(JNS.org) More than 2,500 Jews last weekend made the pilgrimage to Tunisia’s ancient synagogue in Djerba, a tiny island that is home to Africa’s oldest synagogue and a small Jewish community.
Tunisian Interior Minister Muhammed Ali Laroui said that the pilgrimage to the El Ghriba Synagogue “exceeded all expectations” and that Tunisia hopes the number of participants will double to 5,000-6,000 next year, the website Tunisien.tn reported.
The three-day pilgrimage, which was promoted Rene Trabelsi—a Tunisian-Jew who was considered for the country’s tourism minister post last January—has been controversial in Tunisia, which is attempting to restore its moderate pro-Western image following its 2010 “Arab Spring” uprising. Tourism Minister Amel Karboul and Deputy Interior Minister for Security Ridha Sfar were censured in April by Islamists and others in the Tunisian parliament for allowing Jewish tourists in with Israeli passports.
Additionally, Norwegian Cruise Line in March said it would no longer stop in Tunisia after the country refused to allow Israeli nationals the right to disembark.