During a meeting with the country’s Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan, President Moncef Marzouki said that Tunisia’s Jews are full citizens and those who had left the country were welcome to return.
Today, Tunisia has a Jewish population of 1,500 but in the 1960s there were 100,000 Jews in the country. Most left following the 1967 Six Day War.
Most Tunisian Jews now live on the resort
island of Djerba, near the country’s border with Libya.
Marzouki’s remarks come in response to a call by Cabinet
Minster and Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom for Tunisian Jews to move to Israel.
Shalom, who is of Tunisian origin and who made an official visit to the country in 2005, recently said that Jews in Tunisia should “settle in Israel
as soon as possible.”
Shalom’s call was rejected
by Muslim leaders in Tunisia. The Islamist Ennahda party, which recently won
the country’s first post-Arab Spring election, said that “Tunisia remains, today and tomorrow, a democratic state that respects its citizens and looks after them regardless of their religion…. Members of the Jewish community
in Tunisia are citizens enjoying all their rights and duties.”
The Islamic party said Shalom’s remarks were “irresponsible” and “irrational,” and it criticized the timing of his comments.