Jewish boy in Tunisia (AFP)
A rare look at the lives of Jews in Tunisia
Maayan bin Hamo
An Israeli journalist joined a mission of rabbis to Tunisia on a rare visit and documented the lives of the world's oldest Jewish communities
"Jews have lived more than 2,500 years in a life of pride, and about 1,200 Jews still maintain the ancient Jewish tradition, even though they live in an Islamic environment," said journalist Yair Cherki, who visited the Jewish community in Tunisia. In Jerba, where most of the Jews live in Tunisia, my partner met Rabbi Chaim Beitan, the chief rabbi of Tunisia, and accompanied him on a trip to the old synagogue and saw the Torah books he had kept for hundreds of years.
Although there are no diplomatic relations between Tunisia and Israel, the Islamic authorities remain interested in maintaining a good relationship with the minorities of the Jewish community that remained in Tunisia. My partner joined the European Rabbis' Mission, which the Tunisian government invited to visit Tunisia. According to Shakri, "there are common interests between Jews and Islam in Europe behind the extraordinary scene of the group of Rabbis, which were heavily guarded and respected, in addition to the struggle against the slaughter of halal and circumcision in part of the countries of the continent."
As part of the tour, the Grand Mufti of Tunisia ascended to the same podium as the rabbis of Europe and the chief rabbi of Tunisia. "We welcome them in their country, Tunisia, the land of peace, friendship, coexistence and co-existence," said Sheikh Osman Batih, the Mufti of Tunisia. But the mufti's remarks made a stir in the Tunisian media, and he had to apologize.
According to Shakri, the synagogue in Djerba is considered one of the oldest synagogues in the world and has special advantages, such as writing the names of the bachelors on the egg shell and placing it under the Torah for marriage. He added that despite the reservation of the citizens of Tunisia from Israel, but the Jews of Grava are respected.
But my partner in Tunis is in a completely different situation. According to him, the synagogue in the center of the city is empty most of the time, as there is no one left from the Jewish community, which numbered tens of thousands in the past. In addition to 1.200 Jews in Djerba, there are about 300 Jews in Tunisia and elsewhere in the country, while the rest of the Jews emigrated to France and Israel.