Under tight security at Africa’s oldest synagogue, Tunisian Jews on Wednesday staged their biggest religious ceremony in Tunisia since a 2011 revolution undermined security in the North African country.
Mainly Muslim Tunisia is home to one of North Africa’s largest Jewish communities. Though they now number less than 2,000 people, Jews have lived in Tunisia since Roman times.
In 2011, after the uprising that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali the annual celebration was cancelled, and in following years only a few hundred attended, fearing attacks by hardline Islamists.
This year, revellers chanted and danced in a two-day festival at the El Ghriba synagogue at the popular tourist island resort of Djerba 500 km (310 miles) south of Tunis.
“The security situation is excellent here and this has encouraged us to come back … Today we feel safer in Tunisia than in Paris,” Isabel Guez, a Jewish visitor from Paris, told Reuters.
“This celebration is a great opportunity for rapprochement between Muslims, Jews and other religions and an opportunity to call for peace and love across the world,” she added.
Some 5,000 Jews attended, organizers said, a significant increase on 2,000 last year. Tunisia has not seen a major terror attack since scores of foreigners were murdered in two strikes claimed by ISIS in 2015.