After the Nakba of Palestine in 1948, the number of Jewish people in Lebanon reduced from around 6000 in the 60s till 3000 in the early 70s, shrinking the community down to 450 by 1975. The Lebanese civil war and the 1982 war with Israel further reduced the number of Jews in the country. Today, they are so rare and if they do live in Lebanon, they might hide their religion in fear of accusations and misconceptions.
Abu Jamil Valley in Beirut was once called Jew Valley: 6000 Jewish natives of Lebanon lived there. They belonged to high-class society and owned most of the wealth of the country.
Most of them are now in Canada, France, Spain, and the US. And, Liza Srour was the last Jew to live in the old Jewish quarter of Abu Jamil in a run-down building set to be demolished. Most of the houses around her that were once owned by members of the community are either now torn down or sold to Solidere.
Born and raised in Beirut and lived all her life in the city, Liza was always so proud to be Lebanese and proclaimed it all the time. Liza’s father, Isaac Srour, was a merchant in Abu Jamil area, while her mother played piano and worked as a tailor.
In 1969, Liza’s family decided to leave Lebanon as they were facing difficult challenges due to the country’s situation back then. Refusing to leave with them, she ran away and hid at her friend’s house.
In her interview with Vice, Liza said, “Love is what pushed me to stay here. But after 1982, Lebanon became the reason for staying.” Liza fell in love with a Muslim man named Salah, a handsome one as she said. She thought then that he was her soulmate. Little did she know that what she left her parents for was just a dream.
Liza grew up with a passion for the Lebanese singer Sabah who was her role model as a strong, free, and beautiful woman. Liza loved her songs, those that made her follow an adventure. Liza and Salah lived a love story despite all the conflicts around them, but this love story had to end due to some personal reasons. Despite breaking up, they stayed close friends, until Salah got married.
In 1982, Srour was offered Israeli citizenship by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but she refused, saying she was not and never would be Israeli. “Why should I have accepted that?” Srour asks in an interview with Christopher Sultan. “I am a Lebanese woman, and that’s what I’ll remain.” The Lebanese jews deemed Lebanon as their country, their nationality as Lebanese, and their Jewish ideology as their religion. For them, there was no contradiction between them.
Liza got married to a Christian man, Rimon, and lived with him for 15 years until he died. Nonetheless, Liza stayed a Jewish Lebanese citizen, a proud one indeed. “Although I hear many curses on the Jews due to Israel’s conflicts and the 2006 war, I am proud of being Jewish, and I am not afraid of anyone,” Liza said in her interview with Vice.
It is being said that Liza was the last remaining Lebanese Jew in Lebanon, but sources seem to contradict each other, and there is a lot of hush-hush around the subject.
For example, just three years ago, in 2016, various sources claimed they are around 200 still living in Lebanon while the president of the Lebanese Jewish Community Council said that they are around 2000.
While Judaism is among our officially declared 18 Lebanese denominations, it is barely talked about it and, when the subject is brought up, too many debates arise. Liza Srour died about a year ago, and with her is gone the last Lebanese Jew who kept proclaiming proudly her Lebanese identity and nationality.
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