According to this Associated Press report, the Tunisian government is frantically trying to save the highlight of the tourism calendar on the island of Djerba - the annual Lag La'Omer pilgrimage to the Al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the most ancient in North Africa. Last year's pilgrimage was cancelled.
TUNIS, Tunisia – 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."