ANTOR News

El Ghriba Pilgrimage

15 April 2017

Located in the village of Hara Sghira in Djerba, an island off the coast of southern Tunisia, the Ghriba synagogue is believed to be the oldest Jewish temple in Africa.

Tunisian National Tourist Office

Located in the village of Hara Sghira in Djerba, an island off the coast of southern Tunisia, the Ghriba synagogue is believed to be the oldest Jewish temple in Africa.

Displaying intricate tile walls bearing blue and yellow geometric shapes El Ghriba is the most famous and venerated of the twenty synagogues and prayer houses dotting the three Jewish villages on Djerba. Its surrounding streets include a kosher butcher, a bakery that sells a traditional tuna-filled pastry known as “brik” and schools that teach lessons in Hebrew, French and Arabic.

According to local tradition, the first Jews settled on Djerba in the wake of Solomon Temple’s destruction in Jerusalem 586 BCE. In the millennia that followed the original settlement, waves of Jewish immigrants from around the Mediterranean flocked to it as a haven from persecution. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a Jewish community that existed in surprising harmony with its local Muslim neighbours. Whilst most of this community has since then moved to Israel, Djerba is still home to some 1,500 Jews.

From 11th to 17th in May 2017, the local community and Jewish visitors from around the world will gather to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday during a week of rituals.

The pilgrimage includes a visit to the synagogue, alms giving, prayers and a procession where participants carry the menorah, a large pyramidal lamp mounted on three wheels. The chandelier is decorated with symbols representing the twelve tribes of Israel, the names of the three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs as well as the names of venerated rabbis of Tunisia. The structure is then topped by a Star of David.

Following another local custom, women hand write the name of unmarried girls on eggs placed in the Ghriba synagogues for the duration of the festival. The eggs are then returned to the unmarried girls who, after eating them, are supposed to find a groom

Tunisia is less than 3 hours flying from the UK with daily flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick airports to Tunis.  It is a year-round destination blessed with 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beautiful landscapes and beaches, world-class golf, great food and the Sahara Desert.

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For further information please contact:

Eve Gardiner, First Public Relations or Sebastian Sarrasin, First Public Relations

t. 0208 877 4523, e. pr@firstpr.co.uk

www.discovertunisia.uk

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