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August 22, 2022 8:42 pm

Jewish History Museum Inaugurated in Moroccan Port Town

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The Moroccan port city of Tangier. Photo: Mike McBey/CC BY 2.0

A museum dedicated to Jewish history and culture was inaugurated in the Moroccan port city of Tangier on Friday.

The new Beit Yehuda museum is housed in the Assayag synagogue, which was founded in 1890 and abandoned for more than 60 years before restoration plans were announced in 2021, Morocco World News reported.

Morocco’s Ministry of Culture financed the rehabilitation work, which cost 2 million Moroccan Dirhams (about $190,000), while the Jewish community donated funds to help build out the museum space.

Mohamed Mhidia, the wali or governor of the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, was among the local officials who took part in the inauguration, along with Omar Moro, the president of the regional council of Tangier. Also present was Serge Berdugo, secretary general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco.

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The Jewish community in Morocco dates back to pre-Roman times, and included some 270,000 people in 1948. The population shrunk significantly after Israel’s founding, with an estimated 2,000-3,000 Jews living in Morocco today. Casablanca is home to the country’s largest Jewish population, while less than 200 are believed to live in Tangier.

In July, King Mohammed VI endorsed a restructuring of the local Jewish community, including the establishment of foundation to safeguard its heritage and a commission dedicated to Moroccan Jews living abroad.

Rabat and Jerusalem established formal diplomatic relations in late 2020, months after Israel normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as part of the the Abraham Accords. They have a shared foe in Iran, with which Morocco cut diplomatic ties in 2018.

Shortly after normalization, Morocco announced that its students will be taught Jewish history and culture as part of their official school curriculum.

Ties have since strengthened, with Israel hosting a delegation of some 80 Moroccan business leaders in March, and the Israeli and Moroccan ministries of science and innovation signing a cooperation agreement at the closing of a bilateral business conference in May.

In March, Israel and the kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation, while Israeli representatives participated as observers in the 2022 “African Lion” exercise in Morocco for the first time this past June. The following month, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi visited Morocco with plans to discuss, in part, “knowledge-sharing, training, … weapons development, the transfer of know-how and perhaps also of weaponry,” according to an Israeli military spokesman.

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