The Tunisian Jewish Community celebrated the Hiloula, or pilgrimage for the anniversary of the death of former 18th century Chief Rabbi Hai Taieb Lo Met at the Bourgel Cemetery in Tunis, December 15th.
While in previous years the number of pilgrims have reached up to 600 people, this year the pilgrimage saw almost 100 pilgrims, mostly locals but also a handful from France and one Rabbi from Bne Barak, Israel, who said he holds duel Israeli-Tunisian citizenship.
According to Rene Trabelsi the Director General of Royal First Travel and one of the organizers for the pilgrims who came from abroad, “the pilgrimage was smaller this year because people are unsure of the security situation in Tunisia but everyone will come and go home safely as normal. There will be a higher number coming to Tunisia next year.”
About ten plain clothed police closely guarded the ceremony which included the pouring of Boukha, or a fig based alcoholic drink on the Rabbi’s tombstone as well as adding nuts and handwritten messages as is the tradition of the community that reveres the Rabbi.
Rabbi Hai Taieb was born in Tunis in 1774, he was known as a great Kaballalist and according to Jewish oral tradition his prayers to God once brought rain during a time of drought in Tunisia. One book of his writings Halev Hitim remains in existence. In the last years of his life, he suffered from depression and alcoholism when most of his written works were inadvertently destroyed. His followers gave him the title of “Lo Met” or “never died” because they claim that his wisdom will always live on.
The Rabbi has a Synagogue in Belleville, France named after him.