Tunisia: Foreign diplomats commemorate synagogue attack

Synagogue, Tunisia

With tearful eyes and heavy hearts, diplomats from the US and France visited Africa’s oldest synagogue on 26th May to commemorate a fatal attack that occurred last year on 9th May, AFP reported.

While the US and Tunisia maintain over 200 years of strong relations, Tunisia has faced tensions with France over a documentary that exposed Tunisia’s poor economy and criticised the President’s authoritarian rule.

French ambassador, Anne Gueguen, and US deputy chief of mission in Tunisia, Natasha Franceschi paid their respects to those who lost their lives during the annual pilgrimage to Djerba Island.

READ: Tunisia: Police investigate synagogue fire

Gueguen and Franceschi declined interviews, and members of their teams disclosed that neither diplomat could speak as the event was too emotional.

The attack occurred last May and was instigated by a security guard who repeatedly shot his partner before opening fire on visitors and officers outside the Ghriba synagogue.

Two worshipers and three security officers were killed at the hands of the attacker.

The BBC reported that his motivation was unclear.

Just after the attack, a relative told 103FM, an Israeli radio station that “they were shot – murdered in cold blood.”

“People were happy and dancing until we heard a lot of gunfire. Everyone ran away…There was lots of fear.”, Peres Trabelsi, head of Djerba’s Jewish community told AFP.

Despite the rumours of this year’s pilgrimage being cancelled due to safety concerns and tensions that have been escalated by the Israel-Hamas war, organisers said that the three-day event “will be limited”.

Although the festival commenced on the 24th May, only around a dozen Jewish pilgrims attended the gathering.

Hayim Haddad, a pilgrim who attended the festival this year stated with tears in his eyes, “When I see it empty like this, it hurts.”

Tunisian Jews consider the synagogue the most sacred place of worship in Africa as the 2,500-year-old temple was constructed with a stone or gate that was brought from King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction in 586BC.



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