The Moroccan government has created three public bodies to defend Judaism in Morocco and abroad

Around 2,000 Jews live in Morocco, in addition to the Mizrachi and Sephardic diasporas around the world

AFP PHOTO /HO/ PALACIO REAL DE MARRUECOS  -   King Mohammed VI during a visit to the "Bayt Dakira" (House of Memory) museum in the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira

The Moroccan government approved the creation of three state entities to guarantee the defence of Jewish worship and culture in Morocco. Following the Council of Ministers held on 13 July, and presided over by King Mohammed VI, this decision was taken, which strengthens Morocco's relations with Israel and promotes the multicultural character of the Moroccan kingdom. 

According to the Royal Palace spokesman's statement, the decision was taken at the request of the Ministry of the Interior, headed by Abdelouafi Laftit, which presented a report on the situation of the Jewish religion in Morocco, as well as a series of measures concerning it. 

According to the communication from the Royal Palace, it is the task of King Mohammed VI, in his capacity as 'Amir Al Mumini' (prince of believers), to ensure freedom of worship in Morocco and the well-being of religions in the kingdom. The Alawite Royal Court has a very important influence on religious affairs in Morocco. Ahmed Toufiq, one of the king's closest ministers, has headed the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs since 2002.

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   Un hombre reza en el interior de la sinagoga de la Mellah de la ciudad marroquí de Marrakech
AFP/FADEL SENNA - A man prays inside the Mellah synagogue in the Moroccan city of Marrakech


The three organisations that the Council of Ministers agreed to set up are the National Council of the Moroccan Jewish Community, the Commission of Moroccan Jews Abroad and the Foundation of Moroccan Judaism.

According to the Royal Palace's press release, the first institution "will ensure the management of the community's affairs, the safeguarding of its heritage, the cultural and religious influence of Judaism and its authentic Moroccan values. Regional committees, derived from the Council, will be responsible for managing the day-to-day issues and affairs of the members of the community". It is understood that this council will be the main body organising the worship of the more than 2,000 Jews living in Morocco in 2022. 

The second institution aims to "consolidate the ties of Moroccan Jews living abroad, to strengthen their cultural and worshipping influence and to defend the supreme interests of the Kingdom", an international relations tool to connect the Mizrahi and Sephardic diasporas with their country of origin.

Finally, the third organisation aims to promote the culture and heritage of the Jewish past in Morocco, "safeguarding its traditions and specificities", according to the press release. 

In 1945, Morocco had 175,000 Jews in the area administered by the French state, while 15,000 more lived in the Spanish Protectorate, according to data from the Berman Jewish Data Bank. Other estimates put the Jewish population in Morocco at 250,000 at the same time. 

AFP/FADEL SENA - Judíos marroquíes y turistas judíos israelíes celebran una ceremonia religiosa en una sinagoga de Marrachek el 12 de octubre de 2017
AFP/FADEL SENA - Moroccan Jews and Israeli Jewish tourists celebrate a religious ceremony at a synagogue in Marrakesh on October 12, 2017

After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish population began to decline due to the exodus of the Jewish people to the Levant. Gradually, the mellahs, Mizrahi neighbourhoods in Moroccan cities, emptied. In 1970, the Jewish population dropped to 45,000. From the 2010s onwards, there were no more than 2,500 according to the Berman Jewish Data Bank, 3,500 according to other Moroccan sources. It is estimated that by 1960, there were already more Moroccan Jews outside the kingdom than inside. 

This is why the diaspora is so important, says Myriem Khrouz, president of the Rabat-based Friends of Moroccan Judaism (AJM). "The creation of these three institutions strengthens the position of Jews in Morocco, but also builds a bridge to the third and fourth generations of Moroccan Jews abroad," Khrouz told Atalayar by telephone. His association, which promotes the preservation of Jewish heritage in Morocco, welcomes the decision of the Council of Ministers. 

For Khrouz, the Moroccan Jewish diaspora abroad has an important role to play in exploring Morocco's multicultural identity. "Synagogues must be opened and restored, not only for Jews," Khrouz stresses, "but for all Moroccans. It is a tool to fight radicalisation, sectarianism and anti-Semitism," concludes the president of the AJM. 

AP/ILLAN BEN ZION - Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, left, meets with Jewish community leaders during a visit to the Talmud Torah synagogue in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021

Khrouz herself is an example of the interest that Jewish history, heritage and culture have for the Moroccan people. Without being Jewish or of Hebrew descent, she is the president of one of the associations that is fighting hardest for Morocco's Jewish history. "It is the cultural heritage of all Moroccans," adds Khrouz, who, through the AJM, organises everything from seminars and university meetings focusing on Moroccan Jewish heritage to the restoration of synagogues in remote villages in the Atlas Mountains. 

The Abraham Accords signed by Morocco and which normalised its relations with Israel in 2020 were a boost to a long history of Moroccan intentions to reconnect with its Jewish past. As early as 1997, the opening of the first museum of Jewish culture in North Africa and the Arab world put Morocco at the forefront of anti-Semitism among its neighbours and allies. With the creation of the three new state councils, Morocco's willingness to strengthen the hand of interfaith relations with the Jewish people is further strengthened.