Statement by the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman on Lag B’Omer Pilgrimage in Djerba, Tunisia

I am honored to attend this year’s Lag B’Omer pilgrimage in Djerba, a historic center of North African Judaism.  Since entering the role of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the United States Government in 2013, I have visited many Jewish communities, including across Europe and South America.

I am always heartened by the areas where civil society organizations and governments are bridging cultural, ethnic, and religious divides to collectively beat back intolerance and hate – efforts that are so important in light of the persistent threat anti-Semitism poses throughout the world.  On this first visit to Tunisia, I am looking forward to meeting members of the Jewish community from Tunis and Djerba – a community with roots in this land dating back over 2,500 years – and hearing about their experiences in modern day Tunisia.  While once vibrant Jewish societies have vanished across the Middle East and North Africa, Tunisia stands tall as an example of how Jews and Muslims can live side-by-side.

This spirit has been demonstrated throughout many spheres in Tunisia, such as the success of the most recent elections and continued efforts to consolidate an inclusive and participatory democracy.

The presence of high-ranking Tunisian government officials in today’s pilgrimage is a welcome indication of this government’s ongoing appreciation of Tunisia’s rich and diverse religious traditions.  

During this trip I will be speaking with government officials to learn about the many efforts they are taking to ensure the security of Tunisia’s Jewish citizens and to ensure that Tunisia remains a pluralistic nation that stands for religious tolerance.