(Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.)
Last night I came across a very interesting documentary on TV5: “Tunisie, une mémoire juive” (I just found out that you can find it on youtube). It retraces the history of Tunisia’s Jewish community. I didn’t know anything about Tunisia’s Jewish community, but I knew a thing or two about Algeria’s Jewish community after having read Benjamin Stora’s great books (Histoire de l’Algérie Coloniale and Histoire de la Guerre d’Algérie), so I was fascinated but not surprised by what I learned watching this documentary.
It is interesting to see how, in the modern era, pre-modern / traditional diving lines (often religious ones) gain new meaning, how they come to define communities and how modern states respond to (or even promote) this. The history of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman space (i.e. all the countries that used to be part of the Ottoman Empire, in the Balkans and the Middle East), as well as the history of Northern Africa (only partially ruled by the Ottomans until the second half of the 19th century) is largely the history of how these communities come to be (in their modern form), how they interact with each other and with their imperial(ist) rulers, how community dividing lines intersect with class dividing lines, and how this interaction plays out in society and politics.
A fascinating story that can help us understand a lot, given also that the co-existence of different religious groups has only become a matter of discussion in Europe in the past few decades.