Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Jewish pilgrims converge on Moroccan town

Two Jewish pilgrims pray at a 15th century rabbi's shrine (AP)

Associated Press has this fair account of the Safi Hilloula, this year attended by 400 Jewish pilgrims. The usual tributes are paid to Moroccan 'tolerance', but it is revealing that one interviewee voices her anxiety about the growing power of the Islamists in the country.

SAFI, Morocco (AP) — It's an uncommon sight for an Arab country: hundreds of joyous Jewish pilgrims gathering without fear around a rabbi's tomb, greeted by local Muslim officials who share a prayer with them at a synagogue.

Yet most of the 400 Jews who converged on the Moroccan coastal town of Safi — some from nearby cities, others from as far as France or Israel — at a weekend pilgrimage said they felt welcome here.

While religious tensions flare in Jerusalem and beyond, in Morocco, Jews and Muslims say they nurture a legacy of tolerance and maintain common sanctuaries where adherents of both religions pray. Decades of emigration to Israel by Morocco's Jews and terrorist bombings in Casablanca that targeted Jewish sites haven't diminished the draw of these annual pilgrimages.

During the festival that began Friday, visitors prayed and feasted around the shrine of Abraham Ben Zmirro, a rabbi reputed to have fled persecution in Spain in the 15th century and then lived in Safi, where he is buried with six siblings.

A half-Jewish, half-Muslim band played local tunes during a banquet, including a song in French, Arabic and Hebrew with the line: "There is only one God, you worship Him sitting down and I while standing up."

Read article in full

AP idealises Morccan Jewish life

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