Chabad Schools In Tunis Close As Rioting Continues


Chabad Schools In Tunis Close As Rioting Continues

by Mordechai Lightstone

January 18, 2011

(lubavitch.com) Tzipporah Juarez, a Tunisian expat living in New York, is nervously following the news coming from Tunis. Desperate to know what is going on as it happens, she depends on Twitter, itself considered a catalyst in ending the 23 year career of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic rule.

“I’ve been able to follow what’s going on near my parents’ home in real time,” she says, contrasting the liberal access she has to information, as compared with her experience reading censored news reports in Tunis.  

Juarez’s parents and friends, along with the country’s 3,000 Jews, continue to monitor developments with great apprehension. According to Rabbi Shmuel Pinson, Chabad representative to Tunis, many of the country’s Jews have adopted a “wait and see” attitude.  

Pinson, who is based out of Brussels, has been in daily contact with Chabad’s staff, led by Mr. Binyamin Hatab, in Tunisia. He reports that while the situation is chaotic, the Jewish population has not been targeted in the rioting.

“The old regime ensured the relative safety of the Jewish community,” Pinson says. “There is no reason to assume that with the current changes the situation will change.”

But as a matter of precaution the Chabad-run schools in Tunis and Djerba have been closed down by police orders, while rioting continues on the streets of Tunis. 

Sparked on December 17 by an unemployed student, Mohamed Bouazizi who immolated himself in protest of the government’s confiscation of his fruit cart, rioters are demanding that the ruling RCD party relinquish power and transition to a free government. 

Juarez reflects on the groundswell of political activism of recent days. While she describes her childhood as carefree, she says that venturing too far into the political sphere was dangerous.

“It was something we were always cautious about.” she recalls. “People were afraid to touch anything too politically charged.”

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