Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki marked the ten year anniversary of the 2002 Al-Qaeda truck bombing attack on the El Ghriba synagogue with a visit to the Djerba landmark today.The Jewish students visited the presidential palace yesterday, although they did not meet with Marzouki.
In a solemn ceremony commemorating the 21 victims who were killed in the attack, President Marzouki reiterated that Tunisian Jews were equal citizens under the law to all other Tunisians and that the Tunisian government was committed to the security of the small 2,600 year-old community. Marzouki called the attacks “cowardly,” and expressed deep sympathy for the families of the victims who died.
Victims’ families came from France and Germany to meet with the new Tunisian President and share their grief for the loss of their their loved ones. In his speech, Marzouki said, “Tunisia is a peaceful country and the Tunisian people refuse all forms of violence against civilians.”
Marzouki also declared that, “any vandalism or violence against the Tunisian Jewish people, their property or their holy sites is totally unacceptable.” He also condemned the recent attack which killed four Jewish children in Toulouse, France.
The Tunisian president also announced that he has invited a group of Jewish school children to visit his Carthage Presidential Palace office. Marzouki has recently brought school groups to visit his office as a way of opening the Tunisian Presidency to the public after the revolution.
Recent demonstrations by ultra-conservative Islamist groups have seen public chants calling for Muslims to kill or wage war against Jews on three occasions in the past three months in Tunisia. Individual Tunisian followers of the Salafist movement have been known to have had ties to Al-Qaeda in the past.
Local Jewish community leaders expressed great pleasure with the visit of Marzouki and optimism for the future of the Jewish community.
“It is a blessing to live together, as Tunisians: Muslims and Jews, our bonds challenge the hatred of the Salafists,” said Perez Trabelsi, president of the El Ghriba Synagogue and the Jewish community of Hara Segira, Djerba.
“The day-to-day living situation for Jews has not changed since the revolution, and we hope it will never change; we don’t live in fear,” Perez Trabelsi added.
Perez Trabelsi’s son, Rene, owns a Kosher hotel and resort in nearby Sidi Mansour, Djerba as well as a Paris-based travel agency that organizes Jewish religious tours of Tunisia. “I am sure the government will put an end to these hateful speeches that we have seen in videos,” said Rene Trabelsi. “The tourism season is coming soon and many Jews are interested in visiting Tunisia,” he added.
Last month, thousands of Islamists at a rally in Tunisia called to "fight the Jews" in order to "enter Paradise."