A Tunisian national guard member fired “randomly” on security forces near Tunisia’s El Ghriba Synagogue on May 9 in the evening as Lag B’Omer celebrations were reportedly underway. He was shot dead after killing a security guard and two tourists. He also injured 10 others, including six security guards, per the Tunisian Interior Ministry.
The ministry confirmed that the synagogue was protected and those inside and outside the Jewish house of worship were safe. “Research is continuing to find out the reasons for this treacherous and cowardly attack,” according to a translation of the ministry website.
It was not immediately clear if the two “visitors” or “tourists” were Jewish or in any way connected with the synagogue or the holiday celebrations. Video footage shared on social media appeared to depict loud gunshots that were audible within the synagogue complex, and some reports said that hundreds of worshippers—even up to 1,000—were present at the time.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. embassy in Tunisia posted that officials—including Joey Hood, U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, and Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, as well as senior Tunisian officials—had attended the opening ceremony of an annual pilgrimage at the synagogue the prior evening.
Some believe that the synagogue—or at least, its antecedent—dates back to the exile after the destruction of either the First Temple (586 BCE) or the Second Temple (70 C.E.). The current building is late 19th century, apparently on the site of a former sixth-century synagogue.
“Our deepest appreciation to the Tunisian authorities for their swift effective action in preventing any fatalities,” the European Jewish Congress tweeted. “We stand in solidarity with the Tunisian Jewish community.”
“We are deeply concerned by reports of a possible terror attack on the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, during the Lag Ba’Omer pilgrimage,” tweeted the American Jewish Committee. “Our thoughts are with the local Jewish community and international visitors.”
It has been the site of prior attacks, including a firebombing in 2018.