Tag: Israel/Tunisia

Tunisian condemned for singing with Israeli

Update: Noamane Chaarihas received death threats and been sacked from his job.

A Tunisian composer and singer who recorded a song with an Israeli has been lambasted by journalists, political figures and social media users. Although the song, ‘Peace between neighbours’ by Noamane Chaari and ZivYeheskel, was viewed over 1.5 million times, it seems that Tunisia is not yet ready to ‘normalise’ with Israel. In fact Chaari’s career may well suffer. See MEMRI report (with thanks: Lily)



 During Chaari’s December 12 interview with the Tunisian radio station Mosaïque FM, the interviewer, well-known media figure Hadi Za’eem, asserted that performing alongside an Israeli constituted “a major provocation of Tunisians, Arabs, and Muslims,” and asked Chaari if he felt he was criminally liable. 

 When Chaari replied in the negative, the interviewer noted that the Yemeni lyricist had remained anonymous “because they knew the poem he wrote would get his head chopped off,” and then asked rhetorically, “So what shall be done with the head of the one who sang it?

On December 18, 2020, Chaari appeared on Channel 9’s nighttime talk show “For Night Owls Only,” and was lambasted by the host and panel members, who accused him of offending Tunisians and betraying the Palestinian cause, and even of abetting Israel’s murder of Palestinians.

Chaari, for his part, rejected the accusations and stood by his actions. 

After he refused to comply with the host’s repeated demands to apologize for the song, the host threatened Chaari that all Tunisian artists would from now on boycott him. 

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Jewish minister dropped as Tunisia entrenches Israel boycott

Tunisia’s Jewish minister of Tourism, Rene Trabelsi, will be leaving his post in a reshuffle announced by the prime minister last week. He will be replaced by Mohamed Ali Toumi.

Trabelsi, hitherto the Arab world’s only Jewish minister, with an important stake in tourism on the island of Djerba,  will have served  in the Tunisian government just fifteen months. His appointment in November 2018 ignited a storm of controversy over his links with Israel, which he has visited several times.

But the nail in the coffin of his ministerial career was likely to have been the landslide election in September of Kais Saied, Tunisia’s new president, a hardline opponent of ‘normalisation’ with Israel.

 According to the Times of Israel, the president called moves towards relations with the Jewish state ‘high treason’.

The Tunisian parliament was due to vote last year on a draft law criminalizing ties with Jerusalem, but the proposal did not get the endorsement of then-president Caid Essebsi, who died in July.

 During the debate, Saied said Tunisia was in a state of war with the Jewish state.
Saied seemed to express tolerance of Jews, saying that Jewish people with no Israeli passport were welcome to visit the country’s synagogues. But he rejected “dealings with Zionists,” whom he accused of displacing  Palestinians’.
Hundreds of Israelis, many of them of Tunisian origin, traditionally visit the country’s Ghriba Synagogue for an annual pilgrimage during the Lag Ba’Omer holiday.

Trabelsi had declared that lack of normalisation did not imply that Israelis did not have a right to visit.

Rene Trabelsi, dropped from the Tunisian government, and (right) Meyer Habib, representing French Israelis in the French parliament

In early February, however, Meyer Habib, who represents French Jews living in Israel in the French parliament and is himself of Tunisian origin, called on his Facebook page for a boycott of Tunisia which he claimed was descending into ‘Iranian-style hatred’ after it questioned the participation of a 17-year-old French-Israeli player in a tennis tournament. Although Habib took down his post, he and Trabelsi had a heated exchange.

An Israeli-Tunisian Jew ‘s trip to his ancestors’ world

Jewish pilgrims visiting the Al Ghriba synagogue on Djerba (Photo: Gidon Uzan)

Tunisia likes to project an image of tolerance, yet has lost 99 percent of its Jews. A young Israeli of Tunisian heritage goes in search of his roots, and finds some surprising links with the past. Article by Gidon Uzan in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Janet)

My grandfather Yehuda Uzan had been a shop owner. After exploring the neighborhood for over two hours to no avail, another store owner suggested we ask an 86-year-old resident named Misira if he remembered anything about the old Jewish community.

We finally located Misira, who was practically blind, but after some probing recalled my grandfather, explaining that his father had worked in my grandfather’s shop for many years.

As he stood on the doorstep of his house, Misira told us how he remembered the moment my grandmother informed him that they’d be leaving Tunisia for Palestine in three months’ time. He excitedly described to us how my grandfather would tear every loaf of bread in half and give half of it to his family. And with tears in his eyes he recalled the day my grandmother put a sizeable amount of cash in his hand so he could get an education. In fact, he did go on to learn to be a silversmith, and was then able to support his family for many good years until he retired.

 Our next stop was the local cemetery. The first gravestone we visited was that of Rabbi Yitzhak Chai Tayeb, who died nearly 200 years ago. According to a legend that’s described in an anthology put together by Dr. Michal Sharf, the rabbi once put on worker’s clothing and offered to carry a man’s belongings all the way from the port to a local hotel in Tunis. On the way, the rabbi answered all of the man’s questions with such brilliance that the man wondered if this worker was so clever, imagine how clever the rabbi of such a place must be.

Next, we approached the headstone of Rabbi Yaakov Slama, also known as Morid Hageshem, and many other famous rabbis and mystics. For me, as a Jew with Tunisian heritage, hearing all the stories about these holy men and the society they lived in was most gratifying.

During our trip, in addition to visiting Jewish cemeteries, we also toured a number of cities where Jews had lived, each of which had remains of a synagogue. In addition to El Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, there was another house of prayer there called Beit El. And in the city of Monastir, farther north on the Tunisian coast, there are remnants of the Keter Torah Synagogue, which served an active community in the 19th century. This city also happens to be the birthplace of Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president, who is greatly revered by Tunisians. And I must say that even though I am not a religious person, I prayed with all my heart and soul each time we entered one of these ancient synagogues in Tunisia. I felt so close to God and my ancestors.

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Tunisian politicians object to ‘Israeli’ rabbis

It did not take long, following this year’s Lag Ba’ Omer pilgrimage to Djerba, for Tunisian politicians (as reported in Middle East Eye)to stir up trouble by protesting the presence of ‘Israeli’ rabbis as proof of unwanted ‘normalisation’ between Tunisia and Israel. Yet a group of 300 Israeli pilgrims were allowed in to the country on special visas. (With thanks: Lily) 

Tunisian politicians have accused the government of normalisation with Israel after Israeli rabbis reportedly visited the country’s El Ghriba synagogue, according to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi.

Rabbis ‘not Israelis but Tunisian Jews’

Tunisian media outlets shared pictures of rabbis – thought to be from Israel – taking part in a pilgrimage on the Tunisian island of Djerba, known for its longstanding Jewish history.

Jewish activists in Tunisia have nonetheless said that the rabbis were “not Israelis, but rather Tunisian Jews living abroad and who visited Tunisia many times previously”.

Tunisia, like most Arab countries, has no official diplomatic relations with Israel.

Zuhair al-Maghazawi, the secretary-general of the People’s Movement party, called the rabbis’ visit a “scandal with the government’s consent”, and called for an investigation into the case, according to Al-Quds al-Arabi.

 “We have no problem with the Jews, as they are the brothers of the Muslims and they have the right to the annual visit to El Ghriba Synagogue,” Maghazawi said. “Our problem is rather with the Zionist movement, which is trying its best to normalise, establish relations and take advantage of such occasions to penetrate the social and political life in Tunisia.


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Minister tries to defuse passport row

More about ‘normalisation’ 

Tunisian prime minister attends al-Ghriba pilgrimage

Earlier this week, thousands of Jewish pilgrims, including 300  Israelis, flocked to the island of Djerba for the annual Lag Ba’Omer pilgrimage to the ancient Al-Ghriba synagogue. It is customary for senior ministers to attend the event, but for the first time, Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed paid a visit. The Jewish Chronicle reports:

You might not expect the Prime Minister of an Arab country to attend a Jewish gathering during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Rene Trabelsi, Tunisia’s Jewish minister of Tourism

 But then the festival of the Ghibra, celebrated by the historic Jewish community of Djerba off the southern coast of Tunisia over Lag Ba’Omer, is a unique event.

Its unusual coincidence during Ramadan this year made it the ideal opportunity to highlight the country’s pledge of religious co-existence.

 Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed hailed Djerba on Wednesday as a “worldwide symbol and example to be followed.”

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Jewish Chronicle report

Previous Al-Ghriba pilgrimages


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