerbi hopes to re-establish the Jewish community, but he has run into problems.

Hostile Crowd Forces Libyan Jew Out Of Synagogue

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GUY RAZ, Host:

Now back in his homeland, Gerbi is receiving death threats, as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports.

LOURDES GARCIA: So I'm standing in front of the old synagogue in what was the old Jewish quarter of Tripoli. And right now, a crowd has gathered outside. There are armed men and they say that they are here for David's protection. But they are going to be asking him to leave.

HADI BELAZI: The building is not safe. The area is not safe. And there's a lot of people armed. And you don't know what happens. So, the best thing for him is to leave.

GARCIA: Hadi Belazi is among those outside the synagogue. It's tense. His son Haitham, who's there with him, agrees.

HAITHAM BELAZI: It's not the right time for this.


BELAZI: Because, you know, it's a very sensitive matter. We appreciate having different religions, Jews and everything, in our country. We want that. But not at this time.

GARCIA: He emerged from the synagogue today, his prayers interrupted.

DAVID GERBI: They told me that if I'm not leaving now, they will come and they are going to kill me, because they don't want the Jewish here.

GARCIA: As he's talking, his security guard hustles him away, afraid for his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, let's go right now.

GERBI: I'm scared only of God. If I have to die in this moment, I die.

GARCIA: But a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, Jalal el-Galal, says that contrary to what David Gerbi claims, he did not have the authorization of the NTC to restore the synagogue and he blames him for what happened.

JALAL EL: It is an illegal act because he has not taken any permission from anybody. I think it's a very sensitive issue at a very critical time. You are inciting something, going about it through improper channels. And it's obviously - you're going to incite a reaction.

GARCIA: Back on Tripoli's streets, David Gerbi says he won't leave.

GERBI: It's enough of this. This is old. This is the old persecution. This is thousands of years. They always - they need to kick out of the Jew. And now they throw me out again. I don't accept this anymore.

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tripoli.

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