The once striving Lebanese Jewish community was a key figure to the social and economical structure of Beirut. Estimated a rough population of 30,000, Lebanese Jews emigrated out of Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion which reached Beirut and led to the destruction of the only synagogue in central Beirut by Israeli shells. Most of those who left to countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Argentina and some even Israel say that they didn’t leave because of fear, “We had a very happy life in Lebanon. We never felt it was dangerous or that we faced any sort of risk. We had parties, picnics, we went out,” said Lucy Elia, a Lebanese Jewish lady who left in the 1980s, in an interview with BBC. She continued to say “the decision to leave was driven not by threats to themselves, but the realization that their children had no future in Lebanon, which is the case of many Lebanese emigrants from various religions and areas in Lebanon due to the instability the country went through since the 1975 civil war.
After this mass emigration, Lebanon suffered deeply as a crucial part of the Lebanese community which contributed culturally and economically diminished. The Lebanese Jewish society consisted of some of the most successful businessmen and capitalists which drew their finances from the Lebanese market as they left and put the Lebanese economy in jeopardy.
Today, somewhat less than 200 Jewish citizens live in Lebanon, (and about 2,000 between Lebanon and other countries) mostly situated in Beirut area and live just like any other Lebanese person, but still most of them suffer from the fear of practicing their belief openly due to uneducated extremists who cannot differentiate between the Jewish belief and the state of Israel. But none of such assaults have been reported.
In 2009, the restoration and renovation of the Maghen Abraham Synagogue started with the blessing of all Lebanese political and religious parties. Even Hezbolla, which is accused by some to be an anti-Jewish organization, welcomed the spring of the Lebanese Jews. Hezbolla spokesperson, Husseinn Rahal, commented on the event by saying: “We respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity… The Jews have always lived among us.”
No matter the quantity, the Lebanese Jewish community adds unquestionable quality to Lebanese culture. And with this step, the rehabilitation of the Jewish lifestyle in Lebanon has started.