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|Location||Gulf of Gabès|
|Area||514 km2 (198 sq mi)|
|Largest settlement||Houmt El Souk (pop. 75,904)|
|Population||163,726 (2013 Estimate)|
|Pop. density||309 /km2 (800 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||Tunisians (Berbers, Arabs, Jews and Black African)|
Djerba (Berber: ⵊⵔⴱⴰ; Arabic: جربة ˈʒɪrbæ), also transliterated as Jerba or Jarbah, is, at 514 square kilometres (198 sq mi), the largest island of North Africa, located in the Gulf of Gabès, off the coast of Tunisia. It had a population of 139,544 at the 2004 Census, while the latest official estimate (as of 1 July 2014) is 163,726. Citing the long and unique Jewish minority's history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status protections for the island.
Legend has it that Djerba was the island of the lotus-eaters where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage through the Mediterranean sea. The tradition of the Jewish minority of Djerba says in the year 586 BC, some of the Israelite temple priests who were able to escape the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple there, settled in Djerba; an unusually high percentage of Jews on the island to this day maintain family status of the priestly caste, and a genetic link has been confirmed by DNA testing.
The island, which was called Meninx until the third century AD, includes three principal towns. One of these, whose modern name is Būrgū, is found near Midoun in the center of the island. Another city, on the southeast coast of the island at Meninx, was a major producer of priceless murex dye, and is cited by Pliny the Elder as second only to Tyre in this regard. A third important town was the ancient Haribus, the island was densely inhabited in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and probably imported much of the grain consumed by its inhabitants. The island appears in the 13th century (with possible 4th century origins) Peutinger Map.
During the Middle Ages, Djerba was occupied by Ibadi Muslims, who claimed it as their own, the Christians of Sicily and Aragon disputed this claim with the Ibadites. Remains from this period include numerous small mosques dating from as early as the twelfth century, as well as two substantial forts.
The island was controlled twice by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily: in *1135–1158 and in *1284–1333, during the second of these periods it was organised as a feudal lordship, with the following Lords of Jerba: 1284–1305 Roger I, 1305–1307 and 1307–1310 Roger II (twice), 1310 Charles, 1310 Francis-Roger III; there were also royal governors, whose times in power partially overlapped with those of the Lords: c. 1305–1308 Simon de Montolieu, 1308–1315 Ramon Muntaner.
In 1503, Barbary pirate Oruç Reis and his brother Hayreddin Barbarossa took control of the island and turned it into their main base in the western Mediterranean, thus bringing it under Ottoman control. Spain launched a disastrous attempt to capture it in November 1510; in 1513, after three years in exile in Rome, the Fregosi family returned to Genoa, Ottaviano was elected Doge, and his brother, Archbishop Federigo Fregoso (later cardinal), having become his chief educator, was placed at the head of the army, and defended the republic against internal dangers (revolts of the Adorni and the Fieschi) and external dangers, notably suppression of the Barbary piracy: Cortogoli, a corsair from Tunis, blockaded the coast with a squadron, and within a few days had captured eighteen merchantmen; being given the command of the Genoese fleet, in which Andrea Doria was serving, Federigo surprised Cortogoli before Bizerta. Soon after, he carried out an invasion and occupation of the island and returned to Genoa with great booty.
Spanish forces returned to Djerba in 1520, and this time was successful in capturing the island, it was twice occupied by Spain, from 1521 to 1524 and from 1551 to 1560; again there were governors: 1521–1524 ..., 1560 Giovanni Andrea Doria.
On May 14, 1560, the Ottoman fleet, under the command of Piali Pasha and Dragut, severely defeated the "Holy League" of Philip II of Spain at the Battle of Djerba. From that time until 1881, Djerba belonged to the Ottoman regency of Tunis.
An archaeological field survey of Djerba carried out between 1995 and 2000 under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, the American Academy in Rome and the Tunisian Institut National du Patrimoine, revealed over 400 archaeological sites, including many Punic and Roman villas and an amphitheatre.
This section may be too long and excessively detailed. (January 2019)
There are multiple accounts to how the Jewish people made their way to the Island of Djerba. There is no concrete evidence that links the Jewish people in Djerba during the period of antiquity, the first evidence that historians know of come from the 11th century found in Cairo Geniza. The evidence that links the Jewish people to the Island of Djerba before this time is found through Oral history and traditions still used today that are specific to the Jews of Djerba.
This community is unique in Jewish diaspora history for its unusually high percentage of Kohanim (Hebrew; the Jewish priestly caste), direct patrilineal descendants of Aaron the first high priest from Mosaic times until today. Local tradition tells that when Nebuchadnezzar II leveled Solomon’s temple and lay waste to Judah and the city of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC, some of the Kohanim who were able to escape the slavery awaiting the residents of Jerusalem settled in Djerba. A key point in this oral history has been backed up by genetic tests for Cohen modal haplotype showing that the vast majority of male Jews on Djerba claiming the family status of Cohen had a common ancient male ancestor which matches that of nearly all of both historically European and Middle Eastern Jewish males with a family history of patrilineal membership in the Jewish priestly caste, because of this, the island is known among Jews as the island of the Kohanim. During the destruction of the temple, the Kohanim, who were serving the temple at the time of destruction escaped from Jerusalem and found themselves on the island of Djerba. The legend says that with them, the Kohanim carried the door and some stones from the Temple in Jerusalem which they then incorporated into the "marvelous synagogue", also known as Ghirba, which still stands in Djerba.
The Jewish community differs from others in Djerba in their dress, personal names, and accents, the Jewish people of Djerba also have a sacred place within the community that is enclosed by wire, the eruv, which delimits the area in which Jews can carry objects on Shabbat. Some traditions that are distinctive of the Jewish Djerba community is the kiddush prayer said on the eve of Passover and a few prophetic passages on certain Shabbats of the year. Traditions like these help historians believe the accounts on the time period the Jewish people arrived in Djerba.
One of the community's synagogues, the El Ghriba synagogue, has been in continuous use for over 2,000 years, the Jews were settled in two main communities: the Hara Kabira ("the big quarter") and the Hara Saghira ("the small quarter"). The Hara Saghira identified itself with Israel, while the Hara Kabira identified with Spain and Morocco.
The next influx of Jewish people to the Island of Djerba was during the Spanish Inquisition, when the Iberian Jewish population was no longer welcome and were forced to leave, the Jewish population hit its peak during the time that Tunisia was fighting for independence from France 1881-1956 In 1940 there were approximately 100,000 Jewish-Tunisians or 15% of the entire population of Tunisia.
In the aftermath of World War II, the Jewish population on the island declined significantly due to emigration to Israel and France, as of 2011[update], the Jewish permanent resident community on the island numbered about 1,000, but many return annually on pilgrimage. However, once the State of Israel was established, and political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was building up many Jewish people left Tunisia, although the Jewish community of Tunisia was on the decline, the Jewish community of Hara Kebira witnessed an increase of population due to its traditional character. Despite this, the community on Djerba remains one of the last remaining fully intact Jewish communities in an Arab majority country after most were abandoned in the face of anti-Israel and antisemitic pressure and pogroms, the mostly traditionally observant Jewish community is growing because of large natural families despite emigration and a new Orthodox Jewish school for girls has recently been inaugurated on the Island to serve alongside the two boy's yeshiva schools. According to the Wall Street Journal "Relations between Jews and Muslims are complex—proper and respectful, though not especially close. Jewish men work alongside Arab merchants in the souk, for example, and enjoy amiable ties with Muslim customers." The conflict that historically has occurred between Muslims and Jewish people does not happen in Djerba, the people of Djerba attribute this quality to the fact that all people of the Island were at some point Jewish and therefore share similar practices in their way of life.
Some of these Jewish practices that can be seen in Muslim households in Djerba are the lighting of candles on Friday night, and the suspending of matzot on the ceiling from one spring to the next, the Jewish and Muslim communities coexist very peacefully in Djerba even during the political unrest in regards to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. The people of Djerba say that the two communities simply pray in different places, but they are still able to converse. A Jewish leader once stated "We live together, We visit our friends on their religious holidays. We work together. Muslims buy meat from our butchers. when we are forbidden to work or cook on the Shabbat, we buy bread and kosher food cooking by Muslims. Our children play together".
On April 11, 2002, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a truck bomb attack close to the famous synagogue, killing 21 people (14 German tourists, 5 Tunisians and 2 French nationals), although tourists ceased visiting Djerba for some time after this event, normal activity has since resumed.
Since the Arab spring revolutions, the Tunisian government has extended their protection and encouraged Jewish life on the island of Djerba.Citing the long and unique Jewish history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status for the island. To this day the Jewish community is thriving in Djerba. There are currently 14 synagogues, 2 yeshivot, and 3 kosher eateries.
A Jewish school on the island was firebombed during the national protests held in 2018, while security forces in Djerba were reduced, being preoccupied with protection efforts elsewhere, this attack was among many other uprisings that were occurring throughout Tunisia at the time.
The city Girba in the Roman province of Tripolitania (mostly in modern Libya), which gave its name to the island, was important enough to become a suffragan bishop of its capital's archbishopric. Known Bishops of antiquity include:
- Proculus (Maximus Bishop fl.393)
- Quodvultdeus (Catholic Bishop fl.401–411) attending Council of Carthage (411)
- Euasius (Donatist Bishop fl.411) rival at Council of Carthage
- Urbanus (Catholic bishop fl.445–454)
- Faustinus (Catholic bishop fl. 484), exiled by King Huneric of the Vandal Kingdom
- Vincentius (Catholic bishop fl. 523–525)
Titular see of Girba
The Ancient diocese of Girba was nominally restored in 1895 as a Latin titular bishopric of the lowest (episcopal) rank.
It has had the following incumbents :
- Victor Roelens, White Fathers (M. Afr.) (1895.03.30 – 1947.08.05)
- Carlos Eduardo de Sabóia Bandeira Melo, Order of Friars Minor (1947.12.13 – 1958.04.11)
- Henryk Strakowski (1958.05.03 – 1965.05.06)
- Mariano Gaviola y Garcés (1967.05.31 – 1981.04.13) as former bishop of Cabanatuan, Philippines (1963.03.08 – 1967.05.31), Military Vicar of the Philippines (1974.03.02 – 1981.04.13), President of Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (1977–1984), Metropolitan Archbishop of Lipa, Philippines (1981.04.13 – 1992.12.30)
- Jacques David (1981.07.27 – 1985.02.21)
- Paul Kim Ok-kyun (Korean: 김옥균 바오로) (1985.03.09 – 2010.03.01)
- Victor Emilio Masalles Pere, auxiliary bishop of the Santo Domingo (2010.05.08 – ?)
- James T. Schuerman, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (2017.01.23 – ...)
Administration and population
The island comprises three of the delegations within the Tunisian Département of Médenine. Named after the three towns which form their administrative centres, these delegations, with their 2004 Census populations and their estimated population as of 1 July 2013, are:
Estimate 1 July 2013
|Djerba Houmet Souk||جربة حومة السوق||64,919||74,808|
|Djerba Midoun||جربة ميدون||50,459||58,575|
|Djerba Ajim||جربة أجيم||24,166||25,558|
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Djerba has a mild climate for the region and fertile soil. However, until the introduction of the current levels of advanced irrigation and piped water supplies,[when?] the month of October tended to supply approximately 25% of its total annual rainfall on the island (see table below). Summer daytime temperatures regularly reach very high levels, making early human habitation less favoured than the north of the country.
|Climate data for Djerba (1961–1990, extremes 1898–present)|
|Record high °C (°F)||27.7
|Average high °C (°F)||15.9
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.5
|Average low °C (°F)||8.9
|Record low °C (°F)||0.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||28.5
|Average precipitation days||4||4||3||3||2||1||0||0||2||4||4||4||31|
|Average relative humidity (%)||69||67||66||66||65||66||63||65||69||68||67||70||67|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||207.7||207.2||244.9||264.0||313.1||321.0||375.1||350.3||276.0||248.0||213.0||204.6||3,224.9|
|Mean daily sunshine hours||6.7||7.4||7.9||8.8||10.1||10.7||12.1||11.3||9.2||8.0||7.1||6.6||8.8|
|Source #1: NOAA|
|Source #2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)|
|Climate data for Djerba|
|Average sea temperature °C (°F)||16.0
|Mean daily daylight hours||10.0||11.0||12.0||13.0||14.0||14.0||14.0||13.0||12.0||11.0||10.0||10.0||12.0|
|Average Ultraviolet index||3||4||6||8||9||10||11||10||8||6||4||3||6.8|
|Source #1: Weather2Travel (sea temperature) |
|Source #2: Weather Atlas |
Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Djerba Bin El Ouedian is a wetland and habitat for migratory birds, it is located at 33 ° 40 'N, 10 ° 55 'E. On November 7, 2007 the wetland was included on the list of Ramsar sites under the Ramsar Convention, due to its importance as a bird refuge.
The commune and port of Ajim in the southwest corner of the island and its surrounding areas were used as filming locations for Star Wars. Tourists can visit buildings featured in the original movie, including Obi-Wan Kenobi's house and the Mos Eisley cantina.
- Borj El Kebir
- Menachem Mazuz, former Israeli Attorney General, born on this island
- Yael Shelbia, Israeli model, descendant of Djerba inhabitants
- Djerba–Zarzis International Airport
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jerba". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 322.
- ^ Transliteration from http://www.uconv.com/ar.htm
- Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Regional Workshop on the World Heritage Nomination Process". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
- Polybius; Strabo 1.2.17.
- "WATCH: Candle lighting in Djerba - a Jewish community to admire - Diaspora - Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
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- Teich, Shmuel (1982). The Rishonim. Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 0-89906-452-3.
- International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Tunisia. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Udovitch, Abraham L.; Valensi, Lucette (1984). The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia. London, England: Harwood Academic Publishers. pp. 8–11, 24–25. ISBN 3-7186-0135-4.
- "Tunisia's Diverse Djerba Island and Its Annual Jewish Pilgrimage". 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
- Schroeter, Daniel (1985). "Review of The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia, (Social Orders 1.), , , Jaques Pérez". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. 19 (1): 63–64.
- "Tunisian Cleric Says Jews are Apes". Israel National News. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
- Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: A-J. New York: NYU Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8147-9376-3.
- Widman, Miriam (December 19, 1994). "Behind The Headlines: Amid Sea of Muslim Neighbors, Tunisia Jews Observe Traditions". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- Ettinger, Yair (2011-01-17). "Sociologist Claude Sitbon, do the Jews of Tunisia have reason to be afraid?". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
- Lagnado, Lucette (13 February 2015). "Tunisian Jewish Enclave Weathers Revolt, Terror; Can It Survive Girls' Education?". Retrieved 6 December 2018 – via www.wsj.com.
- Hanley, Delinda C. (December 2003). "Tunisian Jews Enjoy Religious Tolerance and Peace In Djerba". The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. 22 (10). pp. 46–49.
- Tunisian bomb attack trial opens, BBC
- "Tunisian Jewish school attacked as anti-government protests rage elsewhere".
- Vailhé, S. (1909). "Girba". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- "Jerba Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
- "Station Djerba" (in French). Météo Climat. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Djerba Climate and Weather Averages, Tunisia". Weather2Travel. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- "Djerba, Tunisia – Climate data". Weather Atlas. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- "Tunisia - Ramsar". www.ramsar.org. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
- Éternelle Djerba, Tunis, Association de sauvegarde de l’île de Djerba et Société tunisienne des arts graphiques, 1998, p. 21
- The Star Wars Traveler by Gus Lopez and Pamela Gren.
- Loms Galactic Tours by Loms
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Djerba.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Djerba.|