- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Morocco: On “Jewish Morocco”

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Israel, Morocco, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, History, International Relations, Migration & Immigration, Religion, Travel

Morocco has a long relationship with Judaism [1]; during the spread of the Roman empire, a number of Jews settled in what is modern-day Morocco. Over time, relations between Morocco's majority Muslim population and its small Jewish population have ranged from very good to heavily strained. Following the creation of the state of Israel, the vast majority of Morocco's Jews emigrated (approximately 15% of Israeli Jews are in fact of Moroccan descent), however, approximately 7,000 Jews reside in Morocco today. Moroccans are often quick to point out that the king's top adviser, André Azoulay [2], is Jewish.

There is very little about Moroccan Jews on the Internet [3], as Moroccan blogger Ibn Kafka recently pointed out. In a post on “Jewish Morocco,” he said:

Celui qui cherche des infos sur le net sur le judaïsme marocain devient vite frustré: entre la débauche de liens et la qualité disparate de l’information, la frustration est souvent au rendez-vous. Jusqu’ici, l’excellent site de Rick Gold – Visiting Jewish Morocco – constitue un point de départ incontournable, et on pourrait y rajouter le forum communautaire Dafina, désordonné, foisonnant mais inégal. On pourrait rajouter à cette liste deux musées – celui du judaïsme marocain de Casablanca, et celui du Centre de la culture judéo-marocaine à Bruxelles. Sans compter les sites excentriques – comme celui consacré à la restauration de la synagogue Attias d’Essaouira.

Anyone looking for info on Moroccan Judaism on the Net will be frustrated: between the amount of links and disparate quality of information, there is often frustration. So far, Rick Gold's excellent site – Visit Jewish Morocco [4] – is an essential starting point, and the disorderly and abundant, but uneven community forum Dafina [5] could be added. One could also add to this list two museums – one of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca [6], and the Center for Jewish-Moroccan culture in Brussels [7]. Not to mention the eccentric sites – such as one [8] dedicated to the restoration of the Attias Essaouira synagogue.

The blogger then introduces us to the latest blog on the scene, Jewish Morocco [9], written by American Chris Silver. Silver, who is exploring Jewish sites across the country, has written about towns which have perhaps never been mentioned in the blogoma (Moroccan blogosphere). In one recent post, he writes about meeting Moroccan Jews in Oujda [10]:

Spent last night with my wonderful hosts and had another delicious meal. The oldest of the women sat down next to me before dinner and wanted to hear all about world Jewry. She wanted to know how many Jews were still in Syria, Lebanon, everywhere. She asked me about the Jews of Ethiopia and I was shocked that she even knew to ask. She asked about Iran and I told her that there were many more Jews there than in Morocco. They were all shocked and started asking if they covered their faces like all Iranian women. It was very comical.

I learned more about these women throughout our meal. One had been to Israel before but for some reason has decided to stay here in Morocco. I told them that my mother had thanked them for being so warm to me and that got them really excited. We ended our meal and they asked me to take about 4 pounds of truffles back with me to some mutual friends in Casa. I of course obliged and have now added truffles stuffed in matzah boxes to my previously light load.

Bet El Synagogue, Casablanca, Morocco [11]

Bet El Synagogue, Casablanca, Morocco

Silver has also noticed the dearth of Jewish Moroccan sites online. In one post, he writes [12]:

Google Earth [13] and Wikimapia [14] have become two very interesting resources for discovering Jewish Morocco. Both applications allow users to identify points on an often very clear map. So for example, an aerial view of Rabat will identify the mellah [15] and a synagogue [16] (“cinaguogue juif” south of the mellah and in a cluster of 3 marked areas) amongst many other sites. The information is user generated and usually by individuals on the ground.

It is quite clear that both bloggers are doing their part to bring this lesser-known population to the Internet. Ibn Kafka, however, shares one regret [17]:

…qu’il n’y ait pas de voix de l’intérieur non-institutionnelle – par exemple un blog d’un Marocain juif vivant au Maroc, éclairant de l’intérieur la culture, l’histoire, la spiritualité et le présent de cette partie essentielle du peuple marocain et de son histoire.

…there is no inside, non-institutional voice – such as a blog of a Moroccan Jew living in Morocco, illuminating the domestic culture, history, spirituality and the presence of this essential part of the Moroccan people and its history.

Photo Credit: dlisbona [18]