The Jewish Community Post-Jasmine Revolution

Tunisia is still in a phase of transition – noted.

But it is in these early days that an idea of the trajectory of the new Tunisia is gathered and accordingly, if actions earlier this week are anything to go by, it is heading backwards rather than forwards.

For centuries Tunisia has maintained a successful religious balance: home to Christians, Jews and Muslims it has surpassed its fellow Arab nations in sustaining the cultures and traditions of all three faiths.

Which is why the news of the torching of the Gabes synagogue and harassment of the Jewish community in the capital Tunis is deeply disappointing.

When I last visited Tunis in September I was struck by the bling factor of the synagogue: in Britain they are largely unremarkable buildings from the exterior: a legacy, I imagine, from the days of persecution.

Observing the enormous gold Star of David and Hebrew script adorning the Tunis synagogue, I took this as a sign of the cohesiveness: to be that ostentatious, the community must feel safe, right?

Of late, this may not be the case: last Saturday as adherents made their way to shabbat they endured heckles of  “Begone the Jews, the army of Mohammed is back!”.

I believe that this is the sentiment of the few: small-minded, high-on-revolutionary-spirits bigots who are kindling tensions within a previously peaceful society.

It has been speculated that the hecklers are members of the Islamic movement El-Tahrir who were cautiously silent under former President  Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, but are now free to act with impunity.

For Peres Trabelsi, spokesman of the Gabes Jewish community, their objective is clear:

I believe those who did it want to create divisions between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia who have lived for decades in peace. What especially shocked me was the fact that there was a police force not far from the synagogue when it was attacked.

In the coming months there will be a multitude of challenges confronting the state – the addition of religious conflict will be an unwelcome one.

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This entry was posted on February 18, 2011 by in Africa, Politics, Religion, Tunisia and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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