Hiloula (Pilgrimage Festival) of
Saint Rabbi Habib Mizrahi
|See the video (Windows Media streaming)|
In June 1992, I joined the Jewish
The sanctuary is part of the Jewish
cemetery. At one time, a large percentage of the village was Jewish, but
no Jews remain today. The
village inhabitants, all Muslim, welcomed the pilgrims to the sanctuary.
The sanctuary, built on a hill, holds
the tomb of the Rabbi in a narrow room.
It also has a courtyard and some meeting and prayer rooms.
The courtyard was decorated with the
photograph of King Hassan II and a picture of the Saint.
It also had the banner of the Marrakesh Jewish Community’s summer
camp, Camp Habad.
The tomb has Hebrew inscriptions.
It is a raised horizontal marble slab, with an iron stove at its
head. Candles floating on oil sit at the head of the tomb.
As part of their prayer, pilgrims lit
candles and put them in the stove. Men
and women bowed down before the tomb and some kissed it.
A Chazzan (cantor) chanted prayers.
Moroccan Government officials were
invited to visit the Hiloula. The Jewish Community welcomed them in the
traditional Moroccan way, providing them with milk and dates.
Later, men and women celebrated in
separate rooms with a festive lunch. The
men chanted prayers and piyutim,
liturgical poems. Many of them were written by Jews living in Andalucian Spain
prior to the 15th century expulsion of both Jews and Muslims.
Moroccan Jews have their own traditional melodies for the piyutim.
Jewish community leaders gave speeches
and collected money for the upkeep of the sanctuary.
To me, the hiloula showed the amazing commitment of the Jews of Marrakesh to expressing their Moroccan-Jewish identity. It also demonstrated the Moroccan Government’s commitment to affirming the right of Jews to practice their religion and traditions.