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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Lebanon

Cedars and Promised land - ranging Lebanon between Arabs, Christs, and Jews - Herzl Israel and PLO

from: Lebanon; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 10

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)




Middle East country called after a mountain chain running parallel to the Mediterranean coast N. of Israel. The name Lebanonis derived from lavan (lbn; "white") in reference to the snow covering its peaks. It was variously called Lebanon in Hebrew, Libnah in Phoenician, Labnanu in Assyrian, and Lablani or Niblani in Hittite.

In Ancient Times.

[God Baal Lebanon - cedars and firs from the Lebanon mountains for Egypt and Assyria]

Like most high mountains, Mt. Lebanon was imagined in early times to have been the abode of a god, Baal Lebanon, who is sometimes identified with Hadad. The area was inhabited by a number of different peoples in the prehistoric period. It appears to have been eventually settled by a West-Semitic population, later designated Canaanite and in Hellenistic sources Phoenician.

The mountains of the Lebanon, rich in cedars and other coniferous trees, attracted the attention of the rulers of the treeless Nile Valley at an early date. As early as the fourth dynasty, the pharaoh Snefru probably sent to Byblos for cedars, firs, pines, and other trees. For 1,500 years the forests of the Lebanon supplied Egypt with wood for a number of purposes, including shipbuilding and construction of temples, sacred and funerary boats, and doors for palace gates.

As the mountains became denuded, more and more harbors were opened by the Egyptians. From the 12th century B.C.E. onward the Assyrians competed with the Egyptians for the wood of the Lebanon. Tiglath-Pileser I advanced into the region in order to obtain wood for building temples to the gods Anu and Adad.

In 877 B.C.E. Ashurnasirpal II took firs and pines from the Lebanon back to Assyria. The devastation caused by Sennacherib among the cedars and firs is described in the Lord's answer to Hezekiah's prayer (II Kings 19:23).

According to (col. 1542)

Isaiah, the trees of the Lebanon rejoiced when Sargon of Assyria passed away (14:8).

[Lebanon as a border region of a "promised land" - cedars and firs for the Jewish temple]

In general, the Lebanon marks the northern boundary of the Promised Land (Deut. 1:7; 3:25; 11:24: Josh. 1:4; 9:1). Its cedars are praised as the finest of trees (I Kings 5:13) and are contrasted with the bramble in Jotham's parable (Judg. 9:15). Isaiah praises the cypress, the plane tree, and the larch of the region (60:13). In the Song of Songs and other books of the Bible the wild animals, waters, trees, flowers, wine, and snow of the Lebanon are described in glowing terms. When Solomon built the Temple, he was supplied with cedars from the Lebanon by his ally Hiram, king of Tyre (I Kings 5:15-24), who sent the logs in floats to a harbour near Jaffa (Tell Qasila; II Chron. 2:15).

[[According to Jewish archeology there was no Solomon temple, see: The Bible Unearthed from Silberman and Finkelstein]]

The same procedure was repeated for the construction of the Second Temple [[which is the only one]], at which time the forests belonged to the king of Persia (Ezra 3:7).

In Hellenistic and Roman times the Lebanon was divided among the various Phoenician cities then largely Hellenized; it became part of the province of Syria, and from the third century a separate province, Phoenicia (Augusta Libanensis).

Post-Second Temple and Arab Periods.

[Cedars for Phoenician cities, for the Greeks, Romans and for Byzantium]

In post-biblical times, the forests of the Lebanon continued to be exploited by the Phoenician cities in whose territories they stood for the benefit of the Hellenistic and Roman rulers. In the seventh century (the Byzantine period) the mountaineers of the region adopted the theological views of the emperor Heraclius, becoming Monotheletes; the followers of this sect were called Maronites after their patriarch John Maron. They maintained their religion throughout the Arab domination.

[M.A.-Y.]> (col. 1543)

[7th-15th century: Jews in Lebanon]

There is scant information about the existence of Jews between the seventh and 15th centuries, but small Jewish communities continued to exist in the area which is now Lebanon. The Arab author al-Baladhuri relates that the Caliph Mu'awiya settled Jews in *Tripoli. The Palestinian academy established its seat in Tyre in 1071. *Benjamin of Tudela, in the 12th century, relates that the Jews lived in the (col. 1543)

same area as the *Druze, with whom they traded and engaged in various crafts. In crusader times, the Lebanon was divided between the count of Tripoli and the king of Jerusalem, remaining in the hands of the crusaders almost until the end of the Latin kingdom (1291).


[[The Crusaders in their "Christian" fanatism killed all Jews which were in their way, see Encyclopaedia Judaica: Crusades (for European Jews) and see also the summary of the Jewish history Scrolls of Fire (for the Jews in Palestine)]].

[19th century: Jews with Druzes in the Lebanon - transferred Jews to Rosh Pinah]

There were also Jews living in the village districts. In the mountain townlet of Dayr al-Qamar, situated halfway between *Beirut and *Sidon, there was a Jewish community (80 families at the beginning of the 19th century), which engaged in agriculture and the breeding of silkworms, as well as commerce, the manufacture of soap, and the extraction of some iron from the surrounding ore deposits. Some Jews also lived in villages within the direct or outlying vicinity of Dayr al-Qamar (including Mukhtara, 'Ayn Qanya, 'Ayn Zahlata, and others).

The common factor which characterized almost every one of these Jewish concentrations was their dependency on the Druze inhabitants, with whom they coexisted on friendly terms. In 1860, as a result of the interdenominational war between the Druzes and the Maronites of Lebanon, the Druzes gradually abandoned the region of Dayr al-Qamar. They were followed by the Jews who settled in Beirut, the townlet of Aley (southeast of Beirut), and Sidon. In the interior of Lebanon, the only remaining Jewish community was to be found in Hasbayya, on the slopes of the Hermon, where its presence was already known from the 18th century.

[[In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened and all intermediate trade was lost for the Arab side, so the whole Middle East region was impoverishing, also Lebanon, see in the analysis of Haarmann]].

Most of the Jews of this townlet were transferred to Rosh Pinah in 1888 by Baron Rothschild but it was only in 1913 that the last three families left [[upper Galilee]]. The relations between the Jews and the ruling Maronite community were at times strained and there were several blood libels.

[20th century: Jewish immigration from Greece and Turkey]

The development of modern Lebanon was accompanied by an increase in the Jewish population, most of which was of Sephardi origin. The Jews arrived in Lebanon, especially to the capital, Beirut, from Greece and Turkey, and they gradually became an important commercial factor. By 1929 there were about 5,000 Jews in Beirut alone. The Jews of Lebanon were considerably influenced by their proximity to the Jewish population of Palestine but they did not suffer from the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 because the government foiled attempts to attack them.> (col. 1544)


Contemporary Period.

[1948 no exodus - 1951: about 9,000 Jews]


<Immediately after the outbreak of the Israel War of Independence (1948) the Lebanese government interned in a camp in Baalbek a number of Palestinian Jews, who happened to be in the country, but they were released shortly afterward and permitted to return home. The small Jewish community of Saida (Sidon), numbering 200 persons, was expelled in 1948 and the property of its members confiscated "for the Palestinian Arab refugees". However, the government ordered the police to protect the Jews of Saida and enable them to return to their homes and property.> (col. 1545)


<The number of Jews in Lebanon, estimated at 5,200 in 1948, rose in 1951 to about 9,000, of whom 6,961 were Lebanese citizens and about 2,000 stateless Jewish immigrants from Syria and Iraq. The Lebanese government allowed these immigrants to remain in the country, and some of them even acquired Lebanese citizenship.> (col. 1544)

<In 1950 the Lebanese government permitted Syrian and Iraqi Jews who had found sanctuary in Beirut to cross the frontier into Israel, under the supervision of the Lebanese-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. The government also set up guards on the Jewish quarters of Beirut whenever occasions warranted (May 1948; July 1958; June 1967), thus avoiding serious attacks by Muslim nationalists. Apart from the blowing up of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Beirut in 1950, Lebanese Jews remained unharmed, although Arab nationalists forced Jews to donate money for "Arab Palestine".

the Lebanese opposition parties, and particularly the Socialist Party, who were led by a member of parliament, Emil Bustani, several times demanded that Jewish property be confiscated and that Jews be discharged from government employment.

In 1952 the government was forced to discharge two Jewish officers from the Lebanese army, but a few Jewish officials continued to work for the government. Nor did the authorities limit the freedom of movement of Jews, and, except briefly in 1954, they were free to leave and enter Lebanon at any time. The same freedom was enjoyed by Syrian Jews who had settled in Lebanon. Jews were also permitted to sell their property and take money out in unlimited amounts. At no time were there ever limitations on their means of livelihood. Most of them were merchants, and a few were officials or artisans.> (col. 1545)

<Until 1958 the number of Jews remained at about 9,000, Lebanon being the only Arab country in which the Jewish population increased after 1948.> (col. 1544)

[since 1958: exodus of the Jews - only several hundred going to Herzl Israel]

Only after 1958 (col. 1544)

did a large exodus of Jews begin, as a result of the political unrest in the country. Many emigrated to the U.S. and Europe and several hundred went to Israel. In early 1967 the number of Jews remaining in Lebanon was estimated at about 5,000, but after the Six-Day War (June 1967), emigration increased. In 1968 the number of those remaining was estimated at about 3,000, almost all of whom lived in Beirut, with a few families remaining in Tripoli.> (col. 1545)

[since June 1967: limitations and broken economy provokes increasing Jewish emigration]

<Only after Six-Day War in June 1967 were limitations imposed on non-Lebanese Jews, who were obliged to seek work permits from the authorities and not every applicant's request was granted. This was one of the reasons for the increase in Jewish emigration from Lebanon after June 1967. Another reason was the partial paralysis of the Lebanese economy, particularly in the tourist industry, since Christian pilgrims no longer needed to pass through Lebanon in order to visit the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Some of the Jewish emigrants, particularly the young people, went to Israel.> (col. 1545)

[Situation 1968: Jewish communities and Jewish schools are working]

<In 1968 about 150 Jews lived there [[in Saida (Sidon)]].> (col. 1545)

<In 1968 there were still two Jewish banks, the Safrah Bank and the Société Bancaire du Liban (S.A.L., formerly Zilkhah Bank).> (col. 1545)

<The Beirut Jewish community in 1968 had a synagogue and other communal institutions, and there were synagogues in Saida and in the summer resorts Bhamdoun and Aley. In this period there were still Jewish schools in Beirut and Saida. Jewish pupils also attended Christian schools, especially high schools, both because no Jewish school contained all high school classes, and because of the preference of Lebanese Jews for studying French. Even in Jewish schools emphasis was placed on the study of French. Arabic was studied to a lesser extent, and Hebrew even less, although the study of Hebrew was not restricted by the (col. 1545)

authorities. The Jewish and Christian school networks have successfully combated illiteracy among the younger generation, but very few studied at institutions of higher learning. Most of the younger generation went into business. In 1968 it seemed that the end of the Lebanese Jewish community was near.> (col. 1546)

<By 1970 the community had decreased to about 1,500.

[H.J.C.]> (col. 1546)

<Attitude Toward Israel.

[Lasting tensions: Muslims want contacts to Arabs - Christians want peace with Herzl Israel - Muslims want integration of Palestinian refugees - Christians don't want the integration because Muslim percentage would rise]

Lebanon participated with the other Arab states, though not very intensively, in the 1948-49 war against Israel. On March 23, 1949, an armistice agreement was signed at Rosh Ha-Nikrah, fixing the former international boundary between Palestine and Lebanon as the armistice demarcation line; accordingly, Israel evacuated 14 villages in Lebanese territory which it had occupied during the fighting. From then on, the Lebanese-Israel border was generally quiet for a period of almost 20 years: there were few serious violations of the armistice, farmers from both countries met frequently in a friendly manner, and occasional crossings of the border by individuals were quietly solved by contacts between the Israel forces and the Lebanese gendarmerie. Israel also allowed Maronite dignitaries from Lebanon to visit their coreligionists in Israel.

This state of affairs was a result not only of Lebanon's military weakness, but also of the delicate balance between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanese population. While many Christians, especially the Maronites, may have agreed to peace with Israel, they had to take into account the desire of the Muslims for stronger contacts with the Arab world. For the same reason, the Christians were opposed to the integration of the Palestinian refugees (between 150,000-200,000, mostly Muslims, from both the 1948 and 1967 wars), although their integration into the thriving Lebanese economy would not have been too difficult. Consequently, most refugees continued to live in camps and were not granted citizenship.

[[Supplement: Wild Herzl Free Mason CIA Israel
Generally Israel is working with the Herzl program according to his book "The Jewish State" which says that Arabs can be driven away as the natives in the "USA" were driven away (here), and the borderline in the east is the Euphrates according to First Mose chapter 15 phrase 18 (see the Bible). Add to this Herzl Israel was founded without definition of any borderlines. Add to this Israel is cooperating with Free Masonry of the "USA" and with the criminal CIA so it's an "American" satellite. Add to this there are the Palestinian refugees driven out already not only in Lebanon, but a big part of the Palestinians had to fly to Jordan. Arab villages in Israel are destroyed or empty, the Tel Aviv Airport is built where a Palestinian town was placed etc. Add to this the world media are never speaking of or with the Palestinians who are already mostly driven out as Herzl was announcing it. So it's no wonder that the Arab League is financing a Palestinian guerrilla force as the last means. This Palestinian guerrilla is named a terror organization in this article. Basically there must be asked who was the first terrorist in Middle East. Herzl was, since 1896, and the "USA" are supporting this. There is no word about this in the Encyclopaedia Judaica...]]

[1967: struggle about cease-fire resolutions - Palestinian terror organization PLO - Lebanon ranging between Christians, Arabs and Jews - PLO opens a northern front against Herzl Israel]

As a member of the *Arab League, Lebanon participated in various Arab summit conferences, political propaganda and economic campaigns against Israel, but it did not engage in military actions, not even during the Six-Day War (June 1967). Lebanon therefore claimed that the Armistice Agreement of 1949 remained in force and that the Mixed Armistice Commissions should constitute the channel of communication between the two countries, whereas Israel held the view that the truce of 1948 and the subsequent armistice regimes collapsed in the 1967 war and Israel's relations with all its neighbours were based on the cease-fire resolution of June 1967.

A A gradual deterioration of the situation along the Israel-Lebanon border began in October 1968, when Palestinian terrorist organizations, which had previously limited themselves to fund-raising and propaganda in Lebanon, initiated armed attacks across the border. Gradually, thousands of terrorists concentrated on the slopes of Mount Hermon, overlooking the north of Israel. On Dec. 26, 1968, members of the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" flew from Beirut to Athens, where they attacked an El Al plane at the city's international airport. In retaliation, an Israel commando unit destroyed a number of planes at Beirut airport. From that time, the issue of whether or not to allow terrorist activity against Israel from Lebanese territory became a major focus of political life in the country.

The terrorists' demand for freedom of movement and action throughout the country and across the border was supported by the Arab "revolutionary" states, mainly Egypt and Syria, and extremist Muslim groups in Lebanon. Lebanon tried to prevent a confrontation with the Palestinian terrorists and made concessions to them, thus contributing to their growing strength. By April 1969 the government had to (col. 1546)

resign because of widespread violence inside Lebanon that threatened to deteriorate into full-scale civil war. Lebanon's government crisis lasted for seven months, during which time the terrorists strengthened their position in the country. Joint operations against Israel from southern Lebanon by al-Fath and al-Sa'ika (anti-Israel "storm troops" operated by the Syrian army) brought about an open clash between the authorities and the terrorist organizations.

Isolated in the inter-Arab arena and strongly censured by Syria, Lebanon accepted Nasser's mediation, and signed an agreement with the terrorists on Nov. 3, 1969, guaranteeing both the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon and the interests of the terrorists. It recognized the terrorists' presence and activity in Lebanon. It assigned them special areas, and points through which they could penetrate into Israel, but forbade shooting across the border, in order not to incriminate Lebanon.

The terrorists exploited the government's weakness and established themselves along the entire Lebanese-Israel border in an effort to convert Lebanon into a "northern front". This brought a sharp rise in the frequency of anti-Israel attacks from Lebanese territory including a bazooka attack on a school bus from Moshav Avivim (May 1970) and frequent acts of mortar shelling, mining, and sabotage against the settlements of Upper Galilee, including the town of Kiryat Shemonah. Israel retaliated from time to time by dispatching armoured units and mopping up terrorist bases.


[[We are all waiting for human rights. But secret services of "USA" and Herzl Israel don't want human rights, because without war there is no secret service needed, and Arabs do not either want human rights as it seems because they would have to give rights to the women. So the Middle East conflict will last for centuries...]]

-- L.F. Abel: Géographie de la Palestine, 1 (1933), 340-4
-- I. Ben Zvi, in: Zion, Me'assef, 2 (1927), 76-79; 4 (1930), 1942-54
-- idem, in: Tarbiz, 3 (1931/32), 436-51
-- idem: Erez Yisrael ve-Yishuvah (1967), index
-- S. Landshut: Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East (1950), 54-56
-- E. de Vaumas: Le Liban (1954)
-- N. Robinson, in: J. Freid (ed.): Jews in the Modern World, 1 (1962), 50-90
-- Pauly-Wissowa, s.v.
-- Press, Erez, s.v.> (col. 1547)> (col. 1547)


Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon,
                        vol. 10, col. 1542

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol. 10, col. 1542
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol.
                        10, col. 1543-1544
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol. 10, col. 1543-1544
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol.
                        10, col. 1545-1546
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol. 10, col. 1545-1546
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol.
                        10, col. 1547-1548
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Lebanon, vol. 10, col. 1547-1548