Jews have lived in Lebanon since ancient times. According to tradition, in the 1st century c.e., King Herod the Great had a temple constructed in the city of Tyre for his Jewish subjects living there and also supported the Jewish community in Beirut. The community grew, and by the 6th century, synagogues had been built in both Beirut and Tripoli. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, Jews mainly settled in villages in Lebanon, and most Jewish communities were interspersed with those of the Druze.
During the first half of the current century, the community expanded tremendously due to immigration from Greece and Turkey, and later from Syria and Iraq. This continued immigration resulted from Lebanon’s fairly tolerant attitude, as was evidenced when Lebanon granted residency permits and sometimes even Lebanese citizenship to Jews fleeing persecution in Syria. Nevertheless, there were incidents of rioting and incitement around the time of the establishment of the State of Israel. Only after the Six-Day War and the outbreak of the civil war of 1976 did Jews feel compelled to emigrate en masse.
In the past two decades, the political climate has radicalized, and the remaining Jews are left in a tenuous and vulnerable position.
Nearly all of the remaining Jews are in Beirut. Because of the current political situation, Jews are unable to openly practice Judaism. In Beirut there is a committee that represents the community. Prior to 1976, there had been two schools and two synagogues in Beirut, and a school in Sidon.
Between 1976 and 1982 the PLO occupied an area in South Lebanon and launched attacks from this location. The Lebanon War was fought by Israel in 1982, in order to destroy this terrorist base. Israel supports the South Lebanese Army which is mainly composed of local Christians, and continues to maintain a presence in South Lebanon; skirmishes between the IDF and the radical Islamic movement Hizbollah are frequent occurrences. Aliya: Since 1948, 4,062 Lebanese Jews have emigrated to Israel.
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