Jews and Muslims together, the magic of a pilgrimage in Tunisia, Marc Knobel
The magic here and magically transported me to a place of rare beauty, the Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, the oldest synagogue in North Africa, it is said. The synagogue is in the “Hara Kbira” the Jewish quarter of the island, which still reside few hundred Tunisian Jews. The pilgrimage to the Ghriba just opened its doors and in small groups, pilgrims, visitors, foreigners flock. Journalists also are distinguished from all cameras, microphones and people come and go in pandemonium. The crowd gathers here and there. This pilgrimage held every year on the 33rd day of Passover, is the spiritual and festive moment, long awaited by the Jews of Tunisia, North Africa, their children and grandchildren.
All around, however, heavily armed military helicopter and you see revolves around our heads. It is true that the bloodthirsty terrorists and crazy Daech would, if they could strike this sacred place, a prime target: Djerba, sweet, a Synagogue, Jewish and Muslim pilgrims, officials, journalists . And there would be chaos, as hoped by the fanatics. Remember: April 11, 2002, in the early hours of the day, a tanker truck exploded, killing 19 people. The bloody and cowardly attack was claimed by al Qaeda.
But the pilgrims came, they are there.
Two separate buildings, are separated from one another by a few meters. In the first, around a large courtyard, massed all kinds of people, some are seated, others come and go and circulate everywhere at once, around small chopper or are sold all kinds of tourist trinkets. On the stage of Tunisian musicians sing songs in Arabic. Is meant here and there the oud, the musical instrument plucked string, widespread in Arab countries. And music, is at work, women make you you, long acute or modulated screams qu’entonnent Jewish and Muslim North Africa. Men shouting, dancing, and it goes everywhere to come and go.
In the other building, is the Synagogue. It is pure magnificence of gems and all the beauties of Tunisia. Earthenware in all shades of blue (turquoise, bright, sky diving …) cover and line the white-walled synagogue, around some columns and arabesques or Hebrew inscriptions. Men pray, others talk, laugh, kiss, touch, photograph everyone and everyone photograph everyone. In the other room, is the Altar. Further, women and men light candles, feel the heat of the flames, praying, a woman crying. Young girls and women are sitting on the steps of the synagogue. They are covered with traditional costumes of Djerba. They are all very nice, some are Muslim, other Jewish. Besides, children covered with a kipa, talk to each other.
It emerges from this place, incredible magic. And I, the secular, I feel deeply the spirituality of the place, its history, its culture, traditions, love.
Because there is no greater mistake than oblivion, we came to show our love for a place steeped in history and if the emotion overwhelms us is that, in this place, and Jews Muslims kiss and touch. It is there like magic.
Why should we forget that the Jews lived in North Africa? Why should we abandon the Synagogue, which is and must always remain a place of worship and pilgrimage?
And even if they stay no longer than 1500 Jews in Tunisia when they were 100,000, there are still. Including Djerba.
And whatever may be the difficulties, Tunisia is a country of tolerance and must remain and there is no more beautiful song than when Jews, Christians and Muslims, believers and secular meet, see, s ‘kiss, smile, touch, say, read, make it.
the magic is in the meeting of cultures, it also operates when the sacred is protected and when prayer becomes the meeting point and the point of esteem and respect for excellence.
The Magic then has a name, it is called love of neighbor.