Welcome to Rabat

Jewish participation in Moroccan society goes back a very long way. When the Arabs arrived in the 9th century, many Jews were silversmiths. When the Arabs arrived, they introduced gold, and the silversmiths became goldsmiths. Thanks to their metalworking abilities, they were commissioned to mint the money. When they asked what symbol should be on the back, they were told, “something lucky,” so they put the magen David, the six-pointed star. This “lucky symbol” was part of the Moroccan flag until the French colonialists insisted on removing it. Today the flag has a five-pointed star, representing the pillars of Islam

Under most – though not all- Moroccan dynasties, Jews have fared well, or at least better than in other Arab countries. The Jewish quarter in most cities, the melah, was next to the palace. Here in the capitol, Rabat, the area still exists, but all of the city’s 110 Jews live in a newer part of town, near their synagogue.

During WW II, Morocco fell under the collaborationist Vichy government. The Nazis had two labor camps built near Rabat to gather Jews, and they delivered a shipment of yellow stars. King Mohammed V was told that they were for his Jewish citizens. He said, “we have no Jewish citizens; in our country we have only Moroccans.” When pressed further he said, “however many yellow stars you have, make fifty more for me and my family.” The Jews of Morocco never wore stars, and none were deported. His grandson, Mohammed VI requires school children to learn about the Holocaust, and students in Casablanca visit the Jewish museum (the only one in any Arab country) to learn of the 2000 year-old Jewish presence. We made that visit today, and saw artifacts from 62 different communities, including a Torah scroll from an 1100 year-old synagogue in the Sahara!
All this evidence of Jewish-Muslim co-existence gives me hope that one day it could be recreated throughout the Middle East.

Author: Rabbi