The mass protests which have shaken Tunisia over the weekend and caused longtime
president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee have so far not directly affected its
Jewish community, a Jewish group said on Saturday.
director of government and international affairs at the American Jewish
Committee, who has been in touch with members of the community in the
Mediterranean country, said the demonstrations have remained focused on the
“Yesterday there were no signs of rhetoric or violence of any
sort or any efforts in any way to target protests or any negative acts against
the Jewish community,” Isaacson said. “It’s a dynamic situation, but at this
point the target has been towards the state system.”
Isaacson, who had
just returned from a visit to Tunisia in December, said he noticed no signs of
upheaval during his stay there.
“The situation when I was last there was
calm, and law and order prevailed,” he recalled. “There were strict limits on
free speech and political expression in general, but walking around the street
one did not see signs of unrest.”
Jews have lived on the shores of
Tunisia since ancient times.
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The local Jewish population peaked in 1948
at over 100,000, but successive waves of emigration to Israel and France
depleted the community over the next couple of decades.
Around 3,000 Jews
remain in the country, Isaacson said, most of whom are concentrated in the
capital Tunis and Jerba, an island in the south of the country. Ties between the
community and the government are good. In 2002, however, a bomb detonated
outside the island’s famous El Ghriba synagogue, killing 21
“Tunisia is an interesting place,” Isaacson said. “It’s not like
anywhere else. It has a high literacy rate, high education rate and is unique in
the Arab world with regards to women’s suffrage and rights.”
the change in government might affect interreligious relations, he said it was
too soon to tell.
“Tunisian Jews have been part of Tunisian society since
ancient times, and we will make sure that that tradition of intrastate harmony
prevails,” Isaacson said.