El Ghriba Synagogue on Djerba

Sunday, 5 March 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  5 minutes

© flickr.com - Bellyglad/cc-by-2.0

© flickr.com – Bellyglad/cc-by-2.0

The ancient El Ghriba Synagogue, also known as the Djerba Synagogue, is located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. It is situated in the Jewish village of Hara Seghira (currently known as er-Riadh), several kilometres southwest of Houmt El Souk, the main town of Djerba. The synagogue is the oldest in Tunisia, and besides being the center of the island’s Jewish life is also a site of pilgrimage, one of the legends associated with its founding claims that either a stone or a door from Solomon’s Temple or the Second Temple is incorporated in the building.

The synagogue is located in the village of Erriadh, southwestward of Houmt Essouk on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The Ghriba is the most famous of the about 20 synagogues that were being used until the 1950s in the three Jewish villages on Djerba.

The synagogue was built at the end of the 19th century at the spot where the sixth-century building had stood. On the outside, the current synagogue is a modest building, whereas the interior is richly decorated. In contrast to the other synagogues of Djerba, El Ghriba consists of two covered halls. Following several structural extensions the first of the two halls was built through the roofing of a formerly open courtyard in order to increase the capacity for the number of visitors. At the entrance, there are two columns dividing the room into three areas. This hall is connected to the main hall by three vaults. At this side there are two columns, supporting a high skylight of numerous windows. Initially there were twelve windows in the hall, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. During later renovations further windows were added. The north side also was modified. The Teva (the cupboard for the Torah) is located under the skylight (at the western side of the prayer room). A third column to the east is missing. It probably never got constructed. Local tradition sees that as a reminder of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. Furthermore it is said that the building should remain unfinished, because “nothing, except for the divinity, is perfect”. The wooden benches for the believers are situated around the Teva. The inner walls are decorated ceramic tiles with blue, white and brown ornaments that were painted in hand work. A recess underneath the holy arc marks the spot where the body of the girl is supposed to have been found: It is known as “the cave of the girl”. The inner courtyard is surrounded by covered loggias standing on columns. Pilgrims can use the adjacent buildings for accommodation. The oldest of them were built at the end of the nineteenth century, whereas the newer ones stem from the early 1950s.

Entrance © flickr.com - upyernoz/cc-by-2.0 Courtyard © Citizen59/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - Bellyglad/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Bellyglad/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Bellyglad/cc-by-2.0 © IssamBarhoumi/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Jalo
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Entrance © flickr.com - upyernoz/cc-by-2.0
The synagogue is being supervised by an independent administration committee that was established at the end of the nineteenth century, when Djerba was a French protectorate. The administration committee organizes the annual pilgrimage and distributes the pilgrimage‘s revenues to the village elders.

The pilgrimage takes place every year on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, in between Pesach and Shavuot. On the 14th of Iyar, the festivities begin, in remembrance of the tannaitic rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, and last until the Lag BaOmer on the 18th of Iyar, in remembrance of tannaitic rabbi Simeon bar Yochai (regionally known as rabbi Shimon).

Read more on Wikipedia El Ghriba Synagogue (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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