Tunisian president in Djerba to mark decade since bloody synagogue attack


Tunisia's government is marking the 10th anniversary of the al-Qaida bombing attack that killed 21 people at the 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, that included 14 German and two French tourists. The ambassadors of France and Germany are also expected, along with the families of the victims.

“This trip is a message of solidarity and respect for the Jewish community of Tunisia whose members are considered full citizens,” Adnan Mancer, the spokesman for the president, told The Associated Press.

He said Marzouki, a prominent human rights campaigner against the old dictatorship, is “declaring 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.”

Rene Trabelsi, a Jew of Tunisian origin residing in Paris, told the AP by telephone that many Tunisian Jews living in France had planned to visit Djerba for the Passover holiday, but had cancelled their trips after hearing media reports.

“They were traumatized by these dangerous statements which came after the drama of Toulouse,” he said, referring to the shootings of four Jews, including three children, in France. He said Marzouki’s move could restart Jewish tourism, especially for next month’s pilgrimage to Djerba.

Jews are believed to have lived in Djerba for the past 2,500 years and the community in Tunisia itself numbered 100,000 in 1960s. Most of them left following the 1967 war between Israel and Arab countries.

The Djerba synagogue is a pilgrimage site for North African Jews.

In Tunisia, the uncle of suicide-bomber, Nizar Nawar, responsible of the Synagogue attack was sentenced to 20 years in jail for complicity. In France, a German man who converted to Islam, Christian Ganczarski was condemned in 2009 to 18 years in prison for also being a accomplice, and the brother of Nawar to a 12-year sentence.