The El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia 311 (R).
(photo credit: Mohamed Hammi / Reuters)
The annual Lag Ba’omer pilgrimage to the island of Jerba in Tunisia has been
officially canceled for the first time ever due to security concerns, a Tunisian
Jewish leader told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Roger Bismuth, the
president of the Jewish community, said the event, which was set to take place
at the El Ghriba synagogue next Sunday and usually attracts thousands of Jews
from around the world, was called off five days ago after consultations with the
Tunisian unrest may dampen Lag Ba'Omer pilgrimage
Lag Ba'Omer postponed out of concern for Sabbath
“We have this fight at the Tunisian border with Libya so the
situation is not as we like,” Bismuth said over the phone from
“Besides that, we have had a revolution. The situation is not
completely quiet yet so we took precautionary measures.”
The former state
senator and leader of the Jewish community said the celebratory event has been
held on the island every year, even when relations between Israel and Tunisia
were at their lowest ebb.
“It is the first time ever we canceled,” he
said. “It has nothing to do with the relations with Israel. We just don’t want
to create problems for our visitors.”
Last January, local demonstrators
overthrew longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in an uprising
which inspired similar protests against autocratic rulers in countries
throughout the Arab world.
Since then, the government has struggled to
fully reestablish the rule of law and fears have risen that Islamists might take
advantage of the situation to launch attacks on the country’s 1,500 Jews as they
have in the past. In 2002, for instance, Al-Qaida planted a bomb in El Ghriba
which killed 21 people.
So far, with the exception of an incident
involving a group of Islamic protesters hurling insults at worshipers at a
synagogue in Tunis and the burning of a makeshift Jewish place of worship in the
south, Tunisia’s Jews have been spared from any violence.
situation in the country, however, remains precarious, leading to the decision
to cancel the annual celebration.
Bismuth said he believed the annual
gathering, which commemorates the temporary victory of Jewish rebels over the
Romans, would resume next year.
“Tunisia is always open to everybody, but
this year we decided to cancel because we want people to be safe,” Bismuth
“Hopefully, we should finish the revolution by next year, but it’s
not a small revolution; it’s a big revolution and it’s the first time we’ve had
one in our country.”