Jews revive annual pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue in Tunisia
Guarded by armed Tunisian police, Jewish revelers chant and dance in a three-day pilgrimage to the El Ghriba synagogue at an island resort 500 km south of Tunis.
In 2011, after the uprising that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the annual celebration was canceled and in 2012 only a few dozen Jews attended out of fear of possible attacks by hardline Islamists.
In 2002 militants linked to al Qaeda attacked the synagogue with a truck bomb killing 21 Western tourists. Security for this year’s pilgrimage is tight, with hundreds of police on duty.
“The strong presence of security is a positive step and sends a message to the Jews in the world that Tunisia protects us even if its leaders are Islamists”, Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community in Djerba, told Reuters.
“Jews in the world will see the government’s efforts to make the celebration safe and will return in their thousands over the next few years and will not pay attention to any threat,” he added.