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Libyan Jew returns home after 44-year exile

Libyan Jewish exile David Gerbi visited the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli Saturday, and said that he is the first Jew to return to Libya since the revolt that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

The 12-year-old Gerbi and his family fled Tripoli in 1967 when an Arab-Israeli war stoked anger against the Jewish state and led to attacks on Jews in his neighborhood.

Suhaib Salem / Reuters

Libyan Jewish exile David Gerbi prays inside Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli on October 1. Gerbi and his family fled Tripoli in 1967 when an Arab-Israeli war stoked anger against the Jewish state and led to attacks on Jews in his neighborhood.

Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images

A picture shows the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew on stone tablets on top of an abandoned synagogue in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 28. The Jewish community in Libya dates back to the third century BC and at its peak numbered around 38,000 people.

Suhaib Salem / Reuters

Libyan Jewish exile David Gerbi is helped by an anti-Gadhafi fighter upon exit from the Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli on October 1.

Reuters reports:

In the walled old city of Tripoli, Libya's independence flag pokes through crumbling buildings and a gang of children wielding toy pistols tear through dusty alleyways.

In these run-down streets stands the empty, faded peach-colored Dar Bishi synagogue.

The interior can only be seen by climbing up the rubble of a collapsed house and the ark, which would normally shelter the sacred Torah scroll, is instead stuffed with a mattress.

The Hebrew inscription above it "Hear, O Israel" is barely perceptible from wear, and empty paint cans are strewn across the floor. The site of the Mikve baths, used once for ritual cleansing, is now a trash dump where stray cats scour for food next to a discarded washing machine as veiled women look on. Continue reading.

Read the latest from Libya in our story, Red Cross gets medicine into besieged Sirte, and see more images from the conflict in our slideshow.