Gathering of Casablanca Jewish Community leaders with the Governor of Settat during the Hiloula of the Saint Rabbi Yahia Lakhdar in Ben Ahmed


The Arab Governor signing the Jewish Community Book,

Tetuan, 1956.

Standing (second from right) Jacob Serfaty, 

Chairman of the Community Council

Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive

courtesy of Elias Bendriham, Tangier 

by Gladis Pimienta, Jerusalem



Morocco is the only country in the Arab World both rich in Jewish history and with a living Jewish community. Both Jewish and non-Jewish tourists have delighted in its ancient walled cities, thriving markets, and sumptuous feasts. With a little effort, the tourist interested in the Jewish heritage of Morocco can discover hundreds of fascinating historical and spiritual sites. A visit to "Jewish" Morocco is a lesson in the potential for Jewish-Muslim coexistence. Only through seeing Morocco through Jewish eyes can one understand the deep attachment of the Moroccan Jewish diaspora to their homeland.


Jews have been a vital part of Moroccan society ever since they arrived over 2,000 years ago. Each time a new people extended their power over Morocco, Jews were called upon to carry out important commercial, financial and diplomatic functions. For this reason, Moroccan Jews generally felt "at home" in their country and welcomed Jewish refugees from other countries into their communities, except during periods of insecurity.

Moroccan leaders have shown a special interest in assuring the security of the Jewish community. When Jews were used as scapegoats for complaints against government abuse, the authorities took strong steps to protect them from attack. By guaranteeing the safety of the Jews, Moroccan leaders believed they were contributing to the stability of their regimes.

Berbers, Arabs and Jews are the peoples that together have built Morocco. The Berbers are believed to have migrated to Morocco from the Middle East over 3,500 years ago. Prior to the Arab conquest in the eighth century, several Berber tribes converted to Judaism. Once Arabs populated Moroccan cities, Jews played an important role in commerce between them and the Berbers.  Jewish traders were rarely harmed, and even in times of instability, they were able to use their special relationships with Berber leaders to travel safely.

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