Tunisian unrest may dampen Lag Ba'Omer pilgrimage

Thousands of pilgrims travel each year to the El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba; Tunisian government says pilgrimage canceled.

May 13, 2011 20:53
1 minute read.
The El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia

The El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia 311 (R). (photo credit: Mohamed Hammi / Reuters)

TUNIS - Jewish pilgrims may not be able to hold their usual celebrations at one of Africa's oldest synagogues this year because of renewed security concerns in Tunisia where the site is based.

Thousands of pilgrims travel each May to the El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba to mark Lag Ba'Omer. They usually hold a vibrant festival filled with music and pageantry.

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But this year celebrations will be muted because of continued unrest in the country following the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.

"It's true that we have canceled all the celebrations planned for this year but the pilgrimage will still take place next Friday at the synagogue," organizer Perez Trabelsi told Reuters.

"People that usually come are scared this year," he said, saying he expected only a few hundred people.

A government source said the pilgrimage would be canceled completely.

El Ghriba was the site of an al-Qaida attack in 2002 which killed 21 people. Another synagogue was set on fire by arsonists in the Tunisian city of Ghabes in February.

Mainly Muslim Tunisia has one of the largest Jewish communities in North Africa but until recently attacks have been rare.

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