February 29, 2024

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Report of proposed seizure of Borgel cemetery in Tunis is denied


Update:Sousse cemetery vandalised: https://www.businessnews.com.tn/profanation-du-cimetiere-israelite-de-sousse,520,95778,3?fbclid=IwAR26GSTtqJVfScwyS7ei__Z1_zCvaF1h3QbjP8nL6Pw-UNYJQQKuG0U7z_I With thanks: Elbie

A report that the Tunisian government intends to expropriate the Borgel Cemetery in Tunis and sell it to property developers has been denied by a Tunisian-Jewish leader in France.

Vandalised tombs in the Borgel cemetery in a photo taken in 2012

Jean-Pierre Allali, who is a member of CRIF, the body representing French Jews, has denied a report by Ftouh Souhail, a journalist who campaigns for the interests of Tunisian Jews. Souhail claims that the Tunisian government aims to resurrect a plan to sequestrate the cemetery, which dates back to 1893 and is worth 35 million Euros.

Alllali, who is  close to the AICJT, the association aiming to preserve the Borgel, claims that they have no information to say that the Tunisian government is thinking of expropriating the cemetery.
According to Allali, Souhail did not consult the AICJT when he wrote his article.

On the other hand, at the 20 February meeting of the association, it was reported that the future leader of the Jewish community, M Attoun, is very pessimistic about the future of the Borgel. But M Allali  said that there was ‘no tension’ between the Jewish community of Tunis and the aims of AICJT.

The AICJT is aiming to raise funds to clean and maintain the cemetery, which numbers 22,000 graves, including 183 rabbis and a monument to the Jews who died during the Nazi occupation of Tunisia in WWII.

Memories are still raw of the expropriation of the old Jewish cemetery in the centre of Tunis, which was turned into the Habib Thameur park in 1958. Some of the dead were exhumed from the old Jewish cemetery and reburied at the Borgel, among them the great Rabbi Hai Taeib Lo Met.

Souhail writes that neither the French consulate, nor the tiny Jewish community can prevent an expropriation taking place. The French Consistoire, which looks after religious needs,   might be able to postpone redevelopment and get some of the graves exhumed.  While the motive here is urban development, there has been a worrying rise in antisemitic feeling in Tunisia in recent months.

More about the Borgel cemetery

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