Ghriba pilgrimage: an opportunity for Tunisian Jews

In Tunisia, the Jewish pilgrimage to Ghriba in Djerba is being held this week. As every year, Jews from all over the world gather in Africa’s oldest synagogue. Tradition says it houses fragments of Solomon’s first temple destroyed by the Babylonians, a ritual that is also an opportunity for pilgrims to reconnect with Tunisia. A country that some have had to leave reluctantly.

He dreamed about it all his life. To see the neighborhood where his parents grew up again. Sniffing the air in this Tunisia they told him so much about. Tsion Cohen is American. Together with his two sons, the seven-year-old made the trip from Connecticut to make the pilgrimage to Ghriba: “Eighty years ago, my parents lived here. I tried to get closer to their origins, to see the house where they grew up. This place represents my past. Everything started here in Tunisia. It’s the journey of a lifetime. I’m fine. “

Like he did 3,000 foreigners the journey. The highlight of the ritual, the prayer times in the 2,500-year-old synagogue. Opportunity to light candles and make wishes.

The scattered community Ruth, who lives in Italy, comes here every year with her friends: “We pray for the sick, for those who are not married or have no children. We try to calm down by coming here ”.

With more than 100,000 souls, the Tunisian Jewish community spread throughout the world after independence and the various Arab-Israeli wars.

Joseph Bellaïche left Tunisia in 1956. He settled in Paris and returns every year to Ghriba. During a concert of Tunisian Jewish liturgical music, he suddenly feels overwhelmed with emotion: “It’s a joy for me to. It’s our sources, it’s our life. We can not explain it, it’s a terrible tear, but thank God, we are sewing it together a little bit ”.

Developing worship tourism René Trabelsi is one of the organizers of the pilgrimage. This Jewish Tunisian was Minister of Tourism after the revolution. He dreams of further developing worship tourism on the island of Djerba: “This pilgrimage has a potential of 20,000 pilgrims. We should open up a little more to the world to allow all pilgrims, all Jews from all over the world to easily access Djerba and this pilgrimage.”

Signs of this community’s stronghold of Tunisia – apart from prayers – are the Tunisian anthem that pilgrims have sung many times.

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