Reviving an Ancient Tunisian Jewish Pilgrimage

Much like their ḥasidic coreligionists in Eastern Europe, many North African Jews developed a custom of making annual pilgrimages to sites associated with particular saints. In Tunisia, one such site is a synagogue on the island of Djerba, located—according to legend—where the house of a righteous woman named Ghriba, for whom the pilgrimage is named, once lived. The overwhelming majority of Tunisian Jews left the country in the 1950s and 60s, fleeing intensifying and often violent anti-Semitism, but many still return to Djerba for the annual pilgrimage. Daniel Lee writes:

[I]n recent years, the number of people attending the Ghriba—which used to attract 10,000 pilgrims in its heyday in the early 1990s, has plummeted, partly because of the threat of terrorism. Due to its proximity to the Libyan border, the event was largely canceled in 2011. Since then, the event has attracted only the most loyal visitors, usually between 2,000-3,000 people. But in 2019, an estimated 6,000-7,000 people attended the event on May 22-23, due in part to a concerted marketing campaign by the Tunisian government and its Jewish minister for tourism.

In November 2018, in an attempt to reverse the country’s economic decline, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed appointed René Trabelsi, a successful local tour operator, as the country’s minister of tourism. The appointment of Trabelsi, an Orthodox  Jew, wasn’t met with enthusiasm from all sections of Tunisian society. Demonstrations took place in Tunis in the days that followed, accusing Trabelsi, the country’s first Jewish minister in more than 60 years, and the only Jewish minister in the Arab world, of wanting to normalize relations between Tunisia and Israel. . . .

For the time being at least, Trabelsi appears to have weathered this early criticism by orchestrating a highly successful 2019 Ghriba, reminiscent of the festivities that took place in the 1990s. He has set a target for 20,000 to attend in the future. . . . A large number of Tunisian Muslims also attend the event. . . .

Read more at The Conversation

More about: Mizrahim, Muslim-Jewish relations, Pilgrimage, Tunisia


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria