A new Berber-Israeli friendship association aims to develop relations between Berbers (also known as Amazighs) and Berber-speaking Jews in Israel.
According to Boubaker Ouadaadid, a German teacher in Casablanca, the association aims to fight antisemitism in Morocco and to spread Amazigh culture among Jews in Israel.
"Where I grew up (in the country) there was no difference between Jews and Muslims. We were very close to our Jewish brethren. When I moved to Casablanca, I was shocked by people's attitudes. They were frankly antisemitic. For example they would say, lihoudi hachack. That's one reason why we decided to set up this association."
The association aims to organise trips for Moroccan and Israeli Berbers (sic) to meet, encourage economic exchanges between the two countries and promote Israeli aid to rural Berber areas. It bucks the official trend, which aims to foster total rupture between the Moroccan state and Israel and runs counter to the pro-Palestinian sentiment prevailing among the Moroccan people.
Ouadaadid, together with Brahim Amekraz, believes that the Palestinian cause has been exploited by the country's policies for personal gain. "We do not feel any animoisity towards Israel. The conflict is between Palestinians and Israelis. The war is taking place thousands of kilometres away. It does not interest us."
The Jews who lived in Tinghir, Timit, Ouarzazate and Sefrou used to speak Berber and Hebrew. They sang in Berber at weddings or circumcisions.
The founders of the friendship association hope to meet in August. They have members in Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes and Tangiers. In Israel, M. Ouadaadid mentions as his associates Dr Bruce Weitzmann, the researcher Moshe Benarouch and the journalist Mira Africh.
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Further reading on Amazigh (Berber) Jews