Morocco the Land of Tolerance and Coexistence
Morocco has many examples of coexistence between religions. Near universal acceptance of religious traditions is a hallmark of Moroccan society, and this is one of the human values rooted in Morocco’s people and its leadership.
The complete integration of Morocco’s Jewish community is of particular note.
Followers of Judaism have been unceasingly present in the area encompassing modern Morocco for 2500 years. This community has been instrumental in increasing both the foreign trade and the wealth of Morocco through the gold and spice trade over the centuries. During the 1930 and 1940s, the Jewish population in Morocco reached its zenith of 250,000 to 300,000 inhabitants. Even though the Vichy government demanded the exportation of all people of Jewish descent to Europe, Mohamed V resisted the demands to hand over the Jews to the Nazis. “There are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslim citizens,” he told the Nazi regime. “They are all Moroccans.” Not a single Moroccan Jew went to the camps.
Following the second world war, Jews emigrated in a mass exodus from the French Protectorate. Most settled in Israel, but many moved far abroad.
Like his father, King Hassan II took a deep interest in the Jewish Community. He most notably took the lead role in arbitrating and seeking solutions to the Arab/Israeli wars of the 1960s and 1970s.
The son of Hassan II and the current monarch, King Mohamed VI, has the most meaningful relationship with the Jewish Community in Morocco. Although that community has dwindled to just a few thousand throughout Morocco (primarily due to immigration to Israel), that community is fully integrated and welcomed by the larger Islamic community as brother and sister Moroccans.
Mohamed VI initiated many programs to ensure the survival of the Jewish legacy in Morocco. Notable among these is the multi million-dollar 2010 Houses of Life program to rehabilitate and protect the 167 Jewish graveyards in Morocco.
Another is to keep close and important Jewish advisors to his government. These advisors are more than cultural window dressing; they are also part of Morocco’s financial and economic well-being. Most notable among these is Mr. Andre Azoulay, who first served as a counselor to King Hassan II, but now is the senior advisor to King Mohamed VI. Mr. Azoulay is an internationally recognized financial expert and peace builder.
- Azoulay personally launched an important project in partnership with Morocco’s culture ministry in his hometown, Morocco’s coastal city of Essaouira. He restored an old home of a wealthy trader as the “House of Memory.”
The restored building “testifies to a period when Islam and Judaism had an exceptional closeness, complicity, and intimacy,” said Mr. Azoulay. It contains artifacts of Moroccan Jewry, art, architecture, a synagogue, and a research center. King Mohamed VI officially visited the site to honor the achievement and his friend, Mr. Azoulay.
King Mohamed VI has also honored the Jewish community by endowing it with institutions such as the National Council of the Moroccan Jewish Community, the Commission of Moroccan Jews Abroad, and the Foundation of Moroccan Jewry. All this speaks to King Mohamed VI’s genuine interest in promoting inter-faith dialogue and understanding.
The tangible manifestations of this priority by King Mohamed VI are everywhere.
Last year, A Moroccan university inaugurated the first campus synagogue in the Arab world. Beit El Synagogue (in Hebrew) and Beit Allah (in Arabic) at the Mohamed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakesh. The new synagogue was built alongside a new campus mosque. The side-by-side houses of worship share a wall as a further symbol of religious unity and interdependence.
In the 2011 constitution of Morocco, the nation acknowledged Judaism’s role in Moroccan history at King Mohamed Vi’s insistence. The preamble states: “[Morocco’s] unity is forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamist, Amazigh, and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic, and Mediterranean influences.”
In 2020, King Mohamed VI led the Arab world in re-normalizing relations with Israel by re-opening its liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv and moving on a path to establishing diplomatic relations “without delay.”
As of 2017, according to The Economist, “No Arab country has gone to the lengths of Morocco to revive its Jewish heritage.” The country has restored 110 synagogues and has the Arab world’s only Jewish Museum. More than 50,000 Israelis visit Morocco annually.
The happiness of Morocco’s remaining Jewish subjects bespeaks testament to the warm and friendly environment Morocco has under the leadership of King Mohamed VI.
The government and the palace both profess indistinguishable love and respect for all Moroccan subjects, regardless of their religious traditions – a model for all countries in the world.
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