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ISD highres ISS002 ISS002-749-82 3.JPG
Jerba is located in Tunisia
Location Gulf of Gabès
Area 514 km2 (198 sq mi)
Largest settlement Houmt El Souk (pop. 75,904)
Population 163,726 (2013 Estimate)
Pop. density 309 /km2 (800 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Tunisians (Berbers, Arabs, Jews and Black African)

Djerba (Berber: ⵊⵔⴱⴰ; Arabic: جربةAbout this soundˈʒɪrbæ), also transliterated as Jerba[1] or Jarbah,[2] is, at 514 square kilometres (198 sq mi), the largest island of North Africa, located in the Gulf of Gabès,[1] off the coast of Tunisia. It had a population of 139,544 at the 2004 Census, while the latest official estimate (as of 1 July 2014) is 163,726. Citing the long and unique Jewish minority's history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status protections for the island.[3]


Legend has it that Djerba was the island of the lotus-eaters[1][4] where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage through the Mediterranean sea. The tradition of the Jewish minority of Djerba says in the year 586 BC, some of the Israelite temple priests who were able to escape the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple there, settled in Djerba; an unusually high percentage of Jews on the island to this day maintain family status of the priestly caste, and a genetic link has been confirmed by DNA testing.[5]

The island, which was called Meninx until the third century AD, includes three principal towns. One of these, whose modern name is Būrgū[citation needed], is found near Midoun in the center of the island. Another city, on the southeast coast of the island at Meninx, was a major producer of priceless murex dye, and is cited by Pliny the Elder as second only to Tyre in this regard. A third important town was the ancient Haribus. The island was densely inhabited in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and probably imported much of the grain consumed by its inhabitants. The island appears in the 4th century Peutinger Map.

Ghazi Mustapha Fort, Djerba, Tunisia

During the Middle Ages, Djerba was occupied by Ibadi Muslims, who claimed it as their own. The Christians of Sicily and Aragon disputed this claim with the Ibadites. Remains from this period include numerous small mosques dating from as early as the twelfth century, as well as two substantial forts.

The island was controlled twice by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily: in *1135–1158 and in *1284–1333. During the second of these periods it was organised as a feudal lordship, with the following Lords of Jerba: 1284–1305 Roger I, 1305–1307 and 1307–1310 Roger II (twice), 1310 Charles, 1310 Francis-Roger III; there were also royal governors, whose times in power partially overlapped with those of the Lords: c. 1305–1308 Simon de Montolieu, 1308–1315 Ramon Muntaner.

In 1503, Barbary pirate Oruç Reis and his brother Hayreddin Barbarossa took control of the island and turned it into their main base in the western Mediterranean, thus bringing it under Ottoman control. Spain launched a disastrous attempt to capture it in November 1510. In 1513, after three years in exile in Rome, the Fregosi family returned to Genoa, Ottaviano was elected Doge, and his brother, Archbishop Federigo Fregoso (later cardinal), having become his chief educator, was placed at the head of the army, and defended the republic against internal dangers (revolts of the Adorni and the Fieschi) and external dangers, notably suppression of the Barbary piracy: Cortogoli, a corsair from Tunis, blockaded the coast with a squadron, and within a few days had captured eighteen merchantmen; being given the command of the Genoese fleet, in which Andrea Doria was serving, Federigo surprised Cortogoli before Bizerta. Soon after, he carried out an invasion and occupation of the island and returned to Genoa with great booty.

Spanish forces returned to Djerba in 1520, and this time was successful in capturing the island. It was twice occupied by Spain, from 1521 to 1524 and from 1551 to 1560; again there were governors: 1521–1524 ..., 1560 Giovanni Andrea Doria.

On May 14, 1560, the Ottoman fleet, under the command of Piali Pasha and Dragut, severely defeated the "Holy League" of Philip II of Spain at the Battle of Djerba. From that time until 1881, Djerba belonged to the Ottoman regency of Tunis.

Subsequently, it came under the French colonial protectorate, which became the modern republic of Tunisia.

An archaeological field survey of Djerba carried out between 1995 and 2000 under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, the American Academy in Rome and the Tunisian Institut National du Patrimoine, revealed over 400 archaeological sites, including many Punic and Roman villas[6] and an amphitheatre. In Djerba Jews and Muslims can live in peace and happiness together, as one team.

Ecclesiastical history

The city Girba in the Roman province of Tripolitania (mostly in modern Libya), which gave its name to the island, was important enough to become a suffragan bishop of its capital's archbishopric. Known Bishops of antiquity include:

  • Proculus (Maximus Bishop fl.393)
  • Quodvultdeus (Catholic Bishop fl.401–411) attending Council of Carthage (411)
  • Euasius (Donatist Bishop fl.411) rival at Council of Carthage
  • Urbanus (Catholic bishop fl.445–454)
  • Faustinus (Catholic bishop fl. 484), exiled by King Huneric of the Vandal Kingdom
  • Vincentius (Catholic bishop fl. 523–525)

The 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia lists only two: "At least two bishops of Girba are known, Monnulus and Vincent, who assisted at the Councils, of Carthage in 255 and 525".[7]

Titular see of Girba

The Ancient diocese of Girba was nominally restored in 1895 as a Latin titular bishopric of the lowest (episcopal) rank.

So far, it has had the following incumbents :

Administration and population

The island comprises three of the delegations within the Tunisian Département of Médenine. Named after the three towns which form their administrative centres, these delegations, with their 2004 Census populations and their estimated population as of 1 July 2013, are:

Name Arabic name Population
Census 2004
Estimate 1 July 2013
Djerba Houmet Souk جربة حومة السوق 64,919 74,808
Djerba Midoun جربة ميدون 50,459 58,575
Djerba Ajim جربة أجيم 24,166 25,558


The tourist activity starts at Djerba, five kilometers from Houmt Souk, the capital of the island and its main center is the tourist area. For more than 30 kilometers you can see the facilities and tourist resorts. There are more than 120 adjacent hotels of different categories, Golf, tourist resorts and tourist casino. Due to its location in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, especially since it is only three hours by plane from most European countries, the island of Djerba has become a kiss for a large number of tourists looking for the uniqueness and calmness and beauty of nature. Over a total of 125 km of coastline we find more than 20 km of sandy beaches and that is in the north-eastern region, ie, the area opposite the oldest entrance through Agim. Until the early fifties, these beaches were meant for short periods of the year and during some rituals such as the visit of the righteous saints on the coast. The inhabitants of the island had no recreational activity. But since the pioneering experience of the Club Mad chain, tourist activity has been slowly emerging in Djerba. The founder of the club in Djerba in 1954 focused on a small tourist village from the summer cottages on the banks of the sea, considering Djerba "Little Taiti". After this experiment, the tourist constructions were built on the coast of the island. The first was the "Al Jazira" Inn, founded in 1961, ten kilometers east of Houmt Souk. Next to it is the Oulis Palace, founded in 1964 by the public sector. In order to encourage and encourage investment in the field of tourism, the Tunisian State has opened the way for the private sector to become the day of the tourism region in Djerba which extends over 20 km between the south and south of the souk in the north. The capacity of the hotel has grown from 8300 beds in 1975 to 39,000 beds in 2002 . Djerba is a rich island with its diverse landscapes and diverse horizons. The sea horizon, which combines tourism and a part of the traditional activity around the port of Houmt Souk, is distinguished from its internal horizon, which provides other luxuries and services to the tourism sector. Houmt Souk represents its airport and is located at the same time as the old and modern center of the island and it contains most of the services, especially administrative at the state level. On the other hand, Midoun is characterized by sectoral functions related to tourism development. Agim has maintained its role as a traditional transit point from within the country to the island and still today relies on traditional fishing activities. However, since 2006, with the opening of the new "leisure" recreation and revitalization center, a new economic period has begun to go to various tourism destinations. And so it seems clear to us how the features of the island has changed a lot since 1960 with the concentration of the tourist area and the expansion of the airport and residential communities and exposing the roads and now the island is rich in tourist and cultural stations and entertainment to serve tourists of all affiliations.

The island is a tourist attraction with its important place, one of the most important tourist areas in the Republic of Tunisia, and has a distinctive image based on a set of elements of tourism, including the history of this island, it is associated with the myth of Odyssey and Iliad, Archaeological heritage, which has a connection to the civilizations that dominated the Mediterranean basin, and the island has sandy beaches and its counterpart, in addition to its special nature and its unique palm trees, olive trees and other natural plants, Her moderate brother

One of the most famous monuments in Djerba is one of the most important axes that have undergone several renovations. The tower dates back to the century. The fifteenth century AD was built by order of the Hafsa Sultan Abu Fares Abdul Aziz Al-Mutawakil, who was transferred in 1432 to the island of Djerba to respond to the Spanish campaign, which was led by King Alfonso V himself.

Within the framework of the program prepared by the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts to diversify and enrich tourist activity in Djerba Island, it is the so-called tourist and recreational islands. A group of private companies, which have ships and boats in cooperation with foreign and Tunisian travel agencies, A daily newspaper to Ras Raml Island or Pink Flamingo Island where these companies transport tourist groups on leisure trips. About four vessels carrying each ship take about one hundred and fifty tourists on a regular basis from the port of Houmt Souk to Ras Raml Island. Which is about 15 km away On the island of Djerba, where tourists help the crew of the ship throw their nets to catch fish or another group of tourists to swim in the deep waters and some of these ships have the space to see the sea floor and coral reefs and sponge, as the tourist enjoys watching the dolphins coming out of the water and The Gulf of Gabes, where this island is located, is rich in fish and dolphins. The ship then heads to Ras Raml Island and the tourist spends a lot of time with the folk dances accompanying tourists to the island and watching the Red Flamingo And the seagulls with their fresh voices.

The tourists then have a rich lunch of grilled fish with salad and fruit in a paddle made of palm fronds and tree trunks.

Before sunset, the group prepares for the return journey accompanied by folk music, dances and singing. Then the sailors collect fishing nets from the sea where the bumper fishing

The highest peak on the island of Djerba is the building of the Qalaa Museum as a fortress of the medieval castles. It was raised on the plateau of Tassita (2 km) overlooking the legendary Jirbi countryside to the east and overlooking the beautiful Pugarara Sea to the west. At the bottom of the plateau lies the ancient village of Qala, The greenery of her absence and the blue of her sea.


Berber villages of Tunisia

Jerba Berber, a Berber language, called chelha by its speakers, is spoken in some villages, including Iguellalen, Ajim, Sedriane, Sedouikech, Azdyuch, Mahboubine and Ouirsighen.

History of Djerba's Jewish community

A Jewish minority has dwelled on the island continuously for more than 2,500 years.[8][9]

There are multiple accounts to how the Jewish people made their way to the Island of Djerba. There is no concrete evidence that links the Jewish people in Djerba during the period of antiquity, the first evidence that historians know of come from the 11th century found in Cairo Geniza[10]. The evidence that links the Jewish people to the Island of Djerba before this time is found through Oral history and traditions still used today that are specific to the Jews of Djerba.

This community is unique in Jewish diaspora history for its unusually high percentage of Kohanim (Hebrew; the Jewish priestly caste), direct patrilineal descendants of Aaron the first high priest from Mosaic times until today[10]. Local tradition tells that when Nebuchadnezzar II leveled Solomon’s temple and lay waste to Judah and the city of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC, some of the Kohanim who were able to escape the slavery awaiting the residents of Jerusalem settled in Djerba.[5] A key point in this oral history has been backed up by genetic tests for Cohen modal haplotype showing that the vast majority of male Jews on Djerba claiming the family status of Cohen had a common ancient male ancestor which matches that of nearly all of both historically European and Middle Eastern Jewish males with a family history of patrilineal membership in the Jewish priestly caste.[11] Because of this, the island is known among Jews as the island of the Kohanim. During the destruction of the temple, the Kohanim, who were serving the temple at the time of destruction escaped from Jerusalem and found themselves on the island of Djerba[10]. The legend says that with them, the Kohanim carried the door and some stones from the Temple in Jerusalem which they then incorporated into the "marvelous synagogue", also known as Ghirba, which still stands in Djerba[10].

The Jewish community differs from others in Djerba in their dress, personal names, and accents. The Jewish people of Djerba also have a sacred place within the community that is enclosed by wire, the eruv, which delimits the area in which Jews can carry objects on Shabbat.[12] Some traditions that are distinctive of the Jewish Djerba community is the kiddush prayer said on the eve of Passover and a few prophetic passages on certain Shabbats of the year.[10] Traditions like these help historians believe the accounts on the time period the Jewish people arrived in Djerba.

One of the community's synagogues, the El Ghriba synagogue, has been in continuous use for over 2,000 years.[13] The Jews were settled in two main communities: the Hara Kabira ("the big quarter") and the Hara Saghira ("the small quarter"). The Hara Saghira identified itself with Israel, while the Hara Kabira identified with Spain and Morocco.[14]

The next influx of Jewish people to the Island of Djerba was during the Spanish Inquisition, when the Iberian Jewish population was no longer welcome and were forced to leave.[15] The Jewish population hit its peak during the time that Tunisia was fighting for independence from France 1881-1956[15] In 1940 there were approximately 100,000 Jewish-Tunisians or 15% of the entire population of Tunisia[15].

In the aftermath of World War II, the Jewish population on the island declined significantly due to emigration to Israel and France. As of 2011, the Jewish permanent resident community on the island numbered about 1,000,[9][16] but many return annually on pilgrimage. However, once the State of Israel was established, and political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was building up many Jewish people left Tunisia.[15] Although the Jewish community of Tunisia was on the decline, the Jewish community of Hara Kebira witnessed an increase of population due to its traditional character.[15] Despite this, the community on Djerba remains one of the last remaining fully intact Jewish communities in an Arab majority country after most were abandoned in the face of anti-Israel and antisemitic pressure and pogroms. The mostly traditionally observant Jewish community is growing because of large natural families despite emigration and a new Orthodox Jewish school for girls has recently been inaugurated on the Island to serve alongside the two boy's yeshiva schools. According to the Wall Street Journal "Relations between Jews and Muslims are complex—proper and respectful, though not especially close. Jewish men work alongside Arab merchants in the souk, for example, and enjoy amiable ties with Muslim customers."[17] The conflict that historically has occurred between Muslims and Jewish people does not happen in Djerba. The people of Djerba attribute this quality to the fact that all people of the Island were at some point Jewish and therefore share similar practices in their way of life.[10]

Some of these Jewish practices that can be seen in Muslim households in Djerba are the lighting of candles on Friday night, and the suspending of matzot on the ceiling from one spring to the next.[10] The Jewish and Muslim communities coexist very peacefully in Djerba even during the political unrest in regards to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. The people of Djerba say that the two communities simply pray in different places, but they are still able to converse.[18] A Jewish leader once stated "We live together, We visit our friends on their religious holidays. We work together. Muslims buy meat from our butchers. when we are forbidden to work or cook on the Shabbat, we buy bread and kosher food cooking by Muslims. Our children play together"[18].

On April 11, 2002, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a truck bomb attack close to the famous synagogue, killing 21 people (14 German tourists, 5 Tunisians and 2 French nationals).[19] Although tourists ceased visiting Djerba for some time after this event, normal activity has since resumed.

Since the Arab spring revolutions, the Tunisian government has extended their protection and encouraged Jewish life on the island of Djerba.[5]Citing the long and unique Jewish history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status for the island.[3] To this day the Jewish community is thriving in Djerba. There are currently 14 synagogues, 2 yeshivot, and 3 kosher eateries.[5]

A Jewish school on the island was firebombed during the national protests held in 2018, while security forces in Djerba were reduced, being preoccupied with protection efforts elsewhere.[20] This attack was among many other uprisings that were occurring throughout Tunisia at the time.[20]


Independence Square

Djerba has a mild climate for the region and fertile soil. However, until the introduction of the current levels of advanced irrigation and piped water supplies, the month of October tended to supply approximately 25% of its total annual rainfall on the island (see table below). Summer daytime temperatures regularly reach very high levels, making early human habitation less favoured than the north of the country. Its largest city is Houmt El Souk, with a population of around 65,000. Known for its beaches and sunsets, the island is a popular tourist destination, particularly with French, German and Italian tourists. It is one of the few remaining places in Tunisia where a Berber language is still spoken. Another factor drawing some tourists to Djerba is that, in 1976, the town of Ajim was used as the setting for the Mos Eisley exterior scenes in the first Star Wars movie.

Djerba is noted as a center of the Ibadi sect of Islam.


Climate data for Djerba (1961–1990, extremes 1898–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 27.7
Average high °C (°F) 15.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.5
Average low °C (°F) 8.9
Record low °C (°F) 0.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 28.5
Average precipitation days 4 4 3 3 2 1 0 0 2 4 4 4 31
Average relative humidity (%) 69 67 66 66 65 66 63 65 69 68 67 70 67
Mean monthly sunshine hours 207.7 207.2 244.9 264.0 313.1 321.0 375.1 350.3 276.0 248.0 213.0 204.6 3,224.9
Mean daily sunshine hours 6.7 7.4 7.9 8.8 10.1 10.7 12.1 11.3 9.2 8.0 7.1 6.6 8.8
Source #1: NOAA[21]
Source #2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[22]
Climate data for Djerba
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average sea temperature °C (°F) 16.0
Mean daily daylight hours 10.0 11.0 12.0 13.0 14.0 14.0 14.0 13.0 12.0 11.0 10.0 10.0 12.0
Average Ultraviolet index 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 10 8 6 4 3 6.8
Source #1: Weather2Travel (sea temperature) [23]
Source #2: Weather Atlas [24]

Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Djerba Bin El Ouedian is a wetland and habitat for migratory birds. It is located at 33 ° 40 'N, 10 ° 55 'E. On November 7, 2007 the wetland was included on the list of Ramsar sites under the Ramsar Convention, due to its importance as a bird refuge.[25]


See also


  1. ^ a b c Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jerba". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 322.
  2. ^ ^ Transliteration from
  3. ^ a b Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Regional Workshop on the World Heritage Nomination Process". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  4. ^ Polybius; Strabo 1.2.17.
  5. ^ a b c d "WATCH: Candle lighting in Djerba - a Jewish community to admire - Diaspora - Jerusalem Post". Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  6. ^ E. Fentress, A. Drine and R. Holod, eds. An Island in Time: Jerba Studies vol 1. The Punic and Roman Periods. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary series 71,2009.
  7. ^ Vailhé, S. (1909). "Girba". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  8. ^ Teich, Shmuel (1982). The Rishonim. Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 0-89906-452-3.
  9. ^ a b International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Tunisia. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Udovitch, Abraham L.; Valensi, Lucette (1984). The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia. London, England: Harwood Academic Publishers. pp. 8–11, 24–25. ISBN 3-7186-0135-4.
  11. ^ "Tunisia's Diverse Djerba Island and Its Annual Jewish Pilgrimage". 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  12. ^ Schroeter, Daniel (1985). "Review of The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia, (Social Orders 1.), , , Jaques Pérez". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. 19 (1): 63–64.
  13. ^ "Tunisian Cleric Says Jews are Apes". Israel National News. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  14. ^ Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: A-J. New York: NYU Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8147-9376-3.
  15. ^ a b c d e Widman, Miriam (December 19, 1994). "Behind The Headlines: Amid Sea of Muslim Neighbors, Tunisia Jews Observe Traditions". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  16. ^ Ettinger, Yair (2011-01-17). "Sociologist Claude Sitbon, do the Jews of Tunisia have reason to be afraid?". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  17. ^ Lagnado, Lucette (13 February 2015). "Tunisian Jewish Enclave Weathers Revolt, Terror; Can It Survive Girls' Education?". Retrieved 6 December 2018 – via
  18. ^ a b Hanley, Delinda C. (December 2003). "Tunisian Jews Enjoy Religious Tolerance and Peace In Djerba". The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. 22 (10). pp. 46–49.
  19. ^ Tunisian bomb attack trial opens, BBC
  20. ^ a b "Tunisian Jewish school attacked as anti-government protests rage elsewhere".
  21. ^ "Jerba Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  22. ^ "Station Djerba" (in French). Météo Climat. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  23. ^ "Djerba Climate and Weather Averages, Tunisia". Weather2Travel. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  24. ^ "Djerba, Tunisia – Climate data". Weather Atlas. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Tunisia - Ramsar". Retrieved 6 December 2018.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Girba". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

  • GigaCatholic with titular see incumbent biography links

Coordinates: 33°47′N 10°53′E / 33.783°N 10.883°E / 33.783; 10.883

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