As Tunisia prepares for its upcoming municipal elections in May, Simon Slama, one of the only Jews left in the city of Monastir, has announced that he is officially running for office as a candidate for the country's Islamist party Ennahdha - meaning "renaissance" in Arabic.
The 56-year-old sewing machine salesman and repairman told the Associated Press that he decided to serve the country he was born and raised in, in an effort to alleviate the social and economic tensions Tunisia is going through.
While some are viewing it as a trap by the Islamist party to strengthen its bonds with Western countries, many are rejoicing at the message of faith and tolerance portrayed by Tunisia.
"We are all one family"
"Monastir used to have 520 Jewish families. Today mine is the only one left," Slama told AP.
In the late 1940's, Tunisia boasted a Jewish community of around 100,000 people. That number significantly dropped following Tunisia's independence from France, when many members of the community moved to Israel and France.
"I see no difference between the Islamic and Judaic religions. We are all one family and we are all Tunisian citizens and we should go hand in hand to build the Tunisia of tomorrow," Slama added in his interview with AP.
He went on to clarify that the reason behind choosing to run with Ennahdha was because most people are supporting it in these times of crisis.
Jews in the MENA region
Although constantly overlooked and ignored, small Jewish communities continue to reside in numerous Arab countries.
Around 5,000 Jews currently live in Morocco and a total of between 10,000 and 20,000 in Iran. In Bahrain on the other hand, the Jewish community is one of the world's smallest, with just over 30 members.
In Tunisia, the community numbers at roughly 1,000 and is mostly residing on Djerba, North Africa's largest island.
Not the first time Tunisia has shown signs of progression
Last July, Tunisia’s parliament passed a bill introducing new criminal provisions and increasing penalties for multiple violations against women, including sexual harassment and discrimination. At the time, Human Rights Watch described it as a "landmark step for women’s rights."
Additionally, the Tunisian government lifted a sexist personal status law in September, allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men even if they don't convert to Islam.
Tunisia is also allowing more inclusion for the LGBTQI+ community
Although homosexuality is still illegal in Tunisia, many changes have ensured better safety and inclusion for members of the LGBTQI+ community.
From the first ever LGBTQI+ queer film festival to launching the LGBTQI+ radio station Radio Shams, and most importantly, ceasing the practice of forced anal examination, it's safe to say Tunisia is slowly but surely moving forward.