Jewish Heritage in Morocco, Moroccan Jews
“There are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslims citizens, they are all Moroccans” Mohammed V
The history of Moroccan Jews
The history of Jews is one of the longest and continues recorded histories all over the world. And Morocco is part of that history; however, Morocco was a home to the Jewish people who came from everywhere especially from Spain, France, Portugal. there were about 250,000 to 350,000 Jews in the kingdom before the call of Israel to the Jews people to join the new state. Also, Morocco at that time had the largest community of Jewish on its land between all the Muslim countries. But in 2017 according they were only 2000 of Berber Jewish. The king Mohammed V; still now considered a hero for many Jews because of defending them since the very worst time of the Jews in the history (the time of Nazi evil) and in the time in which many countries asked Moroccan kingdom to deport the Jewish people; however, Mohammed V delivered his famous speech along the kingdom in which he said “there are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslims citizens, they are all Moroccans”. So, the history of Jews in Morocco is more than an ancient period and it was ended; the Jews heritage is being saved till now and maintained.
Where the Moroccan Jewish were live, in Morocco
As it’s known here in Morocco, people were immigrating from the interior of the country to the big cities. however, the Jews people chose to immigrate award the coastal cities especially to Essaouira, Mazagan, and Asafi exactly in the mid 19th century, and later some of them chose to go to the capital economic city ‘Casablanca’. Additionally, and because they were well educated and they were speaking French greater, that was the key for them to open to the Europe and work with them in the kingdom. Before that time Moroccan Jews were everywhere in the kingdom such as the Sahara Desert.
Reasons why Jews of Morocco Immigrated to Israel
There are lot of wrong stories about the main reasons behind the left of Jews to Morocco. First, there are some stories says that Moroccan Jews were immigrated because of religious reasons. The second reason, is that some of them faced persecution. Nevertheless, and while you are searching on the history of the Moroccan Jews, the first thing you should ask yourself about when you read some suspicious facts is the heroic exploits of the Kingdom of Morocco in containing the Jews people and protecting them from the Nazi persecution. And of course, the main reasons why the Jews left to Israel are:
First, to respond to the call of their people in Israel who they want to build a land for them gathering all the Jewish from all over the world. Second, because the economical factor was very essential for some of them, they find it great opportunity to start their life again in better economic conditions. In addition, Morocco was the best country for the Jews between all the other countries which contained them. And also, if the Jews were treated badly in Morocco, why the Jews heritage in Morocco still being preserved till now as well as the relationship of the Moroccan, Israeli Jews with the kingdom still persisted.
Some of the preserved Jewish heritage in Morocco
Mellah in Morocco refers to the Jews Quarters which we can find it in several cities, the following are some of these cities:
Jewish Heritage in Ifran
it was an important city for the Moroccan Jews, there are some stories which says that ‘Ifran’ (a city located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains) was a center for the caravan trade between Morocco and Sudan. But when Morocco had its independence, the Jews left to Israel, leaving behind a wonderful heritage especially in the village of ‘Souk Oufallah’. Where, we can find lot of old Jews houses and some of the Hebrew writer as well as the Jews cemetery in which a famous patriarchs were buried such as ‘Yousef ben Meymoun-Waylili El-Jlili’ and ‘Yousef ben Sbatt’. And if you have been in Morocco, you can visit the ‘Mellah Oufrane’ (a Jews Neighborhood in Ifran).
Jewish Heritage in Fes
Ibn Danan Synagogue is one of the famous synagogues in Morocco and which located in the capital city of science ‘Fes’, and which was built in the 17th century by Mimoun Ben Sidan (a wealthy merchant from the town of Ait Ishaq). And also, we can find the Mellah there is a story which says that the word Mellah came from a place in Fes was a Souk (market) for sealing the salt and the Moroccan Jews were living there.
Jewish Heritage in Essaoira
the Jewish were 40 percent of the city’s population in the 17th century, the thriving and productive Jewish community was deeply adapted into Moroccan society, and the Mellah played an essential role in Essaouira’s economic development. Essaouira has long been a symbol of tolerance, with Jews and Muslims coexisting in peaceful community. It’s a tourism destination for the Jews and their descendants to visit the Jews heritage in Morocco. Also, Mogador or the Mellah make the city widely known because that place was an economic port for the Eruopean countries and it was being threatened to be colonized by the empire of Portugal.
Jewish Heritage in Casablanca
Museum of Moroccan Judaism is located in Casablanca became a pilgrimage destiny for lot of Jewish all over the world especially for those who are interested in the history of Jews. The museum was established in 1997, it is the only museum devoted to Judaism in the Arab world and officially opened its door Mohammed VI of Morocco on December 20, 2016. The museum talks about the history of Jewish and it shows how their life was looking like in Morocco.
Jewish Heritage in Marrakech
The Slat al-Azama Synagogue or Lazama Synagogue is one of the best-known synagogues in Marrakech, Morocco. It is located in the historic Mellah of the old city; Mellah in Marrakech is representing the big traditional souk (market) in the Red city (another name of Marrakech). We can find also the Taoulat El Miara, it’s a Jews heritage cemetery, The cemetery is located on a residential street, but there is Hebrew script on the gate to signal the entrance.
Jewish Heritage in Meknes
The Rabbi Meir Toledano Synagogue it’s located in Meknes city, Morocco. The story of the synagogue says that a Family from Spain exactly from the city of “Toledo” and who was living in Meknes decided to rebuild it; so that, it was named after them ‘Toledano’. There is the new Mellah and which located in the Medina of Meknes as well as there is the new Jewish cemetery (you can visit the oldest Mellah and the oldest cemetery of Jewish it’s still preserved).
Jewish Heritage in Tetun
the Isaac Ben Walid Synagogue, it’s a Jewish synagogue and which can be found in Tetuan, Morocco. It is named after Rabbi Isaac Bengualid (was considered one of the greatest Moroccan Rabbis and also, he has two volume-book about the history of Jewish in Tetaun. Also, was built in the new mellah south of the medina of Tetuan, and this was a result of creating a big mosque in the old Mellah by Sultan Slimane ( Alawid Sultan of Morocco between 1792 to 1822).
Jewish Heritage in Tangier
the Moshe Nahon Synagogue it is located in the city’s Mellah, and also is one of the few open synagogues in Tangier between all the other synagogues in the city. It was built by Moshe Nahon, a banker and active member of the Tangier Jewish community, in 1878. The synagogue architected on a Spanish way, it’s a piece of art.
We cannot mention all the Jewish heritage in Morocco only in one article because the history of Moroccan Jewish is really huge and need lot of books to be talked about.
Traditional Jewish food in Morocco
Of course, the Moroccan cuisine is known between the top world—cuisines. Indeed, the most served recipes in Morocco are Taginne, Coscus, and Pastila etc. However, the Moroccan Jewish cuisine can be little different where the Jewish like most the country’s abundant fruit and vegetables, lamb, almonds, walnuts, olives, and olive and argan oil. They usually use spices and condiments such as: cinnamon, cumin, Ras el Hanout (a magical mixture of the best spices), ginger, saffron, paprika, garlic, preserved lemon, and olives. The main ingredients for their Tagine are the fruits and meat, and in their couscous, they may use vegetables, onion with meat.
Camel trekking is one of our activities
Jewish food in Holidays in Morocco
Moroccan Jewish has a specific recipe in holidays. in new year or the ‘Rosh Hashanah’, Jewish families serve a meal with apples, honey, seven vegetables (this recipe is a Moroccan traditional dish, all the non-Jewish families can also cook it) and we can find also in the meal, the sheep’s head, pomegranates, and other fruit, as well as green dates. For the Yom Kippur fast, they cook a very special bread made with almonds, a rich meal, and lots of cakes and pastries made from almond paste. However, Moroccan Jews prepare a hut based on colorful fruit also, the meals include couscous and bean soup; all that used in the holiday of Succoth. For Hannukah (the most famous Jewish holiday for non-Jewish), the special food is beignets or ‘Sfenj’ (Moroccan doughnuts, served with tea).
Moroccan Jewish families invite their neighbors and friends to celebrate all together the Mimouna or the end of Passover. So, they prepare a big meal where the head is The Leavened Bread and also, we can find the Moroccan sweets; all served with mint-tea.
Because the Moroccan Jewish-cuisine is known between a huge community, they started their own restaurants serving the Jewish recipes along the cities of the kingdom, for example in Fes.
The traditional Moroccan Jewish-wedding, Marriage of Moroccan Jewish
The Moroccan Jewish wedding traditions might be quite different than the Moroccan wedding ceremony. Where, the Jewish marriage should be following the Jewish Orthodox instructions or maybe a very specific traditions of a Jewish family (according to their beliefs and rituals). The wedding ceremony must be done on all the general steps: fasting day, Badeken, chuppah, Betrothal Blessings and Rings, The Ketubah and of course the Henna party.
It’s a traditional custom of Jewish wedding. However, it’s listed the all agreement and rights that the groom must offered to the bride, and they both signed and agreed of them. A Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract which has no agreed monetary value, and rarely enforced by civil courts, except in Israel. We can find it also in the traditional Moroccan marriage but not in the same way (Ketubah is the official day that a man asks for the acceptance of marry a girl from her family).
Moroccan Jewish wedding, Henna Party
The Hina or ‘Henna Party’ in a Jewish marriage is a dye used for decorating the bride (used in her hands and feet). Henna generally is a body art. All the female friends and family’s member of the bride are invited to participate the Henna party. When they all meet the bride, usually in a close place, they enjoy the music and fire traditional songs from their own culture. Actually, the Jewish Henna is used not only in Morocco but also, used in Jewish wedding everywhere. In Morocco, Henna’s Day took place one or two days before the wedding; While in Israel, it may take place up to two weeks beforehand. Indeed, traditionally, the mother or the grandmother of the bride is the one who put little of Henna in the bride’s hand in form of small circle. According to their beliefs, Henna fires the evil eye on the bride.
The first day of a Jewish marriage the groom and bride both must fasted. The custom says that fasting in the first day of wedding allow the marry-couple to start a new life, free of all previous sins and mistakes. It’s a blessing for them to live the happiness together under one roof.
Badeken, also can be known as Bedeken, Badekenish, or Bedekung is a Judaism ritual in which the groom veils the bride in Jewish marriage. It is usually practiced in the chuppah in the presence of the parents of the couple, the Rabbi, and other respectful dignitaries. Enjoying the music song and participating in the veil of the bride, who should wear it until the end of Chuppah ceremony.
A chuppah in the Jewish marriage is a symbol of the house that the groom and bride will build. It’s a canopy in the Chuppah made of cloth or sheet metal stand over four pillars, also well decorated. The couple stand along their ceremony stand under the Chuppah.
The Betrothal Blessings in Jewish wedding and exchanging Rings
Even if the Jewish bride or the groom is not drinking win, in the blessing of Betrothal he/she may drink in toast of luck and bless. The Rabbi is he who do the Betrothal blessing during a Jewish marriage. According to Jewish customs, the groom doesn’t recite the Betrothal blessing because he is tired, undoubtedly nervous and not able to concentrate. Additionally, because some grooms may not be fluent in the language, expecting them to recite it might cause them embarrassment, especially at so sensitive a moment. Otherwise, he waits for the rings exchange moment in which the Rabbi and after reciting the bless he asks the couple to exchange rings, at the end he declared them a bride and groom.
Morocco is opening the door for the Moroccan Jewish and their descendants, in Israel, and everywhere, to visit their first home (Morocco) and also to visit the Jewish heritage that was left behind thousands of years ago.
Morocco is opening the door for the Moroccan Jewish and their descendants, in Israel, and everywhere, to visit their first home (Morocco) and also, to visit the Jewish heritage that was left behind thousands of years ago.
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