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19

Nov

Jewish Tourists Traveling to Morocco. Home of Jewish History and Heritage Sites

Morocco is a feast for all travelers including those who want to explore their Jewish roots in-depth. Jewish History can be found within Morocco’s mountain ranges and deserts, the coast, Berber villages, historic medinas, and picturesque towns. 

Morocco is a diverse country that encompasses Muslim, Jewish, and history. It is a safe destination for Jewish travelers, who wish to encounter a rich Jewish heritage, ancient traditions, customs, and architecture. For those of Jewish descent or interested in Jewish history that visit Morocco, it is recommended to visit the Jewish Museum, which is the first in Africa and the only one in the Muslim world. 

Jews and Muslims have coexisted peacefully in Morocco for centuries. Jews were once favored by Moroccan Arabs and Berbers (Amazigh) for their business acumen. They were silversmiths, jewelers, and craftsmen who lent their skills and knowledge to Moroccans. The silversmiths of today in Morocco are the product of Moroccan Jews, who until the 20th Century lived in Morocco.

During World War II King Mohammed V protected Moroccan Jews from being transported to Europe and sent to concentration camps. When Hitler demanded that King Mohammed V hand over the Jews of Morocco, the King stated simply, “in Morocco we don’t have Jews, we only have Moroccan citizens.” This was an act of protection for Jews, who have historically been an important part of the makeup of the people of Morocco.  

The current King Mohammed VI has inherited his father's proclivity toward Jews and the preservation of Jewish sites. André Azoulay, a Jewish Moroccan, is one of King Mohammed VI’s royal advisors. Azoulay is the only royal advisor who still resides in the government, who has served both King Hassan II and his son King Mohammed VI. 

King Mohammed VI has financially supported the restoration of the 17th century Slat al Fassayine Synagogue in Fez. In February 2013, in a message at the restoration ceremony, King Mohammed VI confirmed his commitment to religious freedom and spiritual diversity. He emphasized the importance of the three-thousand-year-old Jewish legacy in Morocco.

King Mohammed VI stated: "As Commander of the Faithful, I am committed to defending the faith and the community of believers and to fulfilling my mission with respect to upholding freedom of religion for all believers in the revealed religions, including Judaism, whose followers are loyal citizens for whom I deeply care. The Moroccan people's cultural traditions, which are steeped in history, are rooted in our citizens' abiding commitment to the principles of coexistence, tolerance, and harmony between the various components of the nation."

Morocco does not discriminate against its own citizens or visitors based on religion, race, or nationality. Whether visiting the Imperial Cities, rural regions, or the Sahara Desert people of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths are all treated with respect. 

There are approximately 2,500 Jews who currently reside in Morocco and most live in the city of Casablanca. Many of Morocco's Jewish citizens moved to help create the nation of Israel in the 1960s. Today Morocco and Israel have close relations with Israeli citizens traveling to Morocco for tourism and business.

Morocco’s Jewish Historical & Cultural Sites:

CASABLANCA

The Museum of Moroccan Judaism: Located in suburban Casablanca, this is the only museum on Judaism in the Arab world which houses a rich collection of objects.

Jewish Cemetery and Mellah (Jewish Quarter): While Jews no longer live in the Mellah, kosher butchers are found in the old market. The Jewish cemetery in the Mellah is open and quiet with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew, and Spanish.

The 3,000 Casablanca Jews live outside the Mellah in the European section of the city. Here the Jewish residents’ worship in several synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, participate in local community centers, attend Jewish day schools and social events. 

Casablanca Synagogues:

Temple Beth-El: Temple Beth-El is considered the centerpiece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its stained-glass windows and other artistic elements are what attract tourists to this synagogue. Temple Beth-El is the largest synagogue and an important community center seating 500 people.

Synagogue Nehim Zemiroth

29 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Temple Beth El

Rue Verlet Hanus

Temple Em Habanim

14 rue Lusitania

Temple Benarroch

24 rue Lusitania

Elias Hazan

rue Roger Farache

RABAT

The Jewish Mellah (Jewish Quarter): Rabat is famous for its small Jewish and the seaside community of Sale where Rabbi Hayyim Ben Moses Attar was born.

Rabat Synagogues:

The Grand Synagogue Talmud Tora

9 rue Moulay Ismail

Talmud Torah and Rebbe Shalom Zaoui Community Centre

3 rue Ibn Toumert.

MEKNES 

Jewish Mellah (Jewish Quarter): This area features narrow lanes and colorful courtyards. The presence of Jewish history is evident in the Hebraic epitaphs that date back to the Christian era. These epitaphs along with Greek inscriptions can be seen at the Meknes Jewish zaouia, a place of pilgrimage where the tomb of Rabbi David Benmidan can be visited. Other main sites to visit are the Talmud Torah Synagogue and Cemetery.

FEZ

The Jewish Mellah (Jewish Quarter): In contrast with the young Mellah of Casablanca, the Mellah of Fez is ancient. This picturesque neighborhood adjoins the Royal Palace, which is noted for its recently constructed massive, brass doors.

The Jewish Cemetery: The nearby cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Solica.

Maimonides: Throughout the old city of Fez there are traces of ancient Jewish life, including the home of Maimonides, who lived in the city from 1159-1165. In the face of a declining population, the Jewish community of Fez is working hard to maintain its community spirit and preserve its heritage and traditions. The community center, Centre Communautaire "Maimonide," is well organized with a kosher restaurant and a modern synagogue on the premises.

Fez Synagogues:

The Danan Synagogue: The Danan synagogue was once only one of several located inside the walls of Fez and not the most elaborate. TheI Ibn Danan Synagogue is one of the oldest and most intact synagogues in Morocco. This synagogue, located in the heart of the Mellah is a rare survivor of a pivotal time in Moroccan Jewish history.

Slat al Fassayine is the oldest synagogue in Fez and played a significant role in the spiritual life of Fez's once 30,000 strong Jewish community. With financial support from the Jewish community of Fez, the Foundation Jacques Toledano, Serge and Jacques Berdugo, and the Simon Levy Family, and the Federal Republic of Germany, the two-year Synagogue restoration has been completed.

SEFROU  

Sefrou was once a major center for Morocco's Jews and its walled white pedestrian medina is still characterized by its houses with wooden balconies. Sefrou's Mellah makes up half of the old city. En route to Sefrou, there is a cemetery located in Bhalil that is worth visiting. 

Sefrou Synagogues:

Em Habanim 

Menzel

MARRAKECH

The Jewish Mellah: Founded in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah, the Mellah district was designated as the Jewish quarter in Marrakech.

Marrakech Synagogues:

Rabbi Pinhas Synagogue located on Rue Talmud Torah is the oldest synagogue in Marrakech and is still in use. The Synagogue is in the historic Mellah and was established in 1538. It is located next to the Miaara Jewish cemetery, with brilliant white tombs.

The Beth El Synagogue opposite the American Centre in the modern Guéliz is presided over by Jacky Kadoch. 

Lazama Synagogue in the old medina: This Jewish Quarter was created in the Kasbah area in 1558. The Jewish community enjoyed autonomy even though Jews were not allowed to own any property outside the Mellah and controlled the sugar trade.

ESSAOUIRA

Many of Essaouira’s painted houses still have the Star of David above the doorways of Jewish homes. Each year religious Jews from around the world come to Essaouira for an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto, who died in 1845.

The home of Rabbi Haim Pinto and the synagogue have been preserved as a historic and religious site. The building is an active synagogue and is used when pilgrims or Jewish tour groups visit the city.

The Slat Lkahal Synagogue is an important treasure in Essaouira.

Kosher cuisine is available at Kosher restaurants in the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Rabbis reside in Tangier, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira.

Morocco is a country that is open to all nationalities, religions and seeks to make everyone feel at home.

 

 

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