Israel upholds travel warning to Tunisia

Counterterroism bureau warns against travel to North African nation ahead of Lag B'Omer pilgrimage.

El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia 370 (R) (photo credit: Mohamed Hammi / Reuters)
El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia 370 (R)
(photo credit: Mohamed Hammi / Reuters)
Israel on Thursday reiterated its advisory not to travel to Tunisia for the famed Lag Ba’omer celebrations set to take place there next week, saying it had information of possible terrorist activity in the country.
“The National Security Council Counterterrorism Bureau has today decided to reiterate the existing travel advisory regarding Tunisia in light of plans to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets ahead of the upcoming Lag Ba’omer pilgrimage,” it said in a press release.
In past years, thousands of Jews from around the world traveled to the Tunisian island of Djerba to take part in the annual Lag Ba’omer event.
Last year, in the chaotic aftermath of the uprising that removed longtime dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power, the event was canceled amid security concerns.
This year’s Lag Ba’omer event is seen by some as a test to determine whether the new democratically elected government formed by Ennahda, an Islamist party, will protect the country’s religious minorities.
A senior member of the Jewish community on the island, which numbers around 1,300 people, told The Jerusalem Post he expected several hundred participants from France to take part in the religious gathering this year. He said that while that number was much smaller than previous years, it was an improvement from when it was called off last year. The Tunisian Jew added that he believed his government would provide adequate security for the event.
Most Jews in Tunisia live on Djerba, an island several hours drive south of Tunis, the capital. The community is clustered around the El Ghriba synagogue, an ancient house of worship and tourist attraction. Two terrorist attacks have occurred at the synagogue, the last in 2002 when a suicide bomber killed 21 people, mostly tourists.
Last month, a senior Tunisian government officials said the Jewish pilgrimage was a source of pride for the country and committed to uphold religious tolerance in the country.
Lag Ba’omer is a Jewish holiday commemorating the death of Rabbi Akiva, an important Jewish sage, and the short-lived victory of Jewish rebels against the Romans in the 2nd century CE.