Tunisia pilgrimage nixed over security concerns


(JTA) — Security fears forced the cancellation of the annual Jewish pilgrimage to a Tunisian synagogue.

The instability on Tunisia’s border with Libya was cited as the reason for canceling the trek to the al-Ghibra synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The pilgrimmage was canceled for the first time in 20 years, the French news agency AFP reported.

Thousands of Jews from around the world congregate on the island each year to mark the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag b’Omer.

In 2002, a terrorist attack against the historic synagogue killed 21 German tourists and was believed to be perpetrated by al-Qaida.

About 1,500 Jews are living in Tunisia. Some 1,100 live in Djerba, with the rest in the capital city of Tunis.

In March, the Israeli government offered additional financial assistance to Tunisian Jews wishing to make aliyah amid political upheaval and violence that led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zein el-Abbadin Bin Ali. Ten Tunisian Jews made aliyah to Israel in late January with the help of the Jewish Agency.

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