Tomb and Synagogue, Al-Hammah, Tunisia

Al Ḩāmmah, El Hamma, El Hamma de l’Arad[1]

(Arabic: الحامة‎ Al Ḥāmmah)

Photographs of a 1945 pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Yousef el-Ma’arabi capture groups of  men, women, and children around the Rabbi’s tomb.[2] While the town of El-Hamma no longer has a Jewish community, pilgrimages to Rabbi Yosef Ma’arabi tomb occur on an annual basis during the day of the month of Teveth.[3] The diasporic Jewish communities that once lived in El-Hamma prompted different site commemorations to Rabbi Ma’arabi.


The Tomb and Synagogue
“לכבוד הקדושׁ המקובל הרב יסף אלמצרבי זל”
The entrance of the site once held a plaque that read, “In honor of the holy Kabbalist Rabbi Yassaf El-Ma’arabi, a student of the 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. [6] A wall surrounds the rectangular shape of the site, measuring distance and area to be approximately 790 ft (240 meters). Photographs of the site help visually understand the changes that the site has undergone. The entrance is made up of two blue metal doors. Before the attacks of 2011, the aforementioned plaque was placed above the doors. Recent photographs show only the holes where the plaque used to be, graffiti reading “Free Palestine” on the entrance doors. Inside the walls, the shrine and tomb of Rabbi Yosef Ma’arabi are located near the middle of the site. A blue-colored metal enclosing surrounds the tomb and in the center there is a space for travelers to leave candles. [5] The 2016 photographs display the rusting metal and decaying tomb structure in the center. The synagogue (or what remains of it) was located in one of the rooms alongside the walls of the site. The bimah (pulpit) still stands and is located at the center of the synagogue room, its ornate blue metal shows traces of the 2011 arson attack. In the same room a Hebrew inscription on the wall reads “Jehovah.” In another room, a figure of a menorah is found on the wall. The figure is made up of seven candle branches, five of these which show greater fire marks. Above the wall figure are Hebrew inscriptions. The rest of the rooms are not specifically photographed.

Recent News
On January 31, 2011, weeks following the end of the Tunisian revolution, the El-Hamma tomb site of Rabbi Yosef Ma’aravi was ransacked. [7] The attack raised safety concerns amongst Jewish communities residing in neighboring cities.



Al-Hammah, Tunisia

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