Jews ease back into Tunisia for famed pilgrimage

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By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Associated Press

DJERBA, Tunisia (AP) — Jews are gathering on a bucolic Tunisian island resort for an annual pilgrimage under a heavy police presence, as organizers try to revive an event depleted by fears of anti-Semitism.

Jewish leaders hope the three-day pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa's oldest, on the island of Djerba is regaining momentum after attendance plummeted in the wake of a 2002 al-Qaida bombing.

Tunisia's 2011 revolution also unleashed some anti-Semitism among radical Islamists, and the event was cancelled that year. About 100 pilgrims came last year.

Jewish leaders say they expect up to 500 foreign visitors for this year's pilgrimage ending Sunday.

It drew 10,000 visitors as recently as 2000. Big crowds haven't returned since an al-Qaida-linked militant detonated a truck bomb at the synagogue — killing 21 people, mostly German tourists.

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