Some 500 Jews are expected to travel in May to Tunisia’s Ghriba synagogue, the oldest in Africa, reviving a pilgrimage scaled back last year amid security fears, the chief organizer said Tuesday.
"This pilgrimage is going to have a very important impact on tourism and its success will attract thousands of Jews in the future," Rene Trabelsi told AFP.
Festivities around the annual pilgrimage to the synagogue on the island of Djerba were cut back last year as Tunisia struggled to stabilize in the wake of the protests that forced former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee after 23 years in power.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on Mediterranean tourism organized by the UN’s World Tourism Organization, Trabelsi said a successful 2012 pilgrimage "will show the world that Tunisians accept difference and that the new Tunisia is not as Islamist and radical as some think".
"It’s a country that respects religious minorities as always," he added.
The pilgrimage is linked to the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer and generally attracts thousands of Jews from Europe, Israel and the US.
The Jewish community in Muslim Tunisia has seen its numbers dwindle from 100,000 in 1956, when the country won independence from France, to around 1,000 currently.