Future of Tunisian Jews in Doubt

As political turmoil in Tunisia continues, the future of the local Jewish community is uncertain. Israeli Tunisians: "Come home to Israel".

Tags: Tunisia
Elad Benari , | updated: 8:36 AM

Demonstrations in Tunis
Demonstrations in Tunis

In the wake of the recent political turmoil in Tunisia which saw the president fleeing to Saudi Arabia, there are now serious concerns over the future of the local Jews.

Nissim Taito, director of the World Organization of Tunisian Jews, told Arutz Sheva’s daily Hebrew journal on Monday that the Jewish community in Tunisia is closely monitoring the political situation in the country out of a concern that Islamic radicals may turn on local Jews, blaming them for the current political and social uncertainty in the country.

“We still do not know what their situation is, but we are willing to help absorb them here if they decide to come here,” said Taito. “After all, Israel is their home too. They should have been here with us a long time ago.”

Taito emphasized that it is still unknown whether it is indeed dangerous for the Jewish communities in the two centers of Jewish population in Tunisia - the capital Tunis and Djerba. “The events in Tunisia were surprising even for us. If a democracy results from this coup then all of us will profit - the Jews, the Arabs and the democratic world. But if G-d forbid Islamists take over, you do not have to be very smart to understand how serious it will be for everyone, especially the Jewish community which is small, but numbers more than 1,500 persons.”

He added that at the present time the Tunisian Jews who are in Israel are only able to make contact with their relatives in Tunis through a third party in France, and said that this third party has also raised questions which have gone unanswered regarding the future of the Jews in Tunisia.

Taito noted that former President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, who was forced to flee Tunisia this past weekend, was very good towards the local Jews, even more than his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, who had been known for his great appreciation of the country’s Jewish community. Unfortunately, added Taito, “corruption destroyed [Ben Ali] completely.”

Now, as noted, members of the community in Israel are willing to take in their relatives if they decide to leave Tunisia and come to Israel. “If they want to leave, they should remember that there is no reason to go to France,” said Taito. “After all, that would just be temporary. Muslims make up at least 15 percent of the population there.”