Jews pray in a Tunisian synagogue 370 (R).
(photo credit: Anis Mili / Reuters)
More than 68 gravestones were found ransacked and graves were looted at a Jewish
cemetery in the coastal Tunisian town of Sousse last Wednesday.
The Tunisian Shems FM
radio station cited a Tunisian security official who said the graves were
damaged over the last month. Claims on Facebook had said the graves were
vandalized on January 23.
According to the Shems FM report, Tunisian youths
believing rumors that the Jews bury their dead with gold were responsible for
the grave looting.
Only a few Jewish families now live in Sousse, which
had a Jewish community of nearly 6,000 at the time of Tunisia's independence in
1956. One Jewish-owned fruit juice shop, Pascal, is located in the
According to TAP, the Tunisian state news agency, the office of
Prime Minister Hammadi Jebali of the Islamist Ennahda party released a statement
last Friday expressing "deep indignation at any criminal act undermining
Tunisia's cultural and historical heritage," and said that efforts were under
way to work with security forces and the judiciary to ensure that attacks on
cemeteries and mausoleums stopped.
The Tunisian Ministry of Culture
recently announced that 34 shrines of venerated Sufi Muslim saints have been
attacked by religious extremists since the country's January 2011 revolution
ousted former dictator Zine El Abddine Ben Ali.
Tunisia had a Jewish
population of more than 100,000 at the time of independence in 1956, comprising
the country's largest religious minority. Today nearly 2,000 remain, living
mostly on the southern island of Djerba and around the capital, Tunis.