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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Djerba’

Tunisia Leader Facing Flack Over Jewish Pilgrimage to El Ghriba

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Just one day after Tunisia’s leader urged officials not to make a fuss over normalization of ties with Israel, the country’s parliament voted to “interview” its tourism minister for deciding to allow Israelis to participate in the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba.

The elected National Constituent Assembly (NCA) has announced it will question Tourism Minister Amel Karboul over the decision to allow Israelis to enter Tunisia.  Also to be “interviewed” will be Security Minister Sefar Ridha, according to international media reports.

“Our problem is not with our Jewish brothers who come for the pilgrimage but with the Zionist entity that occupies Palestinian territories,” said leftist Democratic Alliance head Mohammed Hamdi.

Since the country’s Jasmine Revolution in January 2011, Tunisia has struggled with a massive economic crisis.  Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa warned the parliament Tuesday it was in Tunisia’s best interest to “make the tourist season a success, because tourism is one of the activities that brings immediate cash to the country.”

Of those activities, Jomaa noted, tourism professionals have determined “the pilgrimage to Ghriba must be successful for the tourist season to be successful.” He added, “This is a tradition known to us – the pilgrimage has been taking place for years.”

The tourism industry in Tunisia employs some 400,000 people and accounts for seven percent of the GDP.  Jomaa’s decision to create a policy of tourism “transparency” means that Israelis can for the first time use their official passports to enter the country for the pilgrimage, rather than a specific Tunisian embassy-issued document.

Tunisia had “offices of interest” in Tel Aviv in 1996, and Israel had one in Tunis as well. Those ties were established just two years after the closure of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters which had existed in Tunisia for the twelve years prior.  But the fragile ties established between Tunisia and Israel were torn apart in October 2000 when the PLO succeeded in launching the second intifada in Israel – prompting Tunis to freeze ties in a protest against Israel’s efforts to quell the violence.

For years Jews have gone to Tunisia for the pilgrimage, with or without formal Israeli-Tunisian diplomatic ties. But an Al Qaeda terror attack on the synagogue in 2002 left 21 people dead, and killed the tourist event for the next decade. The Jasmine Revolution and the Arab Spring did the rest.

Tunisian Jew Stabbed in Djerba

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

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.

Three Separate Attacks on Tunisian Jews in September

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

From Magharebia:

The Tunisian island of Djerba has a centuries-old reputation for religious tolerance and diversity. The island is home to the Ghriba Synagogue, the oldest in Africa, as well as 18 other synagogues, two Christian churches and dozens of mosques. But recent incidents have undermined the atmosphere of peaceful co-existence, with Jewish residents worried about a deteriorating security situation.

Magharebia sat down with Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for the Defence of Minorities, to discuss the situation and learn just how residents of Djerba are standing up to extremists.

Magharebia: Is there an organised campaign against religious minorities or are the recent attacks isolated incidents?

Thabet: The incidents started more than three weeks ago when the Hebrew school in Djerba was attacked by two people who broke down the school’s gate while the children were in the inner yard. It should be noted that one of the men was carrying a sharp object to use for violent purposes.

The men attacked the school’s synagogue and a confrontation ensued with a citizen of the Jewish faith who had come to take his son home; he tried to calm the assailants down but was attacked by one of them. He told me they made him fear for his life, especially since the other person was waving the sharp object he was holding. After the struggle with the Jewish Tunisian citizen had caused the attackers to break off, he filed a report with the security forces station and outlined the details of the incident to the officers who took down the complaint.

Once he realised the incident was not being handled seriously, the plaintiff informed the police that the school had a video recording system used to capture everything that happens on its premises and could prove what had happened. He warned that the school would publish that video on social networks. The security forces then asked for a copy of the footage and received it; however, none of the suspects were detained and no real action was taken against the attackers.

Furthermore, one of them continued to harass and terrorise citizens of the Jewish faith, physically attacking two girls on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Succoth. He took advantage of the fact that the men were in synagogue. He charged at the Egalitarian Women’s Council riding a motorcycle, kicking one girl down to the ground with his foot and beating another one up after having kicked her.

We therefore consider these aggressions a systematic campaign implementing a shameful persecution against Jewish citizens that is encouraged by a hidden force aiming to force them out of their country.

Magharebia: How did the island’s residents react to these transgressions?

Thabet: We have encountered disapproval on the part of the Muslim residents of the island. They have conveyed to us their condemnation of these acts, which to them are strange and inconceivable, especially the official authorities’ idleness in handling this sensitive issue which violates the basic rights of Tunisian citizens.

Magharebia: And how have politicians dealt with this issue?

Thabet: We have witnessed all components of the political scene resorting to bickering and status wars and neglecting citizens’ most basic issues. As a rule, political forces should pay attention and be aware of what is happening in the depth of society, because the foundations of a democratic society are rooted in the social basis and the elite cannot diminish it to mere stances in passing. Some Jewish citizens in Djerba even told me they were fed up with the rituals of political pilgrimage of certain governmental figures for a photo opportunity in festivities, as if they were in a nature reserve or some endangered species.

Yamina Thabet is adamant about protecting the Jews of Djerba, as you can see from this press conference she called on this same topic -which MEMRI translated:



I have never seen an Arab defend Jews this passionately.

The bad news is that these incidents, nearly a month ago, had not been reported in English (outside MEMRI) that I could find until today. (There were some French reports.)

Visit Elder of Ziyon.

Tunisian Jews Fearful following Attacks

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Tunisian Jews believe they are in danger, the head of a Tunisian rights group said following attacks on the community.

Yamina Thabet, head of the Tunisian Association Supporting Minorities, visited the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to about 2,000 Jews and the El Ghriba synagogue, which dates to 586 B.C.

“Tunisian Jews feel in danger, they are really afraid,” Thabet told reporters on Wednesday, the French news agency AFP reported.

Thabet noted an incident in which police interrupted a holiday meal over a stolen motorbike, ultimately firing tear gas at the gathering and leaving when a bus full of tourists approached. In another incident, a man calling himself “the new Hitler” broke into a Jewish school and assaulted an adult supervisor in front of the young students and reportedly attacked two young girls.

Thabet denounced “harassment” by Tunisian security forces and blamed the government, opposition parties and the National Constituent Assembly for the attacks on Jews, according to the Tunisian news website Babnet Tunisie.

Late last year, an imam called openly for a “divine genocide” of the Jews in a sermon. Despite the fact that incitement to racial hatred is punishable by up to three years in prison in Tunisia, the imam has not been prosecuted, according to the association.

In 2002, terrorists blew up a vehicle near the Djerba synagogue, killing 21.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/tunisian-jews-fearful-following-attacks/2013/10/04/

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