Israel’s counterterrorism bureau upgrades Tunisian threat

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s counterterrorism bureau has reiterated a travel advisory to Tunisia, despite plans to reinstate an annual pilgrimage to the grave of a Jewish mystic.

The National Security Council bureau said Thursday that there was a "high concrete threat" to Israeli visitors and Jewish targets, and called on Israelis to avoid visiting there.

Each year, Jewish pilgrims from France, Israel and elsewhere come to the El Ghriba synagogue to join with local Jews in celebrating the yahrzeit, or anniversary of the death, of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the second-century Torah scholar and author of the Zohar. This year, the annual Lag b’Omer pilgrimage falls on May 9 and 10.

The festival surrounding the pilgrimage was canceled last year due to the revolution that swept the country’s longtime autocrat, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, from power.

Some Tunisian Jews have been unsettled by demonstrations there in recent months in which fervently religious Salafi groups with alleged ties to al-Qaida called on Muslims to kill or wage war against Jews.

In April, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki visited the El Ghriba synagogue to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2002 al-Qaida truck bombing that killed 21 people. Marzouki in his speech called for Jews to be welcomed to the annual pilgrimage.

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