Tunisia’s Jewish pilgrimage sees dwindling numbers amid Covid fear

The annual trip to visit the oldest synagogue on Djerba island usually attracts locals and overseas worshippers

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The annual Jewish pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia's Djerba island started on Monday, but without the usual crowds due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The pilgrimage to Ghriba – the oldest synagogue in Africa – will end on May 2.

Last year it was cancelled due to the pandemic, but this year it is taking place – albeit with pilgrims praying individually and wearing masks.

Tunisia's former tourism minister Rene Trabelsi, himself Jewish, was in Djerba with about 20 French tourists.

He said that despite restrictions pilgrims could still offer prayers.

"This year, we pray for the whole world," Mr Trabelsi said.

Beginning 33 days after the start of the Jewish festival of Passover, the pilgrimage usually attracts huge numbers of Jewish worshippers from around the world.

"We are very happy to be able to say our prayers," said Elizabeth, an elderly lady from Paris.

"There are no festivities this year but it does not matter, we come for prayer. Last year it was impossible."

Tunisia medics under pressure as Covid cases soar

Tunisia medics under pressure as Covid cases soar

Tunisia, with a population of 12 million people, has recorded over 300,000 cases of Covid-19, including 10,304 deaths.

Tunisian Jews now number around 1,500, compared with an estimated 100,000 in 1956, the year the North African country gained independence.