(ANSAmed) – ROME, 10 MAG – A little-known Italian story of heroism and solidarity involving the Jews of Libya during the 1967 pogrom returned to center stage on Monday night at an event in the Italian capital dedicated employees of the flagship carrier Alitalia and their descendants.
The occasion was given by the distribution of a book entitled “Fermi, non Sparate, Sono Walter! (“Stop, don’t shoot, I’m Walter!”), which details the life of Walter Arbib.
Arbib is a Jew born into a family of Libyan descent who became a successful businessman in Canada and an internationally renowned philanthropist.
The biography, written by journalist Yossi Melman, who for years was editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily Haaretz, tells through Arbib’s life what happened in Libya in 1967 when the Six-Day War began. and that pogroms have been perpetrated. against the country’s Jewish community, which had been in the country for more than 2,000 years.
Editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and host of the event, Maurizio Molinari noted that Italians – with the support of the Italian government and the active interest of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff – had helped Jews flee a country become hostile.
The heroism of the Italian flag carrier’s employees saved people from Libyan persecution and “represents something that deeply binds Italy to the Jews of the Mediterranean,” Molinari said.
In an emotional speech, Arbib commemorated “the heroes of Alitalia, who at the time showed extraordinary courage and generosity, from managers to company drivers who, despite the risk , continued their work of transporting Jews from their offices to the airport”.
Arbib then named the man who, 55 years ago, saved his life and that of his mother: Renato Tarantino, the former foreman of Alitalia in Tripoli, now missing.
“Helping the Jews was helping people in great difficulty. We took a lot of risks because solidarity came first,” said Umberto Vaccarini, Tarantino’s assistant during the pogroms, on the sidelines of the event.
Vaccarini estimated that some 2,500 Jews were saved.
Dror Eydar, Israel’s ambassador to Italy, pointed to the coincidence between yesterday’s date and the Jewish date of 8 Iyar: when, 102 years ago, the Jews of Jerusalem fell victim to an Arab pogrom in the old Town.
It was April 4, 1920, he noted, and it had begun three weeks after the Balfour Declaration – on a national home for the Jews in Palestine – was inserted into the Sanremo Conference, “the embryo of which, 28 years later became the State of Israel.
The Ambassador noted that “of all the countries in the world, Italy was chosen to host this event of biblical proportions of the return to Zion, during which the world called on the Jews to end their long exile and return home to their old homeland”. (ANS Amed).