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Moroccan Jews : A long-lasting history of co-existence

The Moroccan Jewish community is living in peace with Muslims here in the kingdom. Establishing a harmonium relationship that dates back decades ago before the foundation of Israel in 1948. Unlike other Arab countries Morocco remains one of the most tolerant nations towards Jews.

Moroccan Jews and their long-lasting history of co-existence./Ph. Jewish Heritage Tours Europe
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Recently, and most precisely at the end of July, Muslims in the city of Marrakech shared an Iftar and sacred night with their Jewish neighbors and friends. In a synagogue located in the colorful town, they sat together, ate together and prayed next to each others. For Yardena Schwartz, an NBC journalist who wrote an article about Moroccan Jews, such an atmosphere is quite weird. The harmony was real and tolerance shouted out as Muslims shook hands with Jews during the holy month.

For the television producer, it is astonishing to see how the situation of Moroccan jews differs from the one that other Jews lived in several Arab nations like Iraq, and Egypt. «To the Muslims and Jews gathered here, it was a reminder of the 2,000-year-old ties that bind their communities together», she said. According to the same article, 300,000 Moroccan Jews resided in Morocco before the foundation of Israel in 1948.

A tolerant counrty for Jews

Morocco is «home to the largest Jewish population in the Arab world», Schwartz explains for it was one of the few Arab nations that welcomed Jews after 1948. Moroccans Jews were not forced to leave the country and had the right to stay all while preserving their fate. However a few incidents occurred as anti-Jewish riots in the eastern region of the country.  On the 7th and 8th of June 1948, an outraged group of people in Jerada and Oujda surrounded the Jewish population of the two cities killing 42 individuals and injuring 29 others. 5 Moroccan Jews were savagely murdered in Oujda and 37 others were beaten to death by the population of Jerada.

Ph: Morocco Tailor MadePh: Morocco Tailor Made

Despite the deadly riots, reporter states that unlike Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, where Jews were kicked out, attacked and the state developed policies to lessen their numbers, Morocco was the mildest of them all. In the north African Kingdom «they weren’t stringing Jews from street posts like they were in Iraq», declared Robert Satloff, an American writer and the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy(WINEP). For the author who wrote «Among the Righteous», a book about the jews who were helped from the holocaust by Arabs stated that «Jews in Morocco saw the writing on the wall».

For him, people hated Jews in Morocco too but not with the same density reported elsewhere, the thing that could not be linked to their departure to Israel. Satloff declared to the same source that Jewish left Morocco as they could not eye a future there. Being colonized by France and occupied by Spain back in the time, Jews were better off leaving for the Middle East and most precisely Israel. «It was really this mix of feeling like there’s no future for us in Morocco, and knowing we have a homeland to go to», he said adding that most of Jews immigrated to Canada France and Israel.

Judaism as a component of the Morrocan culture

Another point is the country’s protection of its Jewish community. «Morocco is the only Arab country whose leader actively protects its Jewish community», Satloff said referring to André Azoulay the King’s advisor. «It’s also bottom up. Judaism in Morocco is in the roots, the identity, the mindset of the Moroccan people», Azoulay once stated.

In fact, Judaism was placed as one of the kingdom’s cultural fundamental components amid the 2011 constitution. «You cannot find this kind of tragic situation that the Jews have unfortunately confronted in European countries», he said insisting that «you cannot find it in the same degree, the same motivation and the same scale in the Muslim world».

Back to the Iftar dinner organized in Marrakech, Kamal Harkach,a Moroccan filmmaker who attended the event told the NBC that «it’s important to preserve the long history between Jews and Muslims here». Hachkar who directed a movie called «Tinghir-Jerusalem, Echoes from the Mellah», which narrates the jews past in Morocco insisted that «in Morocco, we prefer to live in a good state. We don’t want to live like in Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.»

Co-existing 

Hachkar and Youssef Safine, shared the same opinion when it comes to co-existing. «We are praying to the same God after all,» he said précising that Mimouna, a Muslim organization that works on preserving the Moroccan Jewish culture organizes Iftars all over the country during Ramadan bringing together the two parts.

Before the Iftar, Muslim men pray in at the Synagogue Beth El in Marrakech while standing before the ark that holds the sacred Torah scrolls on June 18, 2017./Ph. Yardena Schwartz / for NBC NewsBefore the Iftar, Muslim men pray in at the Synagogue Beth El in Marrakech while standing before the ark that holds the sacred Torah scrolls on June 18, 2017./Ph. Yardena Schwartz / for NBC News

Safine assured that Jews have resided in Morocco long before the arrival of Islam. According to the American reporter, «Jews have been living in the North African nation of Morocco since their exile from Jerusalem after the destruction of the first temple in 587 BC — before Christianity and Islam were born. A second wave came in 1492, when Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition, finding refuge and a thriving Jewish community in Spain’s southern neighbor».

Indeed, Morocco has always been a welcoming host for jews. During the French colonization, Sultan Mohammed V refused to apply anti-Jewish laws suggested by Germany in Morocco. The Sultan even declared saying that : «There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only Moroccans.»

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