Qabliya (Kabliya) Synagogue, Yefren (Yefran, Yifrin, יפרן, يفرن), Libya

The ancient Qabliya (Kabliya, קאבלייה) synagogue in Yefren (יפרן, يفرن), Libya. It is also called the Ghariba (גריבה / מופלאה) or Nataliah (נטליה) synagogue according to some. One theory behind the name Qabliya has to do with its location as the southern synagogue or the other synagogue in the village is located closer to the coast and is known as the Bahri (בחרי, بحري) synagogue.

كنيس او معبد يهودي في يفرن ليبيا.

Nestled in the Nafusa mountains is the Qabliya (Kabliya) Synagogue, a two-thousand-year-old synagogue guarded by Muslims in the small ancient city of Yefren. Yefren's name is representative of both the geographic location and physical aesthetic of its synagogues, schools, and homes. The name Yefren comes from the Berber root Afri, also the source of the name Africa and the name of the Berber Goddess Afri. One of the meanings associated with this root is "cave" or "hole ", and hence the troglodyte caves associated with the history of the area, which is also common to the neighboring Tunisian region [1]. The result of a cross reflection of name to its presence, in terms of the synagogue’s close appearance to a cave, is significant because caves themselves are so ancient. It entrenches a sense of age and presence to the synagogue in a way that parallels with the details and practices of Judaism.



Qabliya (Kabliya) Synagogue: In this mountain city of Yefren, located in the western region of Libya some 132 km to the southwest of Tripoli [2], there is a struggle to protect this significant synagogue from deterioration. With six arches and six windows echoing the Star of David, stones carried from the Second Temple by exiles in Jerusalem, and imprinted hands along the roof [3], the evidence of this synagogue is significant in understanding much of the historical evidence of Jewish diaspora. Yefren was once the epicenter of a two-millennia-old Jewish community in Libya with a dozen synagogues and nearly forty thousand residents [4]. It is a beautiful place to visit, comprising of several mountains divided by deep valleys and truly magical groves and little jungles and cliffs that give the city its unique edge. 

Jewish Community in Yefren: Withstanding a society of two ethnic groups and attempting to coexist with the Berber ethnic minority of Yefren for centuries [5], there had been an inconsistency of peace that had all too often left the society for the Jews native to this Yefren vulnerable to seizes and displacement. The Jewish community in Libya itself dates back to the third century BCE and at its peak numbered around thirty-eight thousand people, although it was always the smallest of the Jewish populations in Northern Africa [6].

Ethnic and cultural tensions are recorded through Yefren and much of Libya between these two groups in many of their buildings, as many villages around Yefren bear the mark of the Libyan Jews, who until their departure soon after Israel’s creation in 1948, constituted half the city’s population [7]. Although many sites remain untouched, in the sense that they were not destroyed, the Ghriba synagogue, for example, displays tension through a pattern of overlapping inscriptions in Hebrew aiming to replace those inscriptions in Amazigh, the language of the Berbers [8].

Yefren, Libya

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