This is the most anonymous synagogue I have ever seen. La Ghriba synagogue, in Djerba, Tunisia.
Even in super touristic spots of Tunisia you can find rare jewels. The La Ghriba or El Ghriba synagogue is the oldest still-standing synagogue in Africa. A rare piece of jewel placed in Erriadh (previously known as Hara Seghira), right in the middle of the map, it is home to one of the largest Jewish communities that have lived there since Roman times; this synagogue is built on the site of a Jewish temple almost 1,900 years ago and it is the destination of the annual pilgrimage of many Jews in occurrence of the Lag BaOmer holiday. The annual pilgrimage of many Tunisian Jews for the holiday of Lag BaOmer occurred on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, meaning May 17, 2014. Other than this occasion, the synagogue looks completely deserted.
Several myths and legends shroud the house of worship, including the claim that it is one of the world’s oldest synagogues, dating back to 586 B.C.E. Physical evidence of this is said to exist in the form of a stone from the original Temple in Jerusalem which is either embedded in the foundation, planted in one of the synagogue’s arches, or lying under the Ark where the Torah scrolls are held. It changes depending on who tells you the story…
Like most of the structures I have seen in Djerba, the exterior has bright white walls punctuated by blue shutters and doors that match the Mediterranean sky. In the inside the sanctuary features Tunisian influences – its color palette includes aquatic blues and gold.
The Ghriba name may come from the Arabic word Ghriba, which means stranger according to the legend where a woman who perished in a fire that left her body miraculously intact. Because of that, it is believed that this synagogue brings protection for women, who come to pray for miracles of healing and fertility, lighting candles and writing wishes on the surfaces of eggshells.
Here in Tunisia the coexistence of the Jewish and Muslim communities is a rare sign of peace and tolerance in an Arab country, where the Jewish counts about 5,000 Jews, 1,000 only residing in Djerba.