A long-time Jewish neighborhood in the Lebanese city of Sidon that kept its Jewish name throughout the tribulations of Lebanese-Israeli tensions has finally lost the name. The residents renamed the neighborhood, known for decades as Haret al-Yahud (Neighborhood of the Jews), Haret Gaza. It happened at the end of last week, when the Arab world commemorated International Quds Day (Jerusalem Day).
Sidon is the third-largest city in Lebanon, located about midway between the two largest cities, Tyre and Beirut, and only some 60 kilometers from Israel. Haret al-Yahud was long populated mostly by Jews, part of the Lebanese Jewish population that numbered close to 24,000 in 1948.
The Jews in Lebanon were a well-entrenched population that did not support the Zionist struggle, despite riots against Jews in Tripoli and the expulsion of Jews from the University of Beirut in the late 1940's. In fact, Lebanon was the only Arab country whose Jewish population actually increased after the State of Israel was established in 1948, as 10,000 moved there from Iraq and Syria.
Only in the 1950’s did the Jews begin to emigrate, moving mostly to the United States and Europe.
In 1971, Albert Elia, the 69-year-old Secretary-General of the Lebanese Jewish community, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Syrian agents. In 1982, during the Peace for Galilee War, 11 Jewish leaders were captured and killed by Islamist terrorists. By 1999, only a few dozens Jews remained in the country. The Jewish community’s synagogue and school in Beirut have been all but demolished.
“The move to rename the [Sidon] neighborhood,” explained a local Arab leader to the Lebanese Daily Star, “expresses our refusal of the unjust siege that has been imposed on Gaza for more than four years.
The paper reported that the naming ceremony also featured impromptu “battle scenes” between Israel and “resistance fighters.” “The Resistance won of course,” one child gang leader told the paper.