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In Pictures: Pilgrimage returns to Djerba
Tunisian Jews hold the annual festival on tourist island, despite the community's doubts over its future.
Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 15:04
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Djerba, Tunisia - In the year following political upheaval in this North African nation, many viewed the annual Djerba pilgrimage as a litmus test of the new government's ability to provide security for a Jewish community that has lived in the area for millennia.

The moderate Islamist Ennahdha ruling party has been trying to dispel fears that its policies would cause problems for secular Tunisians, religious minorities and women.

Earlier in 2012, several incidents highlighted what is often depicted as an increased threat from ultra-conservative Muslims to the local Jewish population. During an event where Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was welcomed at Tunis Carthage Airport, people reportedly chanted slogans such as: "Expel the Jews. It's our religious duty."

While Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahdha, has condemned the anti-Jewish outbursts as unrepresentative of his party, many critics have said he did not go far enough.

A Salafi rally in the capital in March calling for an Islamic state also featured similar comments about the religious minority. Weeks later, President Moncef Marzouki visited the pilgrimage site in the run-up to the event to commemorate the victims of an al-Qaeda-inspired suicide bomb attack that killed 21 people, mostly German tourists, in 2002.

The event in Djerba occurred this year without any security problems. While far fewer pilgrims came than in 2010, many saw the holiday gathering as a success, after it was called off last year, following the ousting of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
For decades, the Jews of Djerba have hosted a pilgrimage to La Ghriba synagogue on the minor holiday of Lag B'Omer. The event is referred to in Hebrew as a "Hiloula", the annual custom of traveling to the burial sites of revered spiritual leaders.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Haim Bittan is a rabbi in the Djerba town of Hara Kabira (meaning "Big Neighbourhood"), where most of the island's Jews reside. He downplayed the political change since last years uprising: "Until now, there is no change for us, but we don't know what the future will hold."


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
The community, which some say dates back 2,500 years, speaks a variant of the Tunisian dialect of Arabic as its first language, but many speak French and Hebrew as well. Many of the men have jewelry businesses in Houmt Souq, the largest town on the island.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Devotees came to enjoy the traditional Tunisian-Jewish music and honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century scholar of the Torah, also known as the five books of Moses.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Maimon, a French Jew of Tunisian origin, lives in the northern suburbs of Paris in close proximity to his Arab and Muslim neighbours. Many of the visitors from France see the annual affair as a way to reconnect with their roots and promote tourism to their former homeland.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
A local woman fills a lantern with oil. Amos Cohen, a 19-year-old also from Hara Saghira (meaning "Small Neighbourhood") who was giving out candles to pilgrims, said this year brought more people than 2011, when the pilgrimage was cancelled due to security fears.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
A young child climbs into the cave behind the most revered section of the synagogue. Worshippers leave prayer messages on eggs that the children place inside.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
In a procession that some critical members of the community view as superstitious and reminiscent of pagan practices, pilgrims push a cart carrying a metal case decorated with symbolic menorahs and containing the Torah.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Women in brightly-hued dresses accompany the men leading the procession. Many pilgrims from France and elsewhere came to Djerba for the first time, as Tunisia tries to recover from a tourism slump in the aftermath of the nationwide uprising.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
But this year at one of the oldest synagogues in Africa there were more government security personnel and journalists than actual pilgrims, who numbered no more than several hundred.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
A cook in the synagogue's social space adds oil for cooking brik, a traditional Tunisian fast-food item deep-fried with eggs, chili paste and tuna. The Jewish variety is often flavoured with saffron mint, differentiating it from the usual type.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera

Young men from the local community, and from nearby cities such as Zarzis, celebrate the occasion with Tunisian Celtia beer, festive songs and jubilant dancing.



Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Djerba has around a dozen synagogues and a handful of Kosher restaurants. Many of Djerba's Jews such as Yehizkel Haddad, a Hebrew teacher, live a simple village life in stark contrast with the urbanised lifestyles of their family members who have moved abroad - or to Tunis, the capital. 


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Roger Bismuth, Tunis-based head of Tunisia's Jewish community, says, "I myself am deeply Tunisian. It is my country." There were originally more than 100,000 Jews in the country in 1948, though there are now around 1,700.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
Only a minority of the community, some 500 Jews, live in the capital. The Grand Synagogue in the area of Lafayette in central Tunis was built in the 1930s. The art deco structure is just down the Avenue de Liberte from a prominent Salafi mosque.


Ben Piven/Al Jazeera
While most of the small community's members left long ago for France or Israel, many Tunisians express hopes that the country's Jews might one day return to preserve the society's religious diversity.


Follow Ben Piven on Twitter: @BenPiven


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images:
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captions:
For decades, the Jews of Djerba have hosted a pilgrimage to La Ghriba synagogue on the minor holiday of Lag B(***)Omer. The event is referred to in Hebrew as a "Hiloula", the annual custom of traveling to the burial sites of revered spiritual leaders.;*;Haim Bittan is a rabbi in the Djerba town of Hara Kabira (meaning "Big Neighbourhood"), where most of the island(***)s Jews reside. He downplayed the political change since last years uprising: "Until now, there is no change for us, but we don(***)t know what the future will hold.";*;The community, which some say dates back 2,500 years, speaks a variant of the Tunisian dialect of Arabic as its first language, but many speak French and Hebrew as well. Many of the men have jewelry businesses in Houmt Souq, the largest town on the island.;*;Devotees came to enjoy the traditional Tunisian-Jewish music and honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century scholar of the Torah, also known as the five books of Moses.;*;Maimon, a French Jew of Tunisian origin, lives in the northern suburbs of Paris in close proximity to his Arab and Muslim neighbours. Many of the visitors from France see the annual affair as a way to reconnect with their roots and promote tourism to their former homeland. ;*;A local woman fills a lantern with oil. Amos Cohen, a 19-year-old also from Hara Saghira (meaning "Small Neighbourhood") who was giving out candles to pilgrims, said this year brought more people than 2011, when the pilgrimage was cancelled due to security fears.;*;A young child climbs into the cave behind the most revered section of the synagogue. Worshippers leave prayer messages on eggs that the children place inside.;*;In a procession that some critical members of the community view as superstitious and reminiscent of pagan practices, pilgrims push a cart carrying a metal case decorated with symbolic menorahs and containing the Torah.;*;Women in brightly-hued dresses accompany the men leading the procession. Many pilgrims from France and elsewhere came to Djerba for the first time, as Tunisia tries to recover from a tourism slump in the aftermath of the nationwide uprising.;*;But this year at one of the oldest synagogues in Africa there were more government security personnel and journalists than actual pilgrims, who numbered no more than several hundred. ;*;A cook in the synagogue(***)s social space adds oil for cooking brik, a traditional Tunisian fast-food item deep-fried with eggs, chili paste and tuna. The Jewish variety is often flavoured with saffron mint, differentiating it from the usual type.;*;

Young men from the local community, and from nearby cities such as Zarzis, celebrate the occasion with Tunisian Celtia beer, festive songs and jubilant dancing.

;*;Djerba has around a dozen synagogues and a handful of Kosher restaurants. Many of Djerba(***)s Jews such as Yehizkel Haddad, a Hebrew teacher, live a simple village life in stark contrast with the urbanised lifestyles of their family members who have moved abroad - or to Tunis, the capital. ;*;Roger Bismuth, Tunis-based head of Tunisia(***)s Jewish community, says, "I myself am deeply Tunisian. It is my country." There were originally more than 100,000 Jews in the country in 1948, though there are now around 1,700.;*;Only a minority of the community, some 500 Jews, live in the capital. The Grand Synagogue in the area of Lafayette in central Tunis was built in the 1930s. The art deco structure is just down the Avenue de Liberte from a prominent Salafi mosque.;*;While most of the small community(***)s members left long ago for France or Israel, many Tunisians express hopes that the country(***)s Jews might one day return to preserve the society(***)s religious diversity. Daylife ID:
1336757674798
Photographer:
Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven;*;Ben Piven
Image Source:
Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
Djerba Pilgrimagehttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798Tunisian Jews visit La Ghriba synagogue for annual Lag B'Omer holiday gathering.en-usAl Jazeerafeedback@daylife.com10Fri, 11 May 2012 17:34:33 GMTSat, 12 May 2012 14:14:04 GMTTunisiaFranceLa GhribapilgrimageJewishLa Ghribahttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=057Hg9x2O4a6X

For decades, the Jews of Djerba have hosted a pilgrimage to La Ghriba synagogue on the minor holiday of Lag B'Omer. The event is referred to in Hebrew as a "Hiloula", the annual custom of traveling to the burial sites of revered spiritual leaders.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:14:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=057Hg9x2O4a6XBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

For decades, the Jews of Djerba have hosted a pilgrimage to La Ghriba synagogue on the minor holiday of Lag B'Omer. The event is referred to in Hebrew as a "Hiloula", the annual custom of traveling to the burial sites of revered spiritual leaders.

La Ghriba
Bittanhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0aaC6wR8083gY

Haim Bittan is a rabbi in the Djerba town of Hara Kabira (meaning "Big Ghetto"), where most of the island's Jews reside. He said he would not participate in the pilgrimage because it was over-commercialised. But he downplayed any political change that has occurred since last years uprising. "Until now, there is no change for us, but we don't know what the future will hold."

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:10:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0aaC6wR8083gYBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Haim Bittan is a rabbi in the Djerba town of Hara Kabira (meaning "Big Ghetto"), where most of the island's Jews reside. He said he would not participate in the pilgrimage because it was over-commercialised. But he downplayed any political change that has occurred since last years uprising. "Until now, there is no change for us, but we don't know what the future will hold."

Bittan
Kippah signhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0cMm1Xi7zMegX

The community, which some say dates back 2,500 years, speaks a variant of the Tunisian dialect of Arabic as its first language, but many speak French and Hebrew as well. Many of the men have jewelry businesses in Houmt Souq, the largest town on the island.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0cMm1Xi7zMegXBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

The community, which some say dates back 2,500 years, speaks a variant of the Tunisian dialect of Arabic as its first language, but many speak French and Hebrew as well. Many of the men have jewelry businesses in Houmt Souq, the largest town on the island.

Kippah sign
Music performancehttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=01uC4bia6Eh1N

Devotees came to enjoy the traditional Tunisian-Jewish music and honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century scholar of the Torah, also known as the five books of Moses.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:13:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=01uC4bia6Eh1NBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Devotees came to enjoy the traditional Tunisian-Jewish music and honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century scholar of the Torah, also known as the five books of Moses.

Music performance
Maimonhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=06Jr4yXgQl18PMaimon, a French Jew of Tunisian origin, lives in the northern suburbs of Paris in close proximity to his Arab and Muslim neighbours. Many of the visitors from France see the annual affair as a way to reconnect with their roots and promote tourism to their former homeland. Sat, 12 May 2012 08:12:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=06Jr4yXgQl18PBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesMaimon, a French Jew of Tunisian origin, lives in the northern suburbs of Paris in close proximity to his Arab and Muslim neighbours. Many of the visitors from France see the annual affair as a way to reconnect with their roots and promote tourism to their former homeland. MaimonCandle oilhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0gsWeSyeia86GA local woman fills a suspended candle holder with oil. Amos Cohen, a 19-year-old also from Hara Saghira (meaning "Small Ghetto") who was giving out candles for pilgrims to light, said this year brought more people than last year, when the pilgrimage was essentially cancelled due to security fears in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.Sat, 12 May 2012 08:12:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0gsWeSyeia86GBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesA local woman fills a suspended candle holder with oil. Amos Cohen, a 19-year-old also from Hara Saghira (meaning "Small Ghetto") who was giving out candles for pilgrims to light, said this year brought more people than last year, when the pilgrimage was essentially cancelled due to security fears in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.Candle oilEggshttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0bNEb9wbHM3ywA young child climbs into the cave behind the most revered section of the synagogue. Worshippers leave prayer messages on eggs that the children place inside.Sat, 12 May 2012 08:13:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0bNEb9wbHM3ywBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesA young child climbs into the cave behind the most revered section of the synagogue. Worshippers leave prayer messages on eggs that the children place inside.EggsProcessionhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=01zv8YE0y3ac6

In a procession that some critical members of the community view as superstitious and reminiscent of pagan practices, pilgrims push a cart carrying a metal case decorated with symbolic menorahs and containing the Torah.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:14:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=01zv8YE0y3ac6Ben PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

In a procession that some critical members of the community view as superstitious and reminiscent of pagan practices, pilgrims push a cart carrying a metal case decorated with symbolic menorahs and containing the Torah.

Procession
Womenhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0eP8aLk8340UA

Women in brightly-hued dresses accompany the men leading the procession. Many pilgrims from France and elsewhere came to Djerba for the first time, as Tunisia tries to recover from a tourism slump in the aftermath of the nationwide uprising.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:52:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0eP8aLk8340UABen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Women in brightly-hued dresses accompany the men leading the procession. Many pilgrims from France and elsewhere came to Djerba for the first time, as Tunisia tries to recover from a tourism slump in the aftermath of the nationwide uprising.

Women
Security and drumminghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=02JGf1W40VerY

But this year at one of the oldest synagogues in Africa there were more government security personnel and journalists than actual pilgrims, who numbered no more than several hundred.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:14:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=02JGf1W40VerYBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

But this year at one of the oldest synagogues in Africa there were more government security personnel and journalists than actual pilgrims, who numbered no more than several hundred.

Security and drumming
Brikhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=067t6w15F0bhl

A cook in the synagogue's social space adds oil for cooking brik, a traditional Tunisian fast-food item deep-fried with eggs, chili paste and tuna. The Jewish variety is often flavoured with saffron mint, differentiating it from the usual type.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:15:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=067t6w15F0bhlBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

A cook in the synagogue's social space adds oil for cooking brik, a traditional Tunisian fast-food item deep-fried with eggs, chili paste and tuna. The Jewish variety is often flavoured with saffron mint, differentiating it from the usual type.

Brik
Dancinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=06e134w6L9bYG

Young males from the local community, and from nearby cities such as Zarzis, celebrate the occasion with Tunisian Celta beer, festive songs and jubilant dancing.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:15:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=06e134w6L9bYGBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Young males from the local community, and from nearby cities such as Zarzis, celebrate the occasion with Tunisian Celta beer, festive songs and jubilant dancing.

Dancing
Haykelhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=05A195VdyF6zI

Djerba has around a dozen synagogues and a handful of Kosher restaurants. Many of Djerba's Jews such as Yehizkel Haddad, a Hebrew teacher, live a simple village life in stark contrast with the urbanised lifestyles of their family members who have moved abroad - or to Tunis, the capital. 

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=05A195VdyF6zIBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Djerba has around a dozen synagogues and a handful of Kosher restaurants. Many of Djerba's Jews such as Yehizkel Haddad, a Hebrew teacher, live a simple village life in stark contrast with the urbanised lifestyles of their family members who have moved abroad - or to Tunis, the capital. 

Haykel
Rogerhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0fIO205bQs5Pr

Roger Bismuth, Tunis-based head of Tunisia's Jewish community, says, "I myself am deeply Tunisian. It is my country." There were originally more than 100,000 Jews in the country in 1948, though there are now around 1,700.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:09:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=0fIO205bQs5PrBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Roger Bismuth, Tunis-based head of Tunisia's Jewish community, says, "I myself am deeply Tunisian. It is my country." There were originally more than 100,000 Jews in the country in 1948, though there are now around 1,700.

Roger
Tunis synagoguehttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=00jy1NP1Oo0Rm

Only a minority of the community, some 500 Jews, live in the capital. The Grand Synagogue in the area of Lafayette in central Tunis was built in the 1930's. The art deco structure is just down the Avenue de Liberte from a prominent Salafi mosque.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:10:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=00jy1NP1Oo0RmBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Only a minority of the community, some 500 Jews, live in the capital. The Grand Synagogue in the area of Lafayette in central Tunis was built in the 1930's. The art deco structure is just down the Avenue de Liberte from a prominent Salafi mosque.

Tunis synagogue
Tunishttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=02WP6hSe0EbJH

While most of the small community's members left long ago for France or Israel, many Tunisians express hopes that the country's Jews might one day return to preserve the society's religious diversity.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:09:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/1336757674798?image_id=02WP6hSe0EbJHBen PivenAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

While most of the small community's members left long ago for France or Israel, many Tunisians express hopes that the country's Jews might one day return to preserve the society's religious diversity.

Tunis


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