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TRIPOLI (ancient Oea):

Early History.

Seaport on the northern coast of Africa; capital of the Turkish vilayet of the same name. Local tradition states that under the Fatimite dynasty in Egypt, Jews from theoasis of Pessato established the most ancient community in Tripoli. Benjamin of Tudela, on the other hand, who traveled through northern Africa in the latter part of the twelfth century and visited Tunis and Alexandria, makes no mention of Tripoli. When the Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, they avoided Tripoli, which was then a part of the dominions of Ferdinand the Catholic; nor did they settle there until it passed into the hands of Sultan Sulaiman the Magnificent in 1551. The surnames of the Jewish families of Tripoli show that Spanish Jews never resided in the city in considerable numbers; for instead of bearing names like "Toledo," "Carmona," and "Tarragone," they are called "Arbib," "Hasan," "Halefi," "Racah," "Tayar," "Tamam," etc. Moreover, the traveler Benjamin II. drew particular attention to the fact that the family of Sylva was descended from Spanish Maranos who had come to the city at some unknown period. In 1667 Miguel Cardoso, one of the most ardent disciples of Shabbethai Ẓebi, endeavored to establish a Shabbethaian sect at Tripoli, but was forced by the Jews to leave the city.

Special Purims.

In 1705 the Bey of Tunis made war upon Ḥalil Pasha, governor of Tripoli, and threatened to put the inhabitants to the sword; but his camp was ravaged by an epidemic, and he was forced to retreat. In memory of this event the local rabbis instituted a yearly festival on the 24th of Ṭebet, called "Purim Sherif," or "Purim Kidebuni." Eighty-seven years later a corsair named Borghel attacked Ali Pasha Karamanli, the governor, and committed many atrocities in the city, burning at the stake the son of Abraham Ḥalfon, the caid of the Tripolitan Jews. At the end of two years, however, Karamanli succeeded in expelling the invaders; and in commemoration of this deliverance the Jews established the Purim Borghel, which falls on the 29th of Ṭebet. See Purims, Special.

When Benjamin II. visited Tripoli in 1850, he found there about 1,000 Jewish families, with eight synagogues and several Talmudic schools, while the spiritual interests of the community were in the keeping of four rabbis.

Tripoli has produced a number of rabbinical authors, the most important being the following: Simeon b. Labi, who flourished about 1509 and was the head of a local Talmudic school, besides being the author of a cabalistic commentary on Genesis entitled "Ketem Paz" and of a hymn on Simeon b. Yoḥai; Abraham Ḥalfon, who flourished in the latter part of the eighteenth century and wrote "Ḥayye Abraham" (Leghorn, 1826), on the ritual laws of the Bible and the Talmud, in addition to a manuscript diary, still extant; Moses Serussi, who flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century and wrote the "Wa-Yasheb Mosheh"; and Ḥayyim Cohen, author of "Millot ha-Melek," "Leb Shomea'," "Zokrenu le-Ḥayyim," "'Ereb Pesaḥ," "Allon Bakut," "Perush al-Seliḥot," "Na'awah Ḳodesh," "Torat Ḥayyim," "Perush Hosha'anot," and "Miḳra Ḳodesh."

Interior of a Bet Ha-Midrash at Tripoli(From a painting by Israel Gentz.)Rabbis and Scholars.

The administration of the community, which pays an annual tax of 4,890 francs for exemption from military service, is in the hands of a chief rabbi ("ḥakam bashi"), who is assisted by four judges. Since 1840 the following chief rabbis have officiated at Tripoli: Jacob Memun (d. 1849), Shalom Tito, Moses Arbib, Elijah Hazan (1874-88; appointed by a firman of the sultan Aziz and decorated with the Order of the Medjidie), Ezekiel Sasson (1897), David Ḳimḥi (1897-1902), and the present incumbent, Shabbethai Levi. The Jews of Tripoli, who are characterized by many superstitious beliefs, now (1905) number 12,000 in a total population of 40,000. Theyhave many representatives in various mechanical and mercantile pursuits. They possess eighteen synagogues, eleven yeshibot, a society for the relief of the sick; also two schools maintained by the Alliance, Israélite Universelle.

A number of towns in the vicinity of Tripoli contain a considerable Jewish population, e.g., Amrum, 1,000; Derne or Derna, 150; Garian, 300; Homs, 300; Messilata, 350; Misserato, Idir, and Maatin, 400; Tajoorah, 200; Yiffren or Jebel, 1,000; Zanzbur, 60; Zawiel, 450; and Ziliten, 450.

Bibliography:
  • Dezobry, Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie;
  • Benjamin II., Mas'e Yisrael, p. 166;
  • Franco, Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman, p. 121;
  • Hazan, Ha-Ma'alot li-Shelomoh, pp. 38, 116;
  • Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, s.v. Simeon b. Labi;
  • Bulletin de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1885, 1889, 1890, 1903;
  • Revue des Ecoles de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle, pp. 81, 153, 358, 421, 428;
  • R. E. J. xx. 78 et seq.
S. M. Fr.
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