The National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel advisory against Israelis visiting Tunisia on Monday, ahead of an expected Lag B’Omer festivities to be held May 25-26 in Ghriba, on the island of Djerba.
“There is a severe travel warning for Tunisia (high concrete threat),” the Bureau said. “Terrorist elements, especially those affiliated with Global Jihad, continue to operate in Tunisia and commit attacks; therefore, there is a high threat level against Jewish targets.”
“It is recommended that visits to Tunisia be avoided,” it added.
According to legend, the Ghriba synagogue was founded in 586 BCE by Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Thousands of pilgrims visit the tombs of famous rabbis there for the Lag BaOmer Jewish Festival, including in Ghriba, where one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world still lives.
Beginning 33 days after the start of the Jewish Passover festival, the Ghriba pilgrimage used to attract thousands of pilgrims from France and Israel and other tourists.
But their number fell dramatically after an April 2002 bombing blamed on Al Qaeda that killed 21 people. The Bureau warns Israelis against making the pilgrimage every year.
Tunisian Jews now number around 1,500, compared with an estimated 100,000 when Tunisia gained independence in 1956. Like Jews in other Arab-majority states, they were subjected to attacks and persecution which largely drove them out during the first half of the twentieth century. Today, Tunisia’s remaining Jews are somewhat more secure, but concerns over anti-Semitism and Muslim extremism remain.