Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saga of Islamist harassment goes on in Djerba

The El-Griba synagogue, Djerba

The scandal of alleged Islamist harassment, first reported on Point of No Return, continues to dog the Djerba Synagogue and Yeshiva in Tunisia.

For the last four or five years a seamstress by the name of Vassila Ben Kirat, a member of an Islamist group, has been harassing teachers and visitors to the Yeshiva on Djerba from her premises nearby. She has repeatedly brought lawsuits against them for no apparent reason, forcing the rabbi to make almost weekly court appearances and engage a lawyer. Her shop is owned by the Yeshiva, but she has taken control. In spite of having apparently served a two-year prison term for assisting an Islamist murder gang targeting western hotel developers in Djerba, she has verbally and physically abused the Yeshiva head, Chief Rabbi Matsliah Haddad.

'Our man in Djerba' for the Succot holiday reports that there have been 100 complaints or police cases brought by both the woman and the rabbi. Rabbi Haddad alleges she has molested him and even tried to kidnap a child. He claims that she has friends and relatives in high places protecting her interests.

Supporters of Ben Kirat say that the allegations against her are lies, that the rabbi's accusations are unfounded and a pretext to get her out of her premises. The rabbi (who has his critics in the Jewish community) denies this. He believes only President Ben Ali himself can resolve the case, having already appealed to the Minister of the Interior.

There are 1,200 Jews still living in Djerba's Jewish quarter - one percent of the island's population. Except for one government- sponsored demonstration, there was no rioting against the Jews during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The Jews are avid listeners to Kol Israel radio, and often visit relatives in Israel, flying via Istanbul.

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