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Moroccan Jewish History
(11 Videos from Spielberg Archive)
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

TIMELINE
Mena Moroccan Experience

587 BCE

Jewish refugees, fleeing the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple, crossed over to North Africa and settled in Morocco’s Anti-Atlas region.

70 CE

Jewish refugees from the Roman destruction of Jerusalem’s temple settle in Morocco and engage in agriculture and various trades.

429

Church councils of Africa feel threatened by the Jews increasing number and prosperity and take a stand against the Jews.

600’s

The Arab Conquest reaches Morocco, and, once again, Morocco bore an influx of Jews. Under Islamic dominion, Jews are defined by the status of “dhimmi” as stated in the Pact of Omar.

1146

Under the rule of Almohades, Jews and Christians are forced to accept Islam or be killed. Many Jews pretend to embrace Islam. Jews are required to identify themselves by wearing yellow head garments and become objects of violence and extreme oppression.

1492-1496

Flood of Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal caused by the Spanish Inquisition.

1670

Abu Bakr, a prominent Jewish councilor, is burned publicly to inspire terror among Jews. Synagogues are torn down and some Jews expelled from region.

1844

War with France causes more misery and ill-treatment of Jews.

1863

Sir Moses Montefiore is sent to Morocco by England to help release 10 Jews who are imprisoned on suspicion of having killed a Spaniard. Montefiore is successful. The prisoners are liberated and the Sultan publishes an edict that grants equal rights to Jews.

1864-1880

Even with the edict of emancipation, Jews face discrimination and over 307 Jews are murdered in the streets.

1930’s

225,000 Jews living in Morocco.

1940’s

Nazi anti-Semitic decrees prohibit Jews from public functions, but Mohammed V refuses to enforce these laws and invites all the rabbis of Morocco to throne celebrations.

1948

Riots kill 44 and wound many more after the declaration of the State of Israel. 18,000 Jews leave Morocco for Israel.

1956

Morocco declares its independence. Several Jews occupy political positions. Jewish immigration to Israel is suspended.

1963

100,000 Jews are allowed to immigrate to Israel from Morocco.

1971

Jewish population decreases to 35,000. Most emigrants move to Europe or North America.

2005

Still 3,500 Jews remain and play a notable role in Morocco.

HISTORY
Projet Aladin - History of the Jews of Morocco   

On the eve of the independence of Morocco in 1956, there were hundreds of Jewish communities throughout the country, representing a total population of about 280,000 people, the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world.

Many of these communities had been in existence for several centuries, and the origins of some date back to antiquity. It is generally agreed that Jews arrived with Phoenician traders hundreds of years before the Christian era. The two peoples lived together in some of the coastal settlements that are today known as Tangier, Rabat and Essaouira.

Jews were clearly part of the Roman cities that developed in the first century. Many of them moved into Morocco by migrating westward along the Mediterranean coast from the large Jewish centre in Carthage (Tunisia). Traces of Jewish life can be found in Volubilis, the large excavated city near Meknes.

Other Jews moved inland from Cyrenaica (Libya), converted Berber tribes, and established settlements in the foothills, mountains and desert oases of Algeria and Morocco.

By the year 732, the conquering Arab armies had established an empire extending to Morocco and Spain. Idriss I founded the first Muslim state in Morocco in the late eighth century. His authority extended over central and western Morocco, and he fought against those Christians and Jews who would not convert. Following his victory, most Jews moved into the mountain and desert areas that were not controlled by Idriss.

His son, Idriss II, created the city of Fez in the early ninth century, developing it from a village that is believed to have been inhabited by a Jewish tribe. He invited Jews to live there together with Arabs. While he restricted the freedom of the Jewish community in accordance with Islamic law, he also created the economic conditions that allowed some Jews to become prosperous.

A Berber tribe from the Sahara desert, the Almoravides, created an Islamic empire in Morocco and Spain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They founded their capital of Marrakesh near Aghmat, a Berber Jewish settlement. Although Jews were not allowed to enter Marrakesh at night, they had sufficient freedom to move throughout Morocco and Spanish Andalucia. Jewish scholars migrated to the Almoravide empire, producing some of the religious writings associated with the "Golden Age" of the Jews.

In the twelfth century, the Almohads, a Berber mountain people, developed a fundamentalist Islamic doctrine and built an empire that spread from Spain to western Libya. Unlike the Almoravides, they did not take the Jews under their protection. Instead, they expelled them from Marrakesh and tried to eliminate their presence from Morocco. Under the Almohad leader Abdel Moumen, the Jews were persecuted to the point that their communities in the oasis communities of the Draa and Sijilmassa were destroyed. Jews in these communities who did not convert were killed. During this time, Maimonides left Cordoba and spent several years in Morocco. From 1159-1165, he lived in the old city of Fez.  Persecution of Jews was so intense that Maimonides counselled all Jews to leave the country.  By 1224, there may have been no synagogue left in Morocco.

The Almohads were overthrown in the mid-thirteenth century by the Merenids, who gave preferential treatment to the Jews. Resentment of the Sultan and his close ties to the Jews incited a pogrom in Fez in 1276. The Merenids then established Fez-Jdid (New Fez) as their capital, where Sultans could provide the nearby Jews with greater security. During the 14th century, when the Merenids had relatively firm control of Morocco, Jews and Muslims coexisted with few problems. By 1438, the Merenids could not easily control the country or protect Jews living in urban areas. In Fez-Jdid, they forced the Jews to move into a fortified area adjoining the royal palace, to ensure their safety. This was the first Jewish quarter in Morocco. Because it was built on an old salt mine, this and all subsequently constructed Moroccan Jewish quarters were called mellahs, based on the Arabic word for salt.

The Merenids lost power to the Wattasids, a weak dynasty that ruled for eighty years beginning in 1472. The Watassids were unable to prevent the Portuguese from establishing forts and trading posts in towns all along the Atlantic coast. The Wattasids neither encouraged nor prevented tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal from entering Morocco in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Queen Isabella of Spain had issued the Edict of Expulsion on March 31, 1492, three months after the fall of Muslim Grenada. The edict gave four months for the 165,000 Spanish Jews to either convert or leave the country. Although many of them entered Morocco, only about 20,000 made the country their new home, while the rest continued on to the Ottoman Empire.

The Saadian dynasty, which took over in the 16th and 17th centuries, suffered from political instability and military attacks throughout its reign. To finance military activities, Saadian Sultans taxed the Jewish community heavily. To ensure that the Jews had adequate resources to pay these taxes, Sultans gave Jewish traders the monopoly over sugar exports. These traders were also responsible for a large percentage of the imports of European cloth and guns. Jews played a key role in the caravan trade with Sub-Saharan Africa, financing the exchanges of European cloth and Moroccan cereals for gold, ostrich feathers, gum arabic, and ivory.

Under the Saadians, Spanish and Portuguese Marranos moved to Morocco's coastal cities, where they could work for the Portuguese traders and reconvert to Judaism. In 1578, the Saadians defeated the Portuguese in a famous battle near Ksar el Kabir, a coastal settlement near Tangier. Since three kings died in the battle, some Moroccan Jewish communities established a special Purim holiday, the Purim of the Three Kings, that was celebrated until recently.

The currently ruling Alaouite dynasty is a family of Arabs descended from the Prophet Mohammed. The first Alaouite ruler, Moulay Rachid, came from the southeast oasis of Tafilalet and took power from the Saadians in the 1660's. Through capturing the caravan routes in eastern and western Morocco, Moulay Rachid was able to ensure the cooperation of Jewish traders in financing the new empire.

Moulay Ishmael succeeded Moulay Rachid in 1672 and completed the task of pacifying Morocco. He constructed his capital in the city of Meknes. During his 55 year reign, Jews were protected from violence, although they were taxed highly. In 1679, he forced the Jews to construct the Meknes mellah. Meknes attracted Jewish immigrants from throughout Morocco, and the mellah was relatively prosperous in the beginning of the 18th century. Elsewhere in the country, Jewish traders grew wealthy from increased trade with Europe and within Morocco.

After the death of Moulay Ishmael, Morocco fell into 30 years of anarchy. By the 1760's, Moulay Mohammed was able to create some political stability. The Sultan increased the economic and political importance of the Jews through populating coastal cities with Jewish traders. He installed Jews in the Portuguese city of Mazagan (El Jadida) and created the port of Mogador (Essaouira). He declared that all trade was to go through Mogador, so that he could better control customs revenues. The Sultan asked wealthy Jewish families throughout the country to send family members to become traders in Mogador, where they received special financial treatment. Islamic law was applied liberally in Mogador, enabling Mogadorian Jews to be the first Moroccan Jews to dress in Western clothing.

When Moulay Mohammed died, his son, Moulay Yazid, succeeded him. Moulay Yazid had an intense hatred for the Jews and incited pogroms throughout the country between 1790 and 1792. He encouraged attacks on the mellahs of Tetouan and other cities. The worst treatment was reserved for Meknes and Fez. The Jews of Fez were forced to leave the mellah for two years. Marrakesh Jews also received an expulsion order, and their mellah was pillaged.       

Succeeding Sultans allowed Jews to rebuild their homes, businesses and synagogues, although not outside the mellahs. While Jewish life in Morocco flourished in the early nineteenth century, the ability of the Sultans to control the country deteriorated. In several geographic regions, Muslim fraternities and traditional tribal leaders had greater political support than the Sultan. European powers attempted to impose their authority, particularly with respect to trade. As a result, Moroccan Sultans were not always able to protect the security of the Jews.

With European encouragement, Sultan Sidi Mohammed issued a royal decree in February 1864, affirming that the Jews would be treated as equals under the law, with justice and impartiality, and that anyone mistreating them would be prosecuted.

The efforts of European powers to push the Sultan's government into bankruptcy coincided with criticisms by non-Moroccan Jewish organizations of the treatment of Moroccan Jews. In 1905, the US Government sent an investigatory mission to Tangier to determine the validity of claims that Moroccan Jews were being oppressed. The researchers found that the dhimmi regulations had not been implemented since the 1870's. The head rabbi of Tangier asked the Americans not to intervene on behalf of the Moroccan Jews. At the 1906 Algeciras Conference, the U.S. representatives ensured that the conference documents praised the Sultan's government for improvements in conditions of Jews and asked it to guarantee to treat all Moroccans equally.

In 1907, the French found a pretext for full-scale invasion of Morocco when a few Europeans in Marrakesh and Casablanca were killed. After 3,000 French troops occupied Casablanca, the mellah was pillaged.

From 1907-1912, French and Spanish soldiers took control of increasingly large areas of the country. The French gained effective control over Morocco with the signing of the Treaty of Fez in 1912, establishing the majority of Morocco as a French protectorate. Spain was given control of Northwest Morocco and in 1923 the city of Tangier became an international zone.

In August 1941, the Vichy Government of France enacted laws that discriminated against Moroccan Jews. It set quotas on the number of Jewish doctors and lawyers, ejected students from French schools and forced many Jews living in the European quarters to move to the mellahs.

The Moroccan Sultan, Mohammed V, told Jewish leaders that in his opinion Vichy laws singling out the Jews were inconsistent with Moroccan law. He believed that Jews should be treated equally with Muslims. He emphasized that the property and lives of the Jews remained under his protection. Due to his strong stance, Vichy administrators did not implement the discriminatory laws and regulations energetically.

Following the arrival of American troops in November 1942, the French closed off several mellahs and the Vichy laws were eventually repealed.

WE KNOW THAT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PROMINENT ASPECT OF MOROCCAN HISTORY BUT HOW BIG OF AN INFLUENCE WERE WE ON THEIR HISTORY?
Morocco World News -  Aya Soulimani  August 24, 2016  (2)

Since the beginning of time the Jewish community have been dispersed all around the world and a percentage of them made Morocco their home.

Before the founding of Israel in 1948, Morocco had the largest population of Jews in the Muslim world. Even before the conquest of the Idrisids in Morocco in 703, the Jewish community has been a prominent part of Moroccan society. During the Arab conquest of the Idrisids the Jews helped pave the way for the spread of Islam in Moroccan regions. Since Judaism is similar to Islam, the people in the Berber areas found it easier to accept the Muslim message hence causing them to convert either from their pagan beliefs or Judaism itself. Later on in 788, Morocco gained its independence from the caliphate which in turn made the Jews a minority, as a result of this, they were forced to join the army.

When Idris II came to power, he established Fes as the capitol and authorized Jews of all origins to settle there. The city flourished and was filled with Jewish scholars and merchants. Although later many Jews moved to Spain, the Jews in Morocco still flourished even under the reign of the Almoravide. Scholars such as Meir ibn Kamniel and Solomon Ab?ab Mu?allim in Marrakesh, were of Spanish origin; one from Seville and the other from Saragossa. Both were distinguished Torah scholars. It is obvious that the most successful period for the Jewish Moroccan community- from both the spiritual and intellectual point of view- was during the reign of the Idrisids and their successors.

From 1375 the Muslim world of the West clearly entered its period of decline. The Jews of Morocco were more affected by this development because, unlike in Algeria, there was no revival due to the arrival of important Jewish personalities fleeing from the Spanish persecutions of 1391. The Jews who came to Morocco during this period were mainly of average intellect; moreover, just like their native brothers, they encountered the zeal which had been introduced among the Muslim masses by the mediums, who had then founded ‘the Marabout movement’. This movement eroded the authority of the last Merinid sovereigns, and a serious deterioration in the condition of the Jews ensued. In 1438 the Jews of Fez were enclosed within a special quarter, the first Moroccan Mellahs.

The road to Morocco was walked again on a much larger scale in 1492 when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain declared the Edict of the Expulsion of Jews. The Jewish chroniclers were undisputed in their description of the welcome accorded by the sultan Muhammad al-Shaykh al-Wattassi to the Spanish and Portuguese refugees (megorashim) in 1492 and 1496. Bands of robbers, however, attacked the numerous Jews on the roads to Fez. Once they arrived there, they found a lack of accommodation and camped in the surrounding fields. About 20,000 of them died as a result of disasters, famine and diseases.

The newcomers (megorashim) were generally unwelcomed and treated badly. They were considered outsiders, even alien at times. However, they later on established their dominance and position and made Fez their spiritual capital. For the following 450 years these newcomers separated themselves by worshiping in their own synagogues and following their own rituals. They even had their own language which was a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic dialect. The native Jews adopted the newcomer’s way of life.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Portugal occupied some of the Moroccan coast on the shores of the Atlantic. Communities of megorashim had settled in ports such as Azemmour and Safi. Due to their excellence in trade and merchandizing, during the 16th and 17th century, Morocco became the leading producer of the world’s best sugar.

Moroccan Jews excelled in a variety of professions. In certain regions there were farmers and cattle breeders; in general, however, they were mostly craftsmen, small tradesmen, peddlers, and at times moneylenders. Some industries, such as that of beeswax, the trading of rubber and ostrich feathers were exclusively concentrated in the hands of the Jews. For religious reasons, the Muslims surrendered the arts of craftsmanship and trade of precious metals as well as the making of wine and its sale to them.

Until 1912, the majority of the maritime trade was controlled by a closed society of Jewish merchants. Businesses were passed down from father to son, some of them were court bankers or high officials. The reputation they gained led to European countries entrusting them with their interests and they often represented them before the sultan, hence obtaining the title of “merchants of the sultan.”

They had protégés over a large number of products, and held a monopoly over certain ports or took them in lease; however the majority of the Jewish population, suffered from poverty. The droughts which led to famine and the excessive taxes which were temporarily imposed on the communities from the 16th to the middle of the 18th century were the main cause of their poverty. Nevertheless, the misfortunes of one community did not affect the others. It became a common occurrence that while Jews died of hunger in Fez or were persecuted in Meknès, prosperity reigned in the Mellahs of Marrakesh and Jews ruled the town of Debdou.

During the 18th century, following the death of Moulay Ismail, the Jews were impoverished due to the imposed taxation in attempt to westernize Morocco. The Jewish villagers started to move to the urban centers changed the aspect of respectable Mellahs. The tree quarters of well-maintained Mellahs were transformed into slums and Jews started to flee and most sunk into poverty. Slowly the remaining Jews living in interior cities opted for port areas such as Safi and Rabat; furthermore, Marrakesh replaced Fez and Meknès as rabbinical centers. After this financial crisis, the next reigning sultan, Moulay Muhammad b. Abdallah, established security with the assistance of Jewish and Christian financial circles, an era of prosperity unknown in the north of the country reigned there. The community of Safi took over the leading place in the foreign trade of Morocco, while Agadir attained monopoly over the trading with the Sahara. These roles later became the privilege of the community of Essaouira, which was founded in 1764.

The operations of the big Jewish merchants in Morocco began to expand. Sugar production and trade were almost entirely focused in the hands of Jews. Commercial operations reached the ports of the eastern coast of the United States at the end of the 18th century. From the reign of Sidi Muhammad Ben-Abdallah (1757–90) down to the end of the 19th century, it was usually Jews who acted as representatives for the European Powers in Morocco. During the 19th century, they were much more prosperous; with new monarch Moulay Suleiman, violence was looked down upon. Not only that, but with the French Protectorate on 1912, the Jews had more power and monopoly over certain businesses.

Fast forward to the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the German occupation of France in 1940, and the establishment of the Vichy government rendered the Jews of Morocco (Morocco at the time was under France’s rule) powerless. In 1940, Nazi-controlled Vichy government issued decrees excluding Jews from public functions. Morocco was forced to issue these laws under France’s control and the Jews who sought sanctuary in Morocco were forced into labor camps. Morocco was not able to defy these laws until the fall of Vichy France with the help of Charles de Gaulle. After the establishment of Israel, the majority of Moroccan Jews moved there. Nowadays, the Jewish community still has an impact on our modern history as the adviser of our current king, Mohammed VI, is Andre Azoulay.

MELLAH
Wikipedia

A mellah (Arabic ملاح, probably from the word ملح, Arabic for "salt" or מלח, Hebrew for "salt" (both pronounced "melach") is a walled Jewish quarter of a city in Morocco, analogous to the European ghetto. Jewish population were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century.[1] It first was seen as a privilege and a protection against the Arabs' attacks in the region, but with the growing of the population, it then became a poor and miserable place. With the colonisation and the arrival of the Europeans at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Mellah opened and gave new economical and social possibilities to the Moroccan Jews.[2]

In cities, a mellah was surrounded by a wall with a fortified gateway. Usually, the Jewish quarter was situated near the royal palace or the residence of the governor, in order to protect its inhabitants from recurring riots since its inhabitants played a vital role in the local economy. In contrast, rural mellahs were separate villages inhabited solely by the JewS.

TODAY
World Jewish Congress   

DEMOGRAPHY

The Jews of Morocco represent a remnant of an ancient, thriving community that numbered more than a quarter of a million in 1956. Today (2016?) the largest community is in Casablanca, home to 5,000 Jews. There are small Jewish communities in Rabat (400), Marrakesh (250), Meknes (250), Tangier (150), Fez (150), and Tetuan (100). The Jews are generally descended from three different groups: Sephardim, Berber Jews, and Ashkenazim.

HISTORY

The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. There were Jewish colonies in the country before it became a Roman province. In 1391 a wave of Jewish refugees expelled from Spain brought new life to the community, as did new arrivals from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497. From 1438, the Jews of Fez were forced to live in special quarters called mellahs, a name derived from the Arabic word for salt because the Jews in Morocco were forced to carry out the job of salting the heads of executed prisoners prior to their public display.

The condition of the Jews did not improve until the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1912, when they were given equality and religious autonomy. However, during World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. By 1948 there were some 270,000 Jews in Morocco. In an atmosphere of uncertainty and grinding poverty, many Jews elected to leave for Israel, France, the United States, and Canada.

COMMUNITY

The major Jewish organization representing the community is the Conseil des Communautes Israelites in Casablanca. Its functions include external relations, general communal affairs, communal heritage, finance, maintenance of holy places, youth activities, and cultural and religious life. Today most members of the community belong to the upper middle class and enjoy a comfortable economic status.

The Jews no longer reside in the traditional Jewish mellahs, but intermarriage is almost unknown. The community has always been religious and tolerant, and religious extremism of any form never developed. The younger generation prefers to continue its higher education abroad and tends not to return to Morocco. Thus the community is in a process of aging.

CULTURE AND EDUCATION

In 1992 most of the Jewish schools were closed down and only those in Casablanca-the Chabad, ORT, Alliance, and Otzar Ha-Torah schools-have remained active.

RELIGIOUS LIFE

There are synagogues, mikvaot, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants in Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, Mogador, Rabat, Tetuan and Tangier. The Jewish community developed a fascinating tradition of rituals and pilgrimages to the tombs of holy sages. There are 13 such famous sites, centuries old, well kept by Muslims. Every year on special dates, crowds of Moroccan Jews from around the world, including Israel, throng to these graves. A unique Moroccan festival, the Mimunah, is celebrated in Morocco and in Israel.

ISRAEL

There are close ties between Israel and this Arab country, symbolized by the formal visit of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to Morocco immediately after signing the agreement with the PLO in 1993. Aliya: Since 1948, 295,833 Moroccan Jews have emigrated to Israel.

SITES

In addition to the Jewish communities, the major sites of pilgrimage for the Jewish traveler are the tombs of the holy sages, scattered around the country. The most popular are Rabbi Yehouda Benatar (Fez), Rabbi Chaim Pinto (Mogador), Rabbi Amram Ben Diwane (Ouezzan), and Rabbi Yahia Lakhdar (Beni-Ahmed).

Conseil des Communautes Israelites du Marcoc

Rue Abou Abdallah Al Mahassibi

Casablanca

Tel. 212 2 22 28 61, Fax. 212 2 26 69 53

Liason Office

52 Bne-Snassen, Souissi, Rabat

Tel. 212 7 734 747, Fax. 212 7 722 155

ALSO
Jimena   Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
JIMENA is dedicated to educating and advocating on behalf of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE AND EDUCATION IN MOROCCO
The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme,   Remembrance and Beyond Discussion Papers Series   By Elmehdi Boudra

MOROCCAN JEWS

Despite some fluctuations in tension that has marked the relations between Jews and Muslims in North Africa, in Morocco Jews and Muslims have historically enjoyed a relatively peaceful coexistence.  At the time of the Holocaust in Europe, Moroccan Jewry constituted the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world and the largest non-Ashkenazi Jewish community.

The roots of this community go back to antiquity and its number grew dramatically after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Many of these Jews found refuge in Morocco alongside with Muslim Andalusians who were also expelled from Spain by the Inquisition brought about by the Catholic Church. The local Jewish community was called the Toshavim and the Jews from Spain were called the Megorashim. The Megorashim and the Toshavim managed to merge as unique Sephardic traditional community. The two groups were living in the same neighborhoods (Mellah) around all cities in Morocco and many villages. During the Second World War, the Jewish population in Morocco reached 300,000.  

 Between 1948 and 1967 thousands of Jews migrated from Morocco to Israel, France, Canada, United States and South America, which significantly decreased the number of Jews in Morocco. Today, the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco does not exceed 4000 members (out of a population of 34 million inhabitants in Morocco). However, this active community remains one of the strongest Jewish communities in Arab countries and retains strong links with the one million jews of Moroccan descent around the world.

MOROCCO DURING THE HOLOCAUST

The unique bond between the Jewish and Muslim communities was highlighted during the Holocaust. During the Second World War Morocco was under occupation by the Vichy Government of France and the Franco regime of Spain. After the German occupation of France, the Vichy Government took power in France metropolitan and in its different colonies, mandates and protectorates. Morocco was under the protectorate of two fascist regimes: Spanish Franco regime in the North and South, and the Vichy regime in the center of the country. The Sultan Mohammed V was not free to take any decision without the consent of the Vichy Government.

Before Vichy took power in Morocco, the country opened its doors to Jews escaping from the Nazis and their allies. From the moment the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933 and until the end of the Second World War, many European Jews who escaped the Nazis were allowed to enter Morocco and settle primarily in Tangier, which had the status of an international city. For example, the Riechmann Family came from Hungary and settled in Tangier from the late 1930s until the 1950’s, after which they immigrated to Canada.

Many children and adults could enter Tangier especially thanks to few international diplomats, like the American J. Rives Childs, who had assisted 500 Jews from Hungary to enter Tangier. In other parts of Morocco during the Second World War the Vichy Government enforced harsh measures on the Jews. For example, Moroccan Jews were not allowed to live in the European part of the city but instead had to return to the old city and live in its overcrowded Jewish neighborhood (Mellah). Furthermore, many students were forced to quit French schools, and quotas were instituted on Jews that limited their numbers to a maximum of 10 per cent in high school and three per cent in universities. Many professions were also forbidden to Jews and their property was identified and included in a special list

While the Vichy Government clearly and intentionally discriminated against the Jews, the Muslims also suffered discrimination in many ways.  Moroccan natives were treated differently than the European ruling elites, which further enhanced their solidarity with the Jews.

For example, as stated by Simon Levy during the “Mohammed V Righteous among the Nations” conference, Moroccan(2011) Jews and Muslims were not allowed to enter to public swimming pools where Europeans were swimming. Those anti- Jewish laws in Morocco were published in the ‘Bulletin Officiel’ by the Vichy Government and were observed as State law

While the Vichy Government was enforcing new discriminatory laws in Morocco, Sultan Mohammed V expressed on many occasions his support for his Moroccan Jewish subjects against the regim

One such occasion can be found in a telegram retrieved by Haim Zafrani  in 1985 in the archives of the Quai d’Orsay. This official document entitled "Dissidence" was signed on 24 May 1941 by René Touraine, a civil servant in the French Residence of the Vichy Government in Rabat.

In this document Touraine mentions that the Sultan refused to apply Vichy laws in Morocco, as the Sultan claimed that he did not have Jews or Muslims as subjects but only Moroccan subjects. The telegram said: “Credible sources informed us that the relations between the Sultan of Morocco and the French authorities became much tenser the day the Residence put into application the decree of measures against the Jews despite the strict opposition of the Sultan. The Sultan refused to differentiate amongst his loyal people and he was offended to see that his authority was overtaken by the French authorities.”

The Sultan waited for the anniversary of his coronation to publicly announce that he forbade these measures against the Jews. On this occasion, the Sultan generally offered a banquet attended by the French representatives and eminent Moroccan personalities. For the first time, the Sultan invited to the banquet representatives of the Jewish community who were seated next to the French officials. He declared to the French officials, who were surprised by the presence of Jews at this meeting, “I absolutely do not agree with the new anti-Semitic laws and I refuse to associate myself with a measure I disagree with; I reiterate as I did in the past that the Jews are under my protection and I reject any distinction that should be made amongst my people”.

It was eventually only on 8 November 1942, with the landing of the American troops in Morocco and Algeria during Operation Torch, that action to end this discrimination could be taken.

LINKS

History of the Jews in Morocco   Wikipedia

Glimpsing Jewish memories amid the mellahs of Morocco   Hundreds of years of vibrant history are preserved among the colorful silver and spice souks of Marrakech and Fez (Times of Israel)

Jewish Morocco   Haruth Communications

A Brief Social History of the Jews in Morocco  Eliany Marc � 2009

The Jews of Morocco, by Ralph G. Bennett

The Mellah

Morocco Today   Revolvy

Kosher Delight


THE J E W S OF MOROCCO

SUMMARY

______________________________

















With about 280,000 Morocco had the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world before Moroccan independence in 1956,

Many communities had existed for several centuries, though some with Phoenician traders go back to hundreds of years before the Christian era. Tens of thousands of Jewish Spanish and Portuguese refugees came in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.  Only about 20,000 made it their new home, the remainder continuing on to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1907, the French found a pretext for full-scale invasion of Morocco when some Europeans in Marrakesh and Casablanca were killed. After 3,000 French troops occupied Casablanca, the mellah (a walled Jewish quarter of a city in Morocco, analogous to the European ghetto) was pillaged.

From 1907-1912, French and Spanish soldiers took control of increasingly large areas of the country. The French gained effective control over Morocco with Treaty of Fez in 1912, making most of Morocco a French protectorate. Spain gained control of Northwest Morocco.  In 1923 Tangier became an international zone.

Tensions associated with the Israeli-Arab War and the beginnings of Moroccan Jewish emigration to Israel contributed to two pogroms in the eastern towns of Oujda and Djerrada in June 1948.

Between the creation of Israel in 1948 and Morocco's independence in 1956, 90% of Moroccan Jews left the country mostly to Israel, Canada and France. There are now fewer than 7,000 most of whom live in  Casablanca, Rabat and Essaouira (Mogador). Worldwide there is a combined population of over a million Moroccan Jews.

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History

The Jewish Influence on Moroccan History

Mellah

Today

The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme,   Remembrance and Beyond Discussion Papers

References

Links

Moroccan Jewry
IsraelArchives (14.54)

The Moroccan Jews Heritage The Moroccan American Connexion  (5.05)

THE

INCREDIBLE

STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE


Click here to see a map and details of population change between
1948 and 2012