Jews ease back into pilgrimage to Tunisia
DJERBA, Tunisia — Under a bright Mediterranean sun on Saturday, Jews whose forebears once thronged Tunisia are trekking to a celebrated synagogue under the protection of police — as organizers try to inject new momentum to an annual pilgrimage that has been depleted in recent years by fears of anti-Semitism.
Jewish leaders hope the three-day pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa's oldest, on the island of Djerba is regaining momentum after attendance plummeted in the wake of a 2002 al-Qaida bombing and lingering safety concerns from Tunisia's revolution two years ago.
The pilgrimage evokes a larger issue for Tunisia: How to convince Jews and other foreigners that stability has returned enough to merit a visit and help revive a weakened economy. The tourism trade accounts for about 400,000 jobs and 7 percent of economic output in Tunisia, an overwhelmingly Muslim country of nearly 11 million.
Despite setbacks in recent years, Tunisia's Jews were optimistic.
“This year will be better. The atmosphere is good, and the preparations have been made carefully,” said Perez Trabelsi, president of Ghriba's operating committee and a Djerba native. “Attendance will go up from one year to the next, to return to its top level — like before.”
At its peak in 2000, about 8,000 Jews came — many from Israel, Italy and France, where they or their forebears had moved over the years. Such crowds have not returned since an al-Qaida-linked militant detonated a truck bomb at the synagogue in 2002, killing 21 people, mostly German tourists — and badly jolting the now-tiny Jewish community.
The pilgrimage was called off in 2011 after Tunisia's revolution, when street protests ousted longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Lone gunman kills monument guard, attacks Canada’s Parliament
- American baby killed, 8 hurt as car plows into crowd at Jerusalem train station
- Iraqi Kurds to send fighters to aid Kobani
- 2 dead in shooting attack at Canada’s Parliament
- 10 hurt in bombing at Cairo University
- ISIS claims it grabs U.S. military ware
- Libyan troops seek to retake Benghazi
- Shiites killed in series of attacks on Baghdad
- Crime rocks Mexico despite government claim of progress
- Deepening U.S. commitment to Kobani ties Obama’s Islamic State effort to Kurds’ fate