Monday, May 23, 2005

Jews visit Algeria

On 22 May some 130 Algerian Jews arrived in Tlemcen, 600 km West of Algiers, at the start of a visit organised by the Fraternelle, an association of 1,300 French Jews of Algerian origin.

The visit was the first to be organised in cooperation with the Algerian embassy in France. The Jews visited family graves and went on a pilgrimage to the tomb of the 16th century Rabbi Ephraim Al Khawa, as well as to their childhood homes.

Visits by 'pieds-noirs' (as the French living in Algeria were known) are no longer taboo. Much water has flowed under the bridge since 1999 when the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika,invited the Algerian-Jewish singer Enrico Macias to perform in his hometown of Constantine. Macias' visit was called off after it provoked the anger of Islamic fundamentalists.

A dozen or so elderly Jews still live in Algeria. There is no synagogue.
The vast majority left when the country became independent in 1962. The rest left after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war. The 300,000 Algerian Jews represent half the French Jewish community.

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