Djerba, Tunisia trip – 1. Plans

10 years ago I finished doing an IT work in the Portsmouth and Southampton areas of UK where I am from, to go and volunteer in Jerusalem Israel helping a Christian charity helping Jewish people.

Since then, I like to go on small trips to different places, but particularly with places of religious significance, as well as lots of parts of Israel where I lived between 2009-2013, I’ve seen amazing Christian places in Turkey, and Jewish places in the diaspora in Europe, and more exotic places like Fez Morocco.

So I am excited to be going to Tunisia in November 2019.

Djerba is where I am going to.   Its an island connected to the west coast of this North African nation.

I really want to find out about:-

  • The small remaining active Jewish community which was this island is most famous for.   Possibly the very last thriving Jewish community in a Islamic country.
  • Star Wars filming locations, Luke’s village in the original 1977 New Hope is not far from here in a village called Matmata
  • How the tourism industry operates since threats of terrorism and recent collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook
  • Food
  • Is their Christians there in the past or today
  • Landscapes especially The Sahara Desert
  • What do Muslim and Jewish people think of Star Wars

I thought this place would be extremely close culturally to Morocco, but from the research I’m doing, they are quite different, although both are French and Arabic speak Muslim nations.

IMG_20190928_104741694They are not many recent travel books.   This Rough Guides I found on ebay is from 2001, doesn’t appear to be a more recent one, and seems to have come from a library.

1. Plans – 2. French Connection – 3. My hotel in Djerba – 4. El Griba synagogue outside – 5. El Griba synagogue inside – 6. Markets – 7. Christianity in Tunisia – 8. Ferry to mainland Tunisia – 9. Getting to Matmata, Tunisia – 10. Sidi Idris Hotel New Hope Star Wars filmset – 11. Secrets I learnt about the famous Matmata Star Wars set – 12. Cave homes for would-be Jedis – 13. More what you don’t see in Star Wars at Hotel Sidi Idris – 14. How hospitable is Sidi Idris? – 15. ATM machines and drought – 16. Matmata Nouvelle (New Matmata) – 17. Tunisian butchers and fisherman – 18. Libyan and Algerian neighbours – 19. Jewellery businesses in Djerba – 20. Tunisia and Israel relations – 21. Hara Kebira, Jewish school, soap and TV repair shops – 22. Jewish community of Hara Kebira – 23. Going home

What I learned and love about the Israeli Messianic community – 2. Christian or Jewish?

In my first part, I described how the building styles for gatherings for Jewish believers in Jesus can vary quite a bit.

So are Messianic Jews

  • Jewish or Christian?
  • Both?
  • Somewhere in between?

I think about 99% of all the first generation believers during the time of Jesus were Jewish.   The handful that wasn’t, is the Syrian-Phoenician woman and the Roman soldier whose servant were sick, who Jesus healed. Matthew 15:21-28 / Luke 7:1-10

So today’s Messianic Jewish movement in Israel is the same.   They are modelled on first-generation Christians, who were Jewish.

They are from a wide variety of backgrounds.

This road in Israel points towards Damascus – not that you can get there now, but its a thought of where Paul was journeying to.

Paul made things different, as he was a scholarly and traditional religious Jew who on a road I imagine like this heading the direction of Damascus after becoming temporarily blind, then having a real-life encounter with Jesus, U-turned his life from being a Jew antagonising followers of Jesus, to a pioneer of the gospel of Jesus to the mostly to the gentile world.

From clothing and physical attributes, Messianic Jews stand out less than Orthodox Jews who have instantly recognisable clothing like black hats, jackets and white shirts for the ultra-orthodox, and kippors worn by traditional orthodox.   Messianic Jews, for the most part, tend to wear more plain clothing.

Christians who live in Muslim countries are often persecuted.  In Israel, there is some degree of persecution to Messianic Jews, as they are considered not yet proper by many religious Jews, but generally, Messianics are used to this and tend not to draw attention to themselves.   For Messianic Jews from other countries making Aliyah, the formal process of immigration to Israel from another country can be difficult as the fact they are believers in Jesus could get them declined.   Immigration can be done, its just a little more complex, with some discretion required.

Messianic Jews in Israel all observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, most will speak Hebrew, and almost all will have family in the army or full-time employment and pay taxes.

Jews in Israel are made up of any of these, and Messianics can be found in these groups.

  • Ashkenazi – European / America / Canada / Australia / Russia
  • Mizrahi – Mahgreb (Morocco and North Africa) / other Middle east (Yemen, Iraq, or native Israeli)
  • Sephardic – Spanish / Latin American / Other Middle east
  • Falasha – Ethiopia
  • Or, a family of a combination of any of the above
  • Or, parents of a mixture of above Jewish descent and western gentile Christians

Jewish people of all kinds have suffered persecution under people calling themselves Christians.    Where it pains me to see this, we also know that Messianic Jews were also sent to the holocaust camps as well.  Because of this, there is much concern from Jewish people from some history which needs to be reconciled.

My Messianic Jewish friends in Israel generally cope well with some of the challenges of these things, but they would all consider Israel to be their home and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

What I learned and love about the Israeli Messianic community
1. Buildings – 2. Christian or Jewish? – 3. Meeting place names – more soon…..