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Jews Gather at Ancient Tunisian Synagogue

Hundreds of Jews gathered on Tunisia’s Djerba Island as part of a pilgrimage to the 2,500-year-old El Ghriba synagogue.

Some 500 European Jews and 1,000 Jewish Tunisians made the journey Wednesday to celebrate the yahrzeit, or anniversary of the death, of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the 2nd-century Torah scholar and author of the Zohar, the French news agency AFP reported.

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 at the synagogue that killed 21 people. Marzouki in his speech called for Jews to be welcomed to the annual pilgrimage.

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