On July 3, 2014, Algerian minister for religious affairs Mohamed Aissa announced that government has decided to restore all 25 synagogues closed for prayers since 1990s due to country’s remaining tiny Jewish community’s (a few thousands) lack of interest to maintain the buildings.
“This is a message to the Jews and the rest of the communities that Algeria is not against them,” he said from Oran. “Algeria is diverse in terms of culture and language and accepts others.”
However, as result of 50-day Israeli massacre in Gaza Strip which resulted in the death of over 2,100 Gaza civilians including over 500 children, the government seems to put the proposal in cold-storage for the time being.
In 1830 the French occupied most of the coastal plains of modern day Algeria and gradually began to root their colonial occupation into local communities. Indigenous tribes supplied soldiers for auxiliary colonial troops called Harkis and the Jews were recruited as local officials. From 1845 rabbis from the French mainland were sent to local Jewish communities “to inculcate unconditional obedience to the laws, loyalty to France, and the obligation to defend it.” The French government granted Algerian Jews French citizenship in 1870, putting them on a par with the French colonists from the mainland.
During the 19th century most Jews in North Africa discarded local customs and clothing in favor of the French language, culture and dress. Their affiliation with French culture and power also brought Jews protection, as in Tunisia after 1855. After a legal dispute with the local Arab Prince about blasphemy, the French emperor Napoleon III intervened with a naval force in favor of the Jews. Jews were subsequently granted equal religious rights but more legal rights than locals: Jewish assessors were attached to criminal courts to provide input on the sentences incurred by Jews charged with crimes in order to safeguard a fair trial.
Jewish collusion with the French in the occupation of North Africa, ultimately encompassing Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, had also negative side-effects in regions which were not firmly in French control. In Morocco, which remained independent until the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were always targeted by the public when the French launched military campaigns against Morocco or other local powers defying French expansion. Jews were seen as traitors by the local population, which were deprived of the right to vote and were economically deprived in favor of French settlers and their Jewish henchmen.
In Algeria the number of French citizens reached 1.4 million in 1961 (13% of the total population), including 140,000 Jews (10% of all French citizens). Those settlers dominated public life in the big cities, enjoyed colonial privileges and were in control of the economy. Jews were often the middlemen between the French rulers and the local subjects, because they knew the country best. The local Muslim population resented French occupation, not in the least place by their display of cultural-religious power by erecting huge cathedrals and synagogues. The Algerian war of independence was an exceptionally brutal one with terrorism, torture and murder squads from both sides.
In December 2012, while addressing the Algerian parliament, French president Hollande admitted that French colonial rule in Algeria was brutal and unfair.
On the last Friday of Islamic month of Ramadhan in 2011, Algerian Islamist groups commemorated the International Al-Quds Day to show their solidarity with Palestinian brothers and sisters. Israeli Mossad agents chose the occasion to hit one of Algeria’s military training academy killing 36 people including 12 cadets in training.