The Jewish and Muslim merchants of Djerba

Fascinating article in Middle East Eye into the jewellery trade which keeps the Jews of Djerba afloat. Tourism is dead, but times are busy in the run-up to Muslim feasts. 

DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his
shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings
and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

 The al-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba (photo: MEE/ Rik Goverde)

The customers dig deep in their pockets and take
out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people
on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia
tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of
Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

“People don’t have money but they still want to buy
a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their
jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who
was born and raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the
old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets,
Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries,
relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says,
although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and
“there are certainly no inter-marriages” between the two religious
groups. “In Tunis that might happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a
bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we
still respect each other.”

 Taoufik Mihoub (right) with his friend Youssef Yaich (photo: MEE/Rik Goverde)

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island
overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were
celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of
feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since
tourism in Tunisia collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m
in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is
normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves,
Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy
between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”

Read article in full

DJERBA
– These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into
his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered
ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

The customers
dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to
sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out
of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the
main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)

“People
don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family
(as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says
Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and
raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in
the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow
streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for
centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim
friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each
others houses for dinner a lot and “there are certainly no
inter-marriages” between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might
happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But
here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect
each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur
and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes
we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a
Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia
collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by
whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between
Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the
Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but
there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition
in the sector is so hard.”

The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.NSK3kDXy.dpuf

DJERBA
– These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into
his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered
ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

The customers
dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to
sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out
of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the
main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)

“People
don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family
(as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says
Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and
raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in
the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow
streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for
centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim
friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each
others houses for dinner a lot and “there are certainly no
inter-marriages” between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might
happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But
here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect
each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur
and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes
we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a
Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia
collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by
whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between
Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the
Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but
there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition
in the sector is so hard.”

The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf

DJERBA
– These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into
his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered
ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

The customers
dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to
sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out
of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the
main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)

“People
don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family
(as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says
Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and
raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in
the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow
streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for
centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim
friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each
others houses for dinner a lot and “there are certainly no
inter-marriages” between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might
happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But
here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect
each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur
and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes
we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a
Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia
collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by
whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between
Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the
Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but
there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition
in the sector is so hard.”

The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf

DJERBA
– These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into
his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered
ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

The customers
dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to
sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out
of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the
main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)

“People
don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family
(as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says
Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and
raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in
the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow
streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for
centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim
friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each
others houses for dinner a lot and “there are certainly no
inter-marriages” between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might
happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But
here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect
each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur
and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes
we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a
Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia
collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by
whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between
Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the
Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but
there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition
in the sector is so hard.”

The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf

DJERBA
– These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman
in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into
his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered
ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

The customers
dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to
sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out
of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the
main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after
terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)

“People
don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family
(as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says
Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and
raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in
the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow
streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for
centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim
friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each
others houses for dinner a lot and “there are certainly no
inter-marriages” between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might
happen… maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But
here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect
each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur
and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes
we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a
Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia
collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef
Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by
whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between
Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the
Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but
there’s sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition
in the sector is so hard.”

The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf

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