Tunisia: Thousands on pilgrimage

”Today, we’re witnessing a miracle! In a global context of tension and hatred, a Muslim country is welcoming Jews from all over the world for their annual celebration – and this during Ramadan.”

That’s how Gabriel Cabla, one of the organisers of this year’s pilgrimage to Ghriba, home to Africa’s oldest synagogue, describes the event on the Tunisian island of Djerba.

About 1,500 Jews live in Djerba. For centuries, Ghriba has been one of 20 places on the island where Jews gather to pray. Every May, thousands of people (this year almost 7,000) come for about a week. Most, but by no means all, are pilgrims.

There are religious rituals but the overall atmosphere is one of festivity and music, as people of different religions celebrate a message of peace and belonging. In mid-week, on Wednesday, some 5,000 people of different beliefs took part in a huge Iftar meal, when Muslims end their daily holy month fast at sunset.

One participant, Moshei, a Jewish man from Tunisia who has lived in France for 40 years, told me: “To be back in my home country and make the pilgrimage gives me renewed energy.”

/Rym Benarous, Tunisia

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.