Celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the great aliya (immigration) of Moroccan Jewry to Israel are being planned all over the country. The Jerusalem Post gives a useful overview of the events leading to the exodus: (with thanks: Michelle)
The story of Moroccan Jewry’s immigration to Israel is not simple, beginning many years before the State of Israel was established.
To mark their difficult journey home, as well as the major contributions
Moroccan Jewry has made to Israeli society, the World Federation of
Moroccan Jewry has organized dozens of events in the forthcoming months
for the approximately one million Israeli Jews who are Moroccan or of
Toward the end of the rule of the Ottoman
Empire, and prior to the signing of the Fez Treaty in 1912 that entailed
French protection of Moroccan Jews, there was a mass immigration of
Jews from large cities – including Fez, Rabat and Marrakech – to the
smaller towns and villages surrounding the cities.
However, the decline in the financial circumstances, overcrowding, and
the need to pray in secret to avoid persecution by locals caused some
young families to immigrate to Israel. Between 1908 and 1918, some 80
families moved to Tiberias and Jerusalem.
In the years prior to the Holocaust, Moroccan Jews were encouraged to
enroll their children in French schools. The community was also prompted
to receive a French education and integrate into French culture, as
French influence in Morocco began to grow in the early part of the 20th
But as the Vichy regime came to power in 1940 and the Holocaust began, the situation for Moroccan Jewry began to change.
The David Amar Moroccan Jewish Heritage Center, Jerusalem
Although King Mohammed V is credited with blocking efforts by Vichy
officials to impose anti-Jewish legislation upon Morocco and deport the
country’s 250,000 Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps in
Europe, partial Nazi race measures were put in place in Morocco despite
Vichy officials also forced Mohammed to
sign two decrees, which barred Jews from entering certain schools or
obtaining certain positions.
Following the end of World War II
and the establishment of the State of Israel, Moroccan Jews were
encouraged to move to Israel by Zionist groups and organizations.
French rule remaining over Morocco, Jews were allowed to immigrate
legally, and many young Moroccan Jews left to help fight during the War
of Independence. Others left as they also felt mistreated by the French
With the establishment of the State and the
country’s victory over several Arab nations, antisemitism skyrocketed.
The Moroccan Nationalist Movement incited hatred against the Jews, and
on June 7, 1948, 44 Jews were massacred in pogroms across the country.
encouraged further immigration to Israel – in the five years following
Israel’s independence, around 30,000 Jews made aliyah, and the numbers
increased in subsequent years.
By 1954, when it became clear that
France was advancing its plan to grant Morocco independence and pogroms
and sporadic attacks against Jews started to increase, there was a
massive wave of immigration to Israel.
As their situation
deteriorated, more and more Jews began to leave. Following Morocco’s
independence in 1956 and its joining the Arab League in 1958,
immigration to Israel and Zionism were banned.
Although Jews had
full rights as citizens following Morocco’s independence, they were
still treated with disdain and subjected to antisemitism.
as one of the most tragic incidents to have happened to Moroccan Jews
trying to escape persecution is that of the Egoz, which was a ship
smuggling 43 Jewish Moroccans as well as an Israeli representative,
Chaim Tzarfati. During the night between January 10 and 11, it sank.
Between 1948 and 1955 around 70,000 Jews left Morocco, and another 60,000 Jews left Morocco from 1955 to 1961.
THE ascension of Hassan II to the throne in 1961, an agreement was made
that he would accept a large per-capita bounty from the international
Jewish community for each Jew who emigrated from Morocco, and under this
agreement Jews were allowed the freedom to leave. By the eve of the Six
Day War, some 120,000 emigrated during this six-year period alone.
According to the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, over 300,000 Moroccan Jews have immigrated to Israel since the 1960s.
“Today, before the Federation’s figures, more than one million
immigrants [and their descendants] from Morocco live in Israel, making
them the second-largest community after immigration from the
Commonwealth,” it explained. “On Sunday, there will be a second salute
on the eve marking the first series of events, which commemorates the
60th anniversary of the mass immigration from Morocco.”
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