Tunis, Tunisia —Simon
Slama and his family are the only Jews left in the Tunisian city of
Monastir, once home to a thriving Jewish community. But instead of
joining the exodus, he is running for office – as a candidate of
Tunisia’s Islamist party.
Mr. Slama’s candidacy with the Ennahdha
party in May municipal elections is causing a sensation in this
overwhelmingly Muslim country, and some controversy.
it as a calculated tactic by Ennahdha to regain power and to restore its
reputation among Western allies like the United States. Others however
see it as an example of Tunisia’s long-standing traditions of tolerance.
sewing machine salesman and repairman, Slama says he just wants to
serve his country and the city where he was born, suffering from
economic difficulties and social tensions.
“I chose Ennahdha
because I found that because of the crisis the country is going through,
everyone is turning toward this party,” he told The Associated Press in
“I see no difference between the Islamic and Judaic
religions. We are all one family and we are all Tunisian citizens and
we should go hand in hand to build the Tunisia of tomorrow,” he said.
returned to Monastir, on the Mediterranean coast about 105 miles south
of the capital, Tunis, after studying in the French city of Strasbourg
even as other Jewish families left because “we love the city and it has
the spirit of my ancestors.”
Tunisia is home to an estimated 1,500
Jews nationwide. Monastir “used to have 520 Jewish families. Today mine
is the only one left,” Slama said.