Tuesday, February 15, 2011

' Jews of Morocco did not disappear without trace'

Visitors view a display at the Jewish Museum in Casablanca

The Arab world's only Jewish museum serves one useful purpose: to tell non-Jewish Moroccans that 10 percent of their country's population were once Jews. At least 'the Jews of Morocco did not disappear without trace', to quote the Museum's director, Simon Levy. Report from AFP:

CASABLANCA, Morocco — A white building tucked into a residential neighbourhood of this cosmopolitan city holds a treasure trove few here know about: the Arab region's only Jewish museum.

"To be frank, I didn't even know there were Jews of Moroccan origin," said high school student Sidi Ahmed, who visited the Museum of Moroccan Judaism of Casablanca with his class from the Western Sahara town of Dakhla.

"Thanks to this visit, I found out there were Moroccan Jews in Fez, in Meknes and in other cities" in Morocco, Ahmed added."I am happy to have learnt this."

Founded in 1997, the Jewish museum assembles a hodgepodge of objects -- clothes, tools, even a jeweller's studio -- that attest to the rich history of the country's 2,000-year-old Jewish community.

"It's the only Jewish museum in the Arab world," said museum curator Zhor Rehihil, a Moroccan civil servant who is Muslim.

Some 5,000 Jews live in Morocco today -- including 2,000 in Casablanca, according to Rehihil's estimates. ( Latest estimates are no more than 3,000 altogether - ed)

The school visits "show to Moroccans that there are other Moroccans with other religious beliefs," she said.

And the museum's philosophy?

"That the Jews of Morocco did not disappear without a trace," says 76-year-old Simon Levy, who has directed the museum since its creation.

He wants Morocco to acknowledge its Jewish heritage in other ways -- namely in history textbooks, which he says is not currently the case.

"That means that for a Moroccan youngster today, a Jew is simply somebody who kills someone in Palestine, even if Jews have contributed enormously to this country," said Levy, a longtime political activist and fighter for Morocco's 1956 independence from France.

"I want this Moroccan youngster to know his country in its historic diversity," he said.

Present since antiquity, Morocco's once-vibrant Jewish community grew steadily over the years, bolstered by the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by Catholic monarchs starting in 1492.

In the late 1940s, it counted some 250,000 members, or 10 percent of the population of this North African country.

But the numbers of Jews here have since dropped dramatically. A large majority flocked to Israel after the founding of the Jewish state, in 1948. More followed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day war.

Still others headed for France, the United States and Canada.

The Jews who remain in Morocco still leave an imprint. Major cities have synagogues, including Casablanca, which has several along with two Jewish schools -- which Muslim as well as Jewish students attend.

Then there is the museum, which aims "to preserve Moroccan heritage in its totality," curator Rehihil said.

Museum director Levy also hopes that strides in Middle East peace talks may someday bring Morocco's Jewish diaspora back to their home country.

"Each time there's an improvement in the Middle East climate, a certain number of Moroccan Jews move back to Morocco," he said.

Read article in full


suzy pirotte vidal said...

My comment is not directly related to Morrocan Jews but i would very much like to find out, if possible, what is happening to our (Jews from Egypt) Synagogues and artifacts after the Egyptian revolution.
thank you
suzy vidal (aka sultana latifa

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

10% of the Moroccan population in the late 1940s?? This is dubious. That would mean that the total population of the country in, let us say, 1950 was only 2.5 million. I'm sure that it was more like 9 or 10 million at that time. I hope that the AFP does better at calculating in their other reports.

You can't even trust the media to be competent at simple reckoning.

Zoidbender said...

Do you have a twitter account? To which your posts are forwarded (through e.g. twitterfeed)? Would love to follow you :)

Sylvia said...

Nostalgic? Here is to revive some of those priceless memories:


The Mob at a Tunis synagogue. The more it changes, the more it stays the same

Sylvia said...

Soprry here is the correct link

Antisemitic demonstration at a Tunis synagogue.
It's in French youtube but the video speaks for itself.
Can you feel that knot in your stomach again?

bataween said...

Thx for your tips posting will resume in a few days
Sorry no twittering yet but follow me on facebook

Daphne Anson said...

Just to let you know that I've just posted a snippet relating to the Jews of Morocco: