Monday, April 29, 2013

Al-Ghriba pilgrimage passes off without a hitch

Hundreds of Jewish worshippers on Sunday completed an incident-free annual pilgrimage to Ghriba, Africa's oldest synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, where security was high to prevent any violence, AFP reports. Perez Trabelsi, who has major tourist interests on the island, said that it was a Jewish 'duty' to invest in Tunisia:

Organisers expressed satisfaction at the number of pilgrims, including Israelis who flew in from Europe, who took part in the ritual which had been scrapped in 2011, when a massive uprising toppled the regime of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

This year the pilgrimage, which started Friday when worshippers began arriving in Djerba, took place in a festival-like atmosphere with a final procession on Sunday attended by Tourism Minister Jamel Ghamra and Tunisia's Grand Rabbi Haim Bitan.

"Everything went well. I am looking forward to (seeing) thousands next year," said Perez Trabelsi, who represents the Jewish community in Djerba, as he embraced pilgrims preparing to leave Ghriba.
Rabbi Bitan praised the army and security forces for ensuring that the pilgrimage took place without any incident and said Djerba "is the pride of Tunisia and all its children, regardless of their religious beliefs."

He also urged Tunisian Jews across the world to invest in their native country. "It is your duty towards this country that welcomed and protected your ancestors and continues to protect your heritage."

The Tunisian tourist minister welcomed the pilgrims in the name of the Islamist-led government and said: "Post-revolution Tunisia will ensure the coexistence of all religions."

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