Tunisia cancels Jewish pilgrimage for first time
The annual Jewish pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba for the Lag B'Omer holy day has been officially canceled for the first time ever due to security concerns this year. For centuries, Mizrahi Jews from throughout the Mediterranean have converged on the island each year for a festival centered on the ancient El Ghriba synagogue on the holiday that follows Passover. But Roger Bismuth, president of Tunisia's Jewish community, said the event was called off thus year after consultations with the government. "We have this fight at the Tunisian border with Libya so the situation is not as we like," Bismuth told the Jerusalem Post by phone from Tunis. "Besides that we have had a revolution. The situation is not completely quiet yet so we took precautionary measures."
Tunisia has some 1,500 Jews, constituting one of the largest surviving Jewish communities in the Arab world, and anti-Jewish attacks in the country have been rare. However, in 2002, for instance, militants apparently linked to al-Qaeda bombed El Ghriba synagogue, damaging the building and killing 21 people, mostly foreign tourists. In the unrest since the overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this year, there have been fears of resurgent extremist attacks. (Jerusalem Post, May 15; Reuters, May 13)