Pnina Meghnagi Soloman was born in 1949 in Tripoli, Libya. In 1967, with the break out of Israel’s Six-Day War, Pnina was one day suddenly instructed to leave school and go home. The radio had been announcing that there was a war in Israel, and Libyans turned their rage towards Israel against their fellow Jewish Libyan citizens. Due to the dangers of being Jewish, Pnina went into hiding, and relied on her neighbors to bring her family kosher food.
One day, a crowd armed with machetes descended on her neighborhood looking for the Jews. Her local Sheikh came out on the street and told the crowd “mafich Yehud, no Jews here.” The Sheikh’s lie caused the mob to leave, saving the lives of the Jews still hiding throughout the neighborhood.
Eventually, the government gave Jewish citizens an ultimatum: Either live in a government-run camp, or leave the country and relinquish Libyan citizenship. With those options at hand, Pnina’s mother chose to immigrate to Italy. On June 30th, 1967 at 4:30am a government-issued Jeep came and took the family to the airport with only one suitcase and 20 Libyan Sterling.
Leaving Libya shattered the dynamic in Pnina’s family. Pnina was the oldest in a family of five children, and served as a second caretaker to her siblings after her grandmother had moved to Israel in 1951. Pnina’s mother decided it would be better for the older children to get out of the refugee camp and settle into a normal life in Italy. As a result, the older children learned to speak Italian and not Hebrew, and the younger children learned to speak Hebrew and not Italian. With a new language gap to overcome, the family eventually learned to communicate with one another using in Judeo-Arabic.