Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ingathering of the Exiles

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, a champion of
the spiritual and political revival of Israel,
who read the words below from Isaiah
at the opening of Hebrew University
in Jerusalem in 1925
Raise your eyes around and see
All have gathered and come to you
Your sons have come from afar
Your daughters carried on hips
Then you will see, and become radiant
...Your heart will expand and tremble
The abundance of the sea will turn over to you,
The heroes of nations will make pilgrimage.

(Isaiah 60:4-5)

According to JTA, 20 Jews from Tunisia have come to Israel amid the political situation in the country. Ten are members of one extended family who are making aliyah; the other ten are participating in programs and may do so in the future. Others in the country are considering making aliyah. About 1,100 Jews live in Djerba, while about 400 live in Tunis. 

On its website the Jewish Agency is offering to assist any Tunisian Jew to leave the country for Israel.

The Tunisian Jewish community dates back to the Roman period, when the Romans exiled the Kohanim as far as possible so as to quell possible attempts to reconstruct the Temple and Jewish worship. Most of today's Tunisian Jewish community in Djerba are Kohanim and have remained loyal Kohanim for centuries.

The Ga'on Rabbeinu Chananel, Rabbi Chananel ben Chushiel, was an 11th-century Tunisian rabbi. Yaakov ben Nissim was a Tunisian Jewish philosopher who wrote an Arabic translation to Sefer Yetzirah, the one of the first texts of Kabbalah. HaRav Nissim Gaon, Rabbi Nissim ben Yaakov was a great Tunisian Talmudist. During the Spain and Portuguese Inquisition in the 15th century, some Jewish refugees arrived in Tunis.

In 1948, there were 105,000 Jews in Tunisia. By 1967, the increasingly unstable situation led to the aliyah of 40,000 Tunisian Jews to Israel. During the six-day war, 7,000 immigrated to France. In 2002, a truck exploded at the outer wall of the Ghriba synagogue in Djerba. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. 11 German tourists and 6 others were killed in attack. (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)

The popular Israeli singer Etti Ankari, who has recently reconnected with her Jewish roots and embraced a religious lifestyle, is from a Tunisian Jewish family.

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