Hours before the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Festival of Freedom, a local Jewish merchant was stabbed Monday on the island of Djerba.
The victim, Morris Bachiri, is a resident of El Hara El Kabiri. He was allegedly attacked with a sharp object by 38-year-old Lasaad Tounis, according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry, which reported the incident in a terse statement on its Facebook page. News of the report was carried in a post on Tuesday by the French-language website African Manager.
The attack was described as a “simple assault, nothing more and nothing less,” and Bachiri’s Jewish identity was not mentioned in the report.
The ministry added that Bachiri was released from a hospital shortly following the attack, which took place barely a month after a group of Israelis were stopped from disembarking with other tourists at a Tunisian port.
Last month the government allocated $6,300 for renovation of the synagogue in what critics called an attempt at damage control in the wake of the Israeli tourist debacle. The Norwegian Cruise Line on which the Israelis were traveling has since scrapped Tunisia from its list of destinations to protest the country’s refusal to allow Israelis to disembark at port.
The annual Jewish pilgrimage for the Hilula of Ghriba, which involves a festive procession to the ancient Synagogue of El Ghriba on the island of Djerba, is meanwhile expected to take place next month – on the holiday of Lag B’Omer.
For decades thousands Jews from around the world used to gather in Djerba to participate in the procession to El Ghriba, considered the oldest existing synagogue in Africa. But the numbers have dwindled to barely 500 attending the event last year. In 2002 the Al Qaeda terrorist organization bombed the synagogue during the pilgrimage, killing 21 and wounding many more.
More than a year ago, Israeli officials expressed serious concern for the safety of the Jewish community in Tunisia, warning that any political instability in the country could negatively affect Tunisian Jews.
Since that time, the Islamist Ennahda government ended its tenure in January with the approval of a new constitution by the country’s national assembly. A caretaker cabinet was also appointed to rule until new elections are held later this year. The arrangement was made in order to end a crisis between Ennahda and its secular opposition – but it is unclear how the current arrangement has affected the political status of the country’s Jewish community.
Ennahda was the more moderate of the Islamist parties. Salafi Muslim extremists have for years been expressing their strong support for the Hamas terrorist organization; in January 2012 they welcomed Gaza-based de facto Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to their shores with open arms.
About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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