Hundreds flocked to Tunisia for Jewish festival


An annual Jewish pilgrimage to Africa's oldest synagogue in Tunisia ended on Thursday with hundreds of people attending the festival without incident, despite an Israeli warning of possible attacks.

For two days, Jewish pilgrims prayed and lit candles at the Ghriba and wrote wishes on eggs, which they left inside the synagogue in keeping with an age-old ritual.

Security was beefed up this year after the March attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, that killed 21 foreigners and a Tunisian policeman. Police set up barricades around Ghriba, with only pilgrims and journalists allowed to approach the synagogue. Checks were also carried out on cars in Hara Kbira, the Jewish quarter of the island of Djerba.

One of the organisers, Rene Trabelsi, said that a few hundred pilgrims had travelled to Djerba, where one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world still lives. "After what happened in Tunis, the number is quite significant," he said, referring to the Bardo attack.

Apart from Tunisian pilgrims, organisers had said they expected 500 others from France, Israel, Italy and Britain. The number of pilgrims visiting the synagogue has fallen sharply since a 2002 suicide bombing that killed 21 people and was claimed by al-Qaida. Prior to that, the Lag BaOmer Jewish festival in Djerba used to attract almost 8,000 people each year.

Before this year's event, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country had learned of "concrete threats" of attacks against Jewish or Israeli targets in Tunisia, prompting a quick denial from Tunis.    (AFP/

More articles on Jews in Tunisia:

The Jewish community in Tunisia: "Everything is ok; we don't have any problems"

Jews in Tunisia: A shrinking, vulnerable community

Interview with M'Hammad Bennaboud: The Muslims and Jews of Tétouan

Interview with Benjamin Stora: The history of relations between Jews and Muslims

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