Jew, Syrian in Lebanon

Jew, Syrian
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People Name: Jew, Syrian
Country: Lebanon
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 400
World Population: 77,400
Primary Language: Arabic, North Levantine Spoken
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 0.09 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Jews
Affinity Bloc: Jews
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

According to community tradition, Jews have lived in Syria since ancient times, possibly as far back as the time of King David. More recently, additional communities of Jews immigrated to Syria from Spain in the late 15th century and from Italy and other European countries in 18th and 19th centuries.

The completion of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869 resulted in a shift in trade routes, leading many Syrian Jews to leave Aleppo and Damascus in Syria for Egypt, Lebanon and multiple western countries. Today, significant Syrian Jewish communities live in the United States, Britain, and multiple Latin American countries, including Mexico, Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Jamaica.

Jews in Lebanon enjoyed relative tolerance during the rule of Christian Arabs in the country, with 7,000 living in Beirut in the mid-1950s. However, the majority left in 1967 and those that remained have suffered multiple rounds of violence and persecution. Most of the Jews remaining in Beirut left following the Muslim-Christian civil war in 1975-76.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Lebanon’s constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and the free exercise of religious rights for all religious groups provided they do not disturb the public order. But the reality rarely lives up to the ideal, especially in southern Lebanon. Jews in the area live in constant fear of violence since the kidnapping of nine Jews in 1985 by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization based in southern Lebanon. The remaining Jews do not openly practice their religion for fear of persecution.

As of 2020, the Jewish Community Council estimated that the number of Jewish people is far smaller than it was 10-20 years ago. Most of the synagogues in Lebanon have fallen into disrepair or are being used for other purposes. Several have suffered heavy damage as a result of the civil war and of looting. Nearly all of the Jews remaining in Lebanon live in Beirut.

Real or perceived relationships with or support of Israel can result in arrest and imprisonment. In 2020, Kinda el-Khatib was arrested and accused of being an Israeli agent and of opposing Hezbollah. A Military Court sentenced her to three years in prison for "collaborating" with and traveling to Israel. Further, Lebanese law bans any audiovisual media promoting a relationship with Israel.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Rabbinical Judaism is the dominant religion of Jews in this region, though Jews in Lebanon practice their faith in private. Rabbinical Judaism replaced the temple with the synagogue, the priesthood with the rabbi, and the sacrificial ceremony with the prayer service. They emphasize studying the Torah (Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible), the growing need for national restoration in the Promised Land, and the function of this world as preparation for the world to come.


What Are Their Needs?

The Syrian Jews in Lebanon need gospel resources. There are translations of Bible portions in North Levantine Arabic (the primary language of Syrian Jews), but not the entire Bible or even the whole New Testament. Some audio recordings and video resources are available, but not an audio Bible or the JESUS Film.

Throughout their history, the Jews have faced discrimination and persecution. They need to experience emotional healing and forgiveness. They need a spiritual hunger; most view their "Jewishness" as an ethnic identity rather than a dedication to the Lord.

Prayer Points

Ask God to open the minds and hearts of Syrian Jews to Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. May he soften their hearts toward those who come as his ambassadors.

Ask God to send loving believers from a Jewish background to work among the Syrian Jews of Lebanon.

Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to mission agencies that are focusing on the Middle Eastern Jews.

Ask God to establish strong, multiplying local churches among the Middle Eastern Jews, resulting in a movement spreading to Jews of all backgrounds in all countries.

Text Source:   Joshua Project