Chief Rabbi Monsenegro delivers a 

speech in front of a picture of King 

Mohamed VI, when he was the Crown Prince.

Counting the Votes for the Jewish Community 

Council's Elections 

Tangier, 1982

Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archives

Courtesy of Gladis Pimienta, Jerusalem

  The Arabs came to Morocco from the Middle East to extend both their power and their religion over the land. While some Jewish Berber tribes converted, many Jews refused to give up their religion. Over time, the majority of Jews moved from rural areas to Arab-controlled towns and cities, where they fell under the protection of the Sultans. As Sultans tried to extend their power over rural Berber tribes, occasionally the tribes would attack the cities, using Jews as scapegoats for their problems. In general, however, Arabs and Jews developed mutually-supportive roles within urban society, although they lived clearly in separate cultural worlds.

Under Islam, Jews were considered dhimmis, a protected but disdained people. Within certain limits, Islamic law allows the free exercise of Judaism and gives Jews the right to practice their traditions, hold property, govern their community and enforce their own civil law system. Under the rules governing  dhimmis, Jews must recognize Islamic sovereignty, show respect for Islam, exercise their religion discretely, refrain from proselytizing, pay special taxes and wear special clothing. These rules were rarely applied to the letter, although they remained the law until the French made Morocco a Protectorate in 1912.

To the Jewish community, the Sultan was its salvation. By paying heavy taxes, the community secured its right to practice Judaism and live in peace. At times, almost 50 percent of government revenues came from Jews. In some ways, Jews lived in greater security than Muslims. They had less danger of individual persecution, although their neighborhoods were occasionally pillaged. They also were able to gain access to the authorities and obtain justice more easily than Muslims. However, while many Sultans treated Jews with a great deal of tolerance, Jews often experienced strong pressure to convert to Islam.

Together, Jews and Muslims rode the cycles of Moroccan history. Typically, there was a calm period, characterized by a sense of ease, security and even prosperity for much of the population. When a ruler's claim to power was challenged by competing claimants to the Throne, the country often would be thrown into chaos, when no one could live in security. Jews, however, would be more vulnerable than Muslims to attacks. Once a new ruler established his authority, both Jews and Muslims would attempt to regain their previous living standards. Under these circumstances, many Jews were reduced to poverty and could not escape.                                                                                               
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