TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s president is set to mark on Wednesday 10 years since an al-Qaida truck bomb killed 21 people at a synagogue on the island of Djerba.
President Moncef Marzouki will fly to the island accompanied by Tunisia’s grand rabbi, Haim Bitan, to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence to remember the victims of the truck bombing, amongst whom were also 14 German and two French tourists. The ambassadors of France and Germany will be in attendance, along with the families of the victims.
It comes at a time when Tunisia’s small, 1,500-strong, Jewish community is facing pressure from ultraconservative Muslim groups, after an uprising last year that overthrew Tunisia’s decades-old secular dictatorship.
The head of the Jewish community, Roger Bismuth, filed suit last month against a Salafi religious leader seen chanting anti-Semitic slogans at a demonstration in March.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom in December called for Tunisia’s remaining Jews to imigrate to Israel, a move rejected by the North African country’s Jews.
Tunisia’s new rulers, the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, have condemned the anti-Semitic outbursts.
“This trip is a message of solidarity and respect for the Jewish community of Tunisia whose members are considered full citizens,” Adnan Mancer, a spokesman for the president, told The Associated Press.
He said Marzouki, a prominent human-rights campaigner against the old dictatorship, is saying he is a president for all Tunisians, Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the island of Djerba, where most of Tunisia’s Jews live, said the president’s move “encourages the rapprochement between Tunisia’s Muslims and Jews.”
Jews are believed to have lived in Djerba for the past 2,500 years and the community in Tunisia itself numbered 100,000 in the 1960s. Most left following the 1967 war between Israel and the Arab countries.
The 2,000-year-old Djerba synagogue is a pilgrimage site for North African Jews, particularly during Lag B’Omer, which falls on May 9-10 this year.