Djerba Synagogue

Located on the Tunisian island of Djerba, the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue is the oldest in Tunisia and is considered a site of pilgrimage. However, it has also been the target of tragedy. On May 9, 2023, a shooting occurred near the synagogue, killing two visitors and two security guards.

Significance and Legend

Located in the Jewish village of Hara Seghira, the El Ghriba Synagogue has a legendary history dating back to the time of the High Priests’ escape following the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II or the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. According to one of the legends, the construction of the synagogue is said to incorporate either a stone or a door from Solomon’s Temple or the Second Temple. It is presently known as er-Riadh.

Local Jews and Tragedy

Djerba is home to approximately 1,300 Jews, and El Ghriba is an important feature of Jewish life on the island. The local Jews are distinguished by their dress, which includes a black band around their pants that signifies the destruction of the Temple.

However, the synagogue has also been the site of tragedy. During the celebrations of Simchat Torah in 1985, a local police officer in charge of protecting the synagogue fired into a gathering of Jews celebrating the occasion, resulting in the deaths of three people and injuring fifteen others. His relative was killed during Operation “Wooden Leg” when Israel targeted the PLO headquarters in Tunisia.

In 2002, a truck full of explosives was detonated close to the synagogue, killing 21 people, including 14 German tourists, five Tunisians, and two French nationals. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and financed by a Pakistani resident of Spain.



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