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Tunisian Jews mark annual pilgrimage

Some 5,000 Jews celebrated the annual Ghriba pilgrimage in Tunisia. Celebrants paraded Sunday through the streets of Djerba to the Ghriba synagogue, the oldest in North Africa. The procession recalls the memory of a woman named La Ghriba who lived on the island centuries ago and is hailed as a saint. Thousands of pilgrims visit Djerba every Lag B’Omer to ask for her aid. They parade a huge candelabrum called the Grande Menara down the street as women reach out to touch the multicolored silk scarves adorning the candelabrum. The gathering was heavily secured by police five years after a 2002 terrorist attack against the synagogue that killed 21 German tourists. Al-Qaida was suspected of perpetrating the attack.Among those attending this year’s were Israeli lawmaker David Tal and Tunisian Tourism Minister Tijani Haddad. Fewer than 2,000 of Tunisia’s 10.8 million inhabitants are Jewish.