The beginning of the Jewish settlement in Lebanon dates back to biblical times. It became significantly stronger with the expulsion of Spain and the settlement of some of the exiles on the Lebanese coastal plain. At the end of the 19th century, about 2,500 Jews lived in Lebanon and their number steadily increased. In fact, after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish community in Lebanon was the only one in Arab countries whose number increased.
Zionist organizations such as the Scouts and Maccabi operated in the Beirut community, and local athletes led by Hebrew teacher Moshe Kamchin even participated in the 2nd Maccabiah. In addition, there was underground activity in Lebanon and local Jews assisted in smuggling Jews to Israel from Syria, Iraq and other countries by sea, air and land.
Community member Shula Cohen Kishik, led the immigration of Lebanese Jews and Arab countries to Israel between the years 1947-1961, and transmitted intelligence information to Israel. In 1961 she was arrested and sentenced to death. Under international pressure, her sentence was commuted to 7 years in prison. After the Six Day War, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange deal and immigrated to Israel.
Mass immigration from Lebanon began after the Six Day War, and following the Civil War in 1975 an absolute majority of Jews emigrated and only a small number of Jews remained in Beirut.
The connection to Israel and to Jerusalem never ceased throughout the years. In addition to contributing to the immigration of Jews and to security, wealthy Lebanese Jews invested in Israel’s economy and in building educational, medical, cultural and religious institutions. This group includes the Safra family, the Sakal family, the Cuba family and many others. Despite their tremendous contribution – covert and overt – to the building of Israel, the Jews of Lebanon never flaunted it and maintained their modest attitude.