The Southern Oases

         A Jewish Cemetery in Erfoud                       
Rabbi Israel, Abehassera, known as 
Baba Sale, who was born in the Tafilalet.
He moved to Israel in 1963. A large hilloula  
   takes place at his tomb in Netivot, Israel
  South of the High Atlas Mountains is the region of Ouarzazate, where Berber Jews lived in fortified cities and towns. In the mountains north of Ouarzazate is the saint David Oumouchy. South of Ouarzazate, Jews were once a major presence in the oases of the Draa Valley, especially in the town of Agdz. There are legends that the Jews controlled a kingdom in this valley before the arrival of the Arabs. East of Ouarzazate is the Dades Valley, where the Jewish Perez family from Andalucia made its home beginning in the 16th century. Tinerir, at the mouth of the Todhra Gorge, is believed to have one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Morocco.

East of Tinerir is the Ziz Valley and Tafilalet region, where Jews lived and financed the caravan trade with Sub-Saharan Africa from as early as the eighth century. Errachidia is a town surrounded by dozens of ksour, or fortified villages, where Jews once coexisted with Berber tribes. Erfoud was the major Jewish population center of the Tafilalet, where Jews worked as merchants and artisans as late as the twentieth century. The Jewish cemetery is sandy but otherwise well-preserved. South of Erfoud are the ruins of Sijilmassa, the first town founded by the Arabs in Morocco. Beginning in the eighth century, Sijilmassa became an important intellectual and commercial center for both Jews and Arabs.  The near-by town of Rissani is the ancestral home of the ruling Alaouite dynasty, and contains the mausoleum of the dynasty's founder, Moulay Ali Charif. The fortified towns and villages of the area are striking examples of how Jews lived for centuries with the Arabs of the region. The Jewish cemetery is unenclosed, facing the walls of the town.


A visit to "Jewish Morocco" will provide tremendous insights into the development of modern Morocco as well as a better understanding of the role of Jews within Islamic societies. The visitor will truly understand why Morocco is looked upon with nostalgia by its diaspora Jewish community.