This year, I am honored to return to Djerba to attend the Lag B’Omer pilgrimage alongside my colleague Knox Thames, the Special Advisor on Religious Minorities for North Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia. I appreciate the opportunity to once again celebrate the rich heritage of Jews in this ancient city, and to renew my relationships with the civic and religious leaders here. Since assuming the role of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the United States Government in 2013, I have visited Jewish communities across Europe and South America. I am always heartened when I see both civil society organizations and governments bridging cultural, ethnic, and religious divides to gain the victory over intolerance and hate – efforts that are very important in light of the persistent threat anti-Semitism poses throughout the world.
During my visit in 2015 for the pilgrimage, I discovered that the Jewish community in Djerba is unique in many ways from other diaspora communities. Not only because of the special nature of this pilgrimage but because of the community’s long history and its commitment to maintaining its traditions. It is our hope that this community will continue to be a symbol of diversity and tolerance within a stable and robust Tunisian democracy.