Friday, April 20, 2012

Government tries to save Djerba pilgrimage

The Al-Ghriba pilgrimage at its most popular

The annual Jewish pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba should be maintained as a symbol of the North African nation's openness to the world, Tunisia's tourism minister said Tuesday.

Elyes Fakhfakh's remarks come at a time of uncertainty for Tunisia's small Jewish minority, which has been alarmed by the rise of ultraconservative Islamist groups spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric since the country's longtime dictator was overthrown in January 2011.

Jews have been living in Djerba since 500 B.C. and the synagogue there is believed to be one of the oldest on the African continent. The Jewish community in Tunisia itself numbered 100,000 in 1960s, but most left following the 1967 war Arab-Israeli war.

The tourism minister told journalists on the sidelines of a Mediterranean tourism conference that the pilgrimage, set this year for May 9, should be protected.

"Celebrated for hundreds of years, this religious rite is an achievement that should not change because it illustrates the openness of Tunisia to the world," Fakhfakh said. "It is an achievement of the revolution, which established freedom of worship."

1 comment:

Empress Trudy said...

Tunisia is a year at most from legally expelling Jews and outlawing any Jew from setting foot there. This of course will be one of the early stops in Obama's 2013 Victory Tour.