Ancient Jewish Community Endures on Tunisian Isle
When school lets out, the streets around the ancient synagogue on this Tunisian island fill with rambunctious boys wearing Jewish kippahs and girls in long skirts, shouting to each other in Hebrew, Arabic and French.
The Jewish community in the resort island of Djerba traces its roots all the way back to Babylonian exile of 586 B.C., and is one of the few communities of its kind to have survived the turmoil around the creation of Israel, when more than 800,000 Jews across the Arab world either emigrated or were driven from their homes.
Here the faithful pray at the La Ghriba synagogue — widely believed to be Africa’s oldest — beneath intricate tile walls bearing blue and yellow geometric shapes that would not seem out of place at a mosque. The synagogue’s name can be translated as “strange” or “miraculous.”