Tunisian Muslims Ask Jews to Remain

Muslims in Tunisia bristled at an Israeli minister’s call for its Jews to move to Israel. ”Jews enjoy their rights.”

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ,

Silvan Shalom
Silvan Shalom
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Muslim leaders  in Tunisia have come out against a call by Cabinet Minster and Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom for Tunisian Jews to move to Israel.

Shalom, who is of Tunisian origin and who made an official visit to the country in 2005, said that Jews in Tunisia should "settle in Israel as soon as possible.”

The Islamist Ennahda party stated responded, "Tunisia remains, today and tomorrow, a democratic state that respects its citizens and looks after them regardless of their religion…. Members of the Jewish community in Tunisia are citizens enjoying all their rights and duties,” the party added, according to the Associated Press.

The Islamic party said Shalom’s remarks were “irresponsible” and “irrational,” and it criticized the timing of his comments.

Approximately 1,500 Jews live in Tunisia, most of them on the island of Djerba, which was known as the "Island of Kohanim". Many of them were in danger during the uprising against former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this year, but most of the community rejected calls to move to Israel.

Tunisian Jewish leader Roger Bismuth, reportedly said that "all this fuss made around Silvan Shalom's statements is a tempest in a teacup and an attempt to undermine the process initiated by Tunisia after freeing itself from the yoke of dictatorship.”

He added, "The Jewish community loves Tunisia and does not consider leaving it.”

Shalom’s remarks were made during a ceremony at the Yad VaShem Holocaust Center and Museum in Jerusalem, where Tunisian survivors of the Holocaust spoke. The minister said he is “a son of survivors."