After an uneventful flight on an aging Royal Air Maroc plane, we arrived early this morning. Once settled at the hotel, we went out for a stroll, and ended up in the Ancienne Medina (the Old City). Wandering in the souk (market), my eye caught this sign (below) down a small alleyway, marking the home of a 19th century rabbinic scholar. It’s evidence of the long-standing relationship between Jews and Muslims here in Morocco. More about that tomorrow. The Jewish community here dates back 2000 years, and now includes descendants of Berber tribesmen who were attracted to Judaism. A second major wave of immigration – about 40,000 people – came from Spain with the retreating Muslims in the 1480’s. It should surprise no one that there was conflict between the original Jews and the new immigrants, and the separation between the two remains.
From a high of about 350,000, the current Jewish population of Morocco is 5000, of whom 3500 live in Casablanca. This city boasts 28 functioning synagogues, 6 kosher restaurants, 18 kosher butchers, a network of Jewish schools, and old-age home and more. I’ve been here only 14 hours, and I’m very impressed!