Moroccan caravan celebrates Jewish heritage in the country

Culture minister hails initiative; ended 26/2 in Casablanca

27 February, 17:28

    (by Virginia Di Marco) (ANSAmed) ROME, FEBRUARY 27 - The fourth annual three-day caravan to celebrate Judeo-Moroccan heritage ended on Wednesday on arriving in Casablanca. The initiative, which made stops in Ifrane and Fes as well, aimed to raise awareness about the history and traditions of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. There are some 8,000 Moroccan Jews living in the country today, compared with between 250,000 and 350,000 prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel. The caravan was 'driven' by the Moroccan association Mimouna, which was founded in 2007 by two Muslim students and now operates in numerous cities across the country. From its very name it shows a declaration of intent: 'mimouna' is the name of a holiday observed by Jewish Moroccans the day after Pesah (Jewish Easter) that celebrates the return of leavened food after the Easter week without it. The celebration of Judeo-Moroccan heritage is only half of what Mimouna aims to do: the other, more important goal is to raise tolerance especially among the youth, reminding them that Morocco has a ''plural identity'' and that the country is ''proud and strong because of the diversities it contains within it'', said the association's director, El Mehdi Boudra.

    Fes's Jewish community, the Casablanca Jewish Museum and the University of Ifrane also helped with the organizing of the caravan. Culture Minister Mohammed Amine Sbihi praised the initiative, underscoring the need to promote and make the most of Judeo-Moroccan heritage.

    Several intellectuals, academics and film directors have recently taken up this aim as well, including history professor Kamal Hachkar, a Moroccan who has gained French citizenship, who in returning to his family's Berber village discovered traces of a Jewish community still present in the memories of the elderly inhabitants, but which the young are entirely ignorant of. In 2013, the documentary 'Tinghir-Jerusalem, Echoes from the Mellah' reconstructed both the coexistence in the village prior to the Jews' departure and the life of Jews after their progressive mass transfer to to Israel between the 1950s and the 1960s, amid Zionist trends and encouragement by the Jewish Agency. This is where history mingles with politics. Hachkar and others who - like him - want to recover the history of Jews in Morocco come up against accusations of wanting to 'normalize' relations with the State of Israel. ''But the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with film,'' the professor and film director told ANSAmed during the presentation of his film in Italy. ''If the Jews of Tinghir had settled in Papua New Guinea, I would have gone to Papua New Guinea. Some attacks are exploited for specific ends and made by pan-Arabists and Islamists who, in reality, have never lifted a finger to help Palestinians.'' (ANSAmed).

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