El Ghriba Synagogue

كنيس الغريبة

( El Ghriba Synagogue )

The ancient El Ghriba Synagogue (Arabic: كنيس الغريبة), also known as the Djerba Synagogue, is located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. It is situated in the Jewish village of Hara Seghira (currently known as er-Riadh), several kilometres southwest of Houmt El Souk, the main town of Djerba.

The synagogue is the oldest in Tunisia, and besides being the center of the island's Jewish life is also a site of pilgrimage, one of the legends associated with its founding claims that either a stone or a door from Solomon's Temple or the Second Temple is incorporated in the building.

Inside the synagogue

Djerba is home to around 1,300 Jews,[1] and El Ghriba is an important feature of Jewish life on the island.[2] According to legend, the construction of the synagogue goes back to the High Priests' escape following the destruction of Solomon's Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II in the year 586 BCE (or, alternately, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE). The High Priests carried with them a door and a stone of the destroyed Temple. Thus the synagogue links the Jewish diaspora to the "sole sanctuary of Judaism".[3] In modern times, the local Jews are distinguished by their dress, which includes a black band around their pants, which signifies the destruction of the Temple.[4]

Another tradition says the synagogue was built on a spot where a young girl (ghriba, "the isolated one") had lived, that had not been accepted by the others. She died, and her uncorrupted body was found by the Jews of the nearby village, and then buried in a cave which became the site of an annual pilgrimage for Lag BaOmer.[3]

In 1985, during the festivities for Simchat Torah, a local policeman responsible for the synagogue‘s safety opened fire into a crowd of celebrating Jews, killing three people, among them one child,[2] and wounding 15.[5][6] This occurred in the aftermath of Operation "Wooden Leg" (Hebrew: מבצע רגל עץ, Mivtza Regel Etz) when Israel targeted the PLO headquarters in Tunisia. The local policeman, whose relative was killed in the operation, targeted the synagogue in a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment following the operation. On April 11, 2002, a truck full of explosives was detonated close to the synagogue, killing 21 people, among whom were 14 German tourists, five Tunisians and two French nationals. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing,[7] which was found to have been masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and financed by a Pakistani resident of Spain.[8]

^ "Tunisia's Prime Minister joins guests as Jews celebrate a unique Lag Ba'Omer festival". Jewish Chronicle. May 23, 2019. ^ a b Gilbert, Martin (2010). In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. McClelland & Stewart. p. 345. ISBN 9781551993423. ^ a b Meddeb, Abdelwahab; Stora, Benjamin, eds. (2013). A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day. Princeton University Press. p. 926. ISBN 9781400849130. ^ Blady, Ken (2000). Jewish Communities in Exotic Places. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 338. ISBN 9780765761125. ^ Chicago Tribune 09 Oct 1985, Page 11 "Shots kill 3 at Tunisia synagogue" ^ "Policeman shoots into Jewish quarter". UPI. Retrieved 2022-05-20. ^ "Tunisian bomb attack trial opens". BBC. ^ Reinares, Fernando (2016). Al-Qaeda's Revenge: The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings. Columbia University Press. p. 88. ISBN 9780231801409.
Photographies by:
Elfanabilla - CC BY-SA 4.0

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