“Tunisian friends sometimes ask me: Why did you leave? Why did you leave Tunisia?
I felt embarrassed and did not really know what to answer – but I now understand that my intuition, pushing me to leave, did not deceive me.
It was not possible to regard oneself as a full citizen when the first article of the Constitution stipulated that the language of the republic was Arabic and its religion Islam.
While in all sincerity having supported the new Tunisia, being neither Arab nor Muslim (unless you consider Arabic-speaking Jewish Tunisians as authentic) I felt my citizenship could only be a sham. One day, the difference would be felt in a more or less tragic way, the conflict in the Middle East would come crashing down on my head and at every opportunity the old antisemitic demons would come out in the cold light of day.
The few Jews who still remain in this country, 1,500 of the 150,000 or 120, 000 that we once were, now have their work cut out and I applaud their courage for daring to protest to the new “moderate Islamist” authorities against the hysterical demonstrations which welcomed Ismail Haniyeh, terrorist leader in Gaza, at the airport in Tunis.
To hear shouts of “Jews out, kill the Jews,” after the Ennahda leader had tried to reassure international opinion by recently inviting Tunisian Jews to return to live in the country, after a pilgrimage to the tomb of the highly revered Rabbi Hai Taieb in Tunis had gone without a hitch last month – under heavy police protection to be sure – while the government is struggling to bring back tourists and jump-start the economy, does something to dampen one’s enthusiasm for the Tunis spring which began just a year ago, when we believed that a democratic Tunisia would continue with greater vigour its march towards progress and modernity.
Today one can legitimately be worried for this country and of course for the tiny Jewish community that still lives there.
Worried, because young people disappointed by developments still continue to set themselves on fire, concerned that the “Ennahda” party in power is already being taken over by an even more fundamentalist and radical Salafi movement, concerned that the University is under threat, worried about the future of women, concerned that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are once again becoming the mandatory excuse for hiding the real problems the country faces.
It is not by shouting ‘Kill the Jews’, is it not by welcoming with pomp and ceremony the Hamas leader and shouting with him hate-filled slogans against Israel and Jews, not by criminalizing contact with the “Zionist entity” in the Constitution that we will grant work to the unemployed, a new start to the economy, prevent the brain drain and the clash between democrats, secularists and universalists on the one hand and the advocates of an all-powerful and omnipresent Islam on the other.
This is all very worrying.”