The Tunisian island of Djerba is hosting an annual Jewish pilgrimage amid increased security after deadly Islamic extremist attacks last year scared away tourists and raised fears of religious violence.

Soldiers are guarding the area in southern Tunisia and special security forces are carrying out checks on vehicles, intersections and hotels. The Israeli government reportedly issued a warning earlier this month advising Israelis not to travel to Tunisia for the event.

Rabbi Raphael Cohen of Safat, Israel, came anyway, praising Ghriba as a "symbol of tolerance and peaceful cohabitation."

Under a sweltering heat, crowds gathered for ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday at the 2,500-year-old Ghriba synagogue, which was targeted in a 2002 attack. The pilgrimage used to draw huge crowds but security concerns have scared many away.