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    Jewish Morocco Revisited

    09 Jul 2018

    I recently visited the modern-day kingdom of Morocco. Our group included successful individuals from the world of finance and business, active leaders on the American political scene advocating for strong US-Israel relationships and philanthropists for a host of Jewish and Israeli institutions.

    We stayed in palatial hotels, feasted on gourmet Moroccan kosher cuisine, enjoyed a Shabbat with the community of Marrakesh and met with the highest echelon of leaders of the contemporary Jewish community.

    Throngs of Jewish tourists from around the globe have made Morocco a primary vacation destination. This phenomenon only began roughly 10 years ago, parked by the enormous initiative of King Mohammed VI to restore Morocco’s ancient mellahs (Jewish quarters), its historic synagogues and burial sites.

    We were amazed to discover the incredible admiration of Morocco’s modern-day monarchy for its historic Jewish community, which dates back to the first century. We discovered how remarkably invested the current monarch is in restoring and revitalizing all of the remnants of Morocco’s Jewish past and present. In particular, there is an emphasis on reopening the sites where Morocco’s multitudinous rabbinic sages and saints are buried, as places of prayer and tribute.

    From the moment we touched down in Mohammed V Airport, we became aware of the benevolent attitude the current Alawite dynasty has had in venerating and protecting its Jews, past and present. It was Mohammed V, the grandfather of the current king, who courageously protected his community of 300,000 Jewish subjects from deportation and death in Europe’s crematoria.

    In 1941, the Nazis and their Vichy French subordinates took control of Morocco, which had been a French protectorate in 1912. They sought to impose their plans for the Final Solution onto this largest community of the Sefardic diaspora. As our ebullient and erudite Jewish tour guide, Rafi Elmaliach (author of Jews Under the Muslim Sky) recounted how the Nazis came prepared with 100,000 yellow Jewish stars and demanded that the king provide them with a list of his Jewish subjects. King Mohammed V refused, saying, “There are no Jews in Morocco, there are only Moroccans, and all of them are my subjects. And if you have prepared these Jewish stars, please prepare another 50 for me and all the members of my royal family. And wherever you presume to take them, take us as well.”

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