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
THE ROLE OF JEWS IN MOROCCAN SOCIETY
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.