Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moroccan Jews fear for future of their heritage

Above the main entrance to the Benchimol hospital, the inscription reads: "Heal me, G-d, and I will be healed".

Moroccan Jews are reeling from the shock that a landmark of Jewish heritage, the Benchimol hospital in Tangiers , was knocked down three weeks ago without prior warning. David Bensoussan, spokesman for the United Sephardic Community of Quebec (Communauté sépharade unifiée du Québec), has issued the following statement :

"Following the destruction of the Benchimol Hospital in Tangier, a letter was sent to Moroccan diplomats abroad expressing concern about the conditions under which the demolition took place.

"A faxed response argued that formal notice dated 26 November 2008 was sent to the Jewish community of Tangier. A review of the state of the building would have resulted in a demoliton order dated 15 March 2010.

"The Ambassador said that the demolition of 251 derelict mosques had also been announced by the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.

"After we asked for numerous clarifications, it is clear that:

"The letter dated 26 November 2008 gave a deadline of eight days to demolish the edifice. According to representatives of the Jewish community of Tangier, the building posed no danger (which is far from being the case for neighbouring buildings not covered by the demolition order).

"Moreover, the Wali (Governor) of Tangier had announced his intention to create a garden that would give an unobstructed view of the entrance to the former palace of Sultan Abdelhafid. Read Jewish Chronicle blog

Shalomlife blog

More background: the building ceased to function as a hospital in the 1970s, and became an old people's home. As the community of Tangiers had two old people's homes, it put in an application to rebuild the Benchimol on a smaller scale. This request was approved in principle, but never given official Ministry of the Interior approval: the community contemplated selling. The authorities made a counter-proposal of a garden; the Jewish community refused. In November 2008 it rebuilt within eight days an outer 'unsafe' wall demolished by the authorities and submitted plans for a new building also allowing for a view of the Moulay Hafid palace. Nothing more was heard from the authorities until the demolition 16 months later.

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