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February 15, 2013 12:57 am

Morocco Restores Ancient Synagogue in Nod to Jewish Heritage

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The old Jewish quarters in Essaouira, Morocco. Photo: World Imaging/Wikimedia Commons.

Morocco held a ceremony on Wednesday to inaugurate the completion of renovations to an ancient Jewish synagogue in the historic city of Fez.

The two-year restoration of the Slat al-Fassiyine (Prayer of the Fesians) synagogue was part-financed by Germany. The ceremony included Morocco’s Islamist prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, as well as German parliament speaker Norbert Lammert, according to Global Post.

In addition, a Jewish former Moroccan Minster Serge Berdugo spoke as well. Israel and Morocco do not have formal diplomatic relations.

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The restoration of the ancient synagogue in Fez, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is part of a larger effort by Morocco to come to terms with its Jewish community.  The new constitution that was adopted in 2011 amid the Arab Spring recognized Morocco’s Jewish heritage.

“As is enshrined in the Kingdom’s new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity,” read King Mohammed VI’s message to the inauguration ceremony, Agence Marocaine De Presse (MAP) reported.

The King added that he wishes for the restoration of all synagogues in Moroccan cities so that they can “serve as places of worship…and as forums for cultural dialogue.”

Morocco was home to over 250,000 Jews during the first half of the 20th century. But amid the establishment of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, many Jews fled or were forced from their homes throughout the Middle East. Today, Morocco’s Jewish community is estimated to be around 3,000.

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  • david

    Morocco still the open minded arab country

    • Jerry Hersch

      There are many ‘Moroccos’-The cosmopolitan educated Morocco- cultural ties in both Morocco and Europe.There is the Morocco of the city masses-poor and largely uneducated..Four Moroccan cities have over one million residents
      And the Morocco of the villages and farms-about 40% of Morocco is considered not urban.
      Beset by poverty and a 20+ % unemployment rate it also has a deep and deepening cultural divide..
      Arab -Berber
      About 1/3 of the population remains “pure” Berber. the other 2/3 is an Arab-Berber mix.
      There is Berber resentment of Arab culture and its destruction of Berber institutions and way of life.
      There is a strong appreciation of Palestinian aspirations in every community -but also an appreciation of Jewish contributions to Morocco along with an undercurrent of chagrin as to the treatment of Jews by some segments of the nation.
      There are in Israel a few thousand Berber speaking Jews.Before the Arab conquest there were Berber tribes that were Jewish..this was the extreme end of the Jewish world on the globe…and Jews as did other Berbers give women great power.At least one Jewish Berber tribe was led by a woman.
      I have many friends in the Moroccan Berber community-and they express a wide gamut of worldview.

  • Jerry Hersch

    Fez is still home to 200-300 Jews…it was the home of Maimonides for a number of years..beyond that many in the Fez area,actually throughout much of the central Atlas Mountain range,claim a distant Jewish ancestry.
    This six-pointed star flag

    And the flag of the Rif Rebellion : Crescent and 6-pointed star

  • F Callen

    And WTF were the Germans doing there??

  • Blaise

    This shows the hypocracy of Arabs. They restore a Synagogue but let the Mellah (Jewish Quarter) in Essaouira rot. The restoration of the Fez Synagogue is just a propaganda stunt.

    • Gad

      What for to restore it as no body lives there! or they have to restore it only for the fact that one day some jews were living there? let s be more reasonable!