Hundreds flocked to Tunisia for Jewish pilgrimage festival
Security was beefed up this year after the March attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, claimed by ISIS
An annual Jewish pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue in Tunisia ended Thursday with hundreds of people attending the festival without incident, despite an Israeli warning of possible attacks.
During two days, Jewish pilgrims prayed and lit candles at the Ghriba, and wrote wishes on eggs which they left inside the synagogue in keeping with an age old ritual.
Security was beefed up this year after the March attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, that killed 21 foreigners and a Tunisian policeman.
Police set up barricades around Ghriba, with only pilgrims and journalists allowed to approach the synagogue and carry out checks on cars in Hara Kbira, the Jewish quarter of the island of Djerba.
One of the organizers, Rene Trabelsi, said a few hundred pilgrims travelled to Djerba, where one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world still lives.
“After what happened in Tunis, the number is quite significant,” he told AFP of the Bardo attack.
Apart from Tunisian pilgrims, organizers had said they expected 500 others from France, Israel, Italy and Britain.
The number of pilgrims visiting the synagogue has fallen sharply since a 2002 suicide bombing claimed by al-Qaeda that killed 21 people.
Before that, the Lag BaOmer Jewish festival in Djerba would attract almost 8,000 people each year.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that his country had learned of “concrete threats” of attacks against Jewish or Israeli targets in Tunisia, prompting a quick denial from Tunis.