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Tunisia just appointed a Jewish minister for the first time in decades

StepFeed logo StepFeed 07/11/2018 StepFeed

Tunisia just appointed a Jewish minister for the first time in decades

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Step Platform DMCC

This week, Tunisia appointed its first Jewish minister in decades. 

Rene Trabelsi, co-organizer of an annual pilgrimage to the oldest synagogue in Africa, was named Tunisia's Tourism Minister by the country's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Monday. 

Trabelsi is the country's third-ever Jewish minister since its independence in 1956. 

Previously, Jewish Albert Bessis - who served in the 1955 government that led to the country's independence - and Andre Barouch - who worked in president Habib Bourguiba's administration in 1956 - were members of the cabinet.

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"A cabinet reshuffle"

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Step Platform DMCC

Trabelsi joined 10 newly appointed ministers in Tunisia following a "cabinet reshuffle" in hopes to revive the country's economy, which has been hit since the toppling of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. 

"This reshuffle is to make the work of government more effective and to put an end to the political and economic crisis," Chahed said in a statement.

Following the country's revolution in 2011, the new democratically-elected government has been quick to reassure the Jewish community of their value.

Trabelsi grew up in Djerba, an island in Tunisia where the majority of the Jewish population resides. 

The community numbers are roughly at 1,500, according to AP. Prior to the country's independence, the Jewish population stood at 100,000.

A Tunisian rabbi once told the Wall Street Journal that his community feels safer on Djerba.

"The Jews of Djerba are concentrated in one area, so the government is able to protect us," Chief Rabbi Haim Bittan said.

The country's tourism sector has been affected by "terrorist attacks"

The 2002 bombing of the Djerba synagogue, which left 21 people dead, affected the country's tourism sector for years. This worsened after the 2015 attacks - one at the National Bardo Museum and another at the seaside resort of Sousse - which left 60 people dead. 

However, the tourism sector has since bounced back, according to AP, with over six million tourists visiting the country during the first nine months of 2018.

In 2017, a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) revealed Tunisia to be one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations in 2017. The country was listed No. 5 in the ranking.

UNWTO reported that tourists in the country increased by 32.5 percent that year. 

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