Festive mood and tight security for Tunisia Jewish festival

2017-05-12 20:29
iStock

iStock

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Djerba - An annual Jewish pilgrimage to Africa's oldest synagogue on Tunisia's Djerba island began on Friday under tight security but in a festive mood.

An AFP journalist saw dozens of pilgrims from the North African country and from France heading to the revered Ghriba synagogue to pray, light candles and write wishes on eggs.

Some celebrated the centuries-old Lag BaOmer festival by sipping glasses of boukha, a liqueur made from figs.

"My parents brought me to Djerba when I was a little boy and each year since I have returned," said Sylvain, who travelled from Paris.

"This year I came with my oldest brother and some friends. We are happy to be here," said the 55-year-old interior decorator.

Organisers expect the two-day festival to attract up to 3 000 visitors, 1 000 more than last year when Tunisia was still reeling after a series of jihadist attacks.

They said pilgrims were expected from Belgium, Spain, the United States and even Israel, despite the government there warning its citizens for the third consecutive year against taking part.

The festival passed off without incident last year and in 2015.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has experienced an increase in jihadist attacks that have cost the lives of dozens of members of the security forces and 59 foreign tourists.

The country has also been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group killed 12 presidential guards.

"We trust the Tunisian authorities to guarantee security," the head of the synagogue, Perez Trabelsi, told AFP. "I am optimistic."

A helicopter overflew the area and checkpoints were set up around the synagogue which was heavily guarded by police, soldiers and members of the anti-terror brigades.

The number of pilgrims visiting the Ghriba synagogue has fallen sharply since a suicide bombing claimed by Al-Qaeda struck Ghriba just before the 2002 pilgrimage, killing 21 people.

Before then the event attracted as many as 8 000 people a year.

Believed to have been founded in 586 BC by Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, the Ghriba synagogue has long been a destination for pilgrims, especially for Jews of Tunisian descent.

Some 1 500 Jews live in Tunisia, down sharply from an estimated 100 000 before the country won independence from France in 1956.

Read more on:    tunisia  |  north africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.