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Morocco opens the Arab world's first synagogue inside a university campus

The University of Marrakech UPM6, in the presence of several personalities from the Jewish world, inaugurated the synagogue with tolerance as its headline
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

"It is proof of our country's tolerance. The rector called me and said, 'Gabriel, we need a synagogue, because we already have a mosque', so we built this synagogue," Gabriel Malka, dean of the faculty of medicine at the Mohamed 6 Polytechnic University of Marrakech, explained to the cameras in all simplicity. 
The Moroccan, originally from Fez and who returned to Morocco after a career in France, was one of the personalities responsible for inaugurating the first synagogue in Morocco to be built inside a university campus. Not only in Morocco, but also in the Arab world. According to the promoters of this initiative, none of the countries with a majority Muslim population has a Jewish temple inside a university campus. 

Morocco was already a pioneer in opening the first museum in the Arab world and North Africa dedicated to Jewish culture, and now it is once again the first to celebrate a new stage of relations with the State of Israel.

The inauguration took place with the installation of the mezouzah at the entrance of the new synagogue. In addition to Dean Gabriel Malka and a large group of curious students, the Mimouna association, a group of Moroccan students dedicated to the preservation of Jewish heritage in Morocco, Jacky Kadosh, representative of the Jewish community of Marrakech, and Elie Abadie, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the United Arab Emirates, participated.

From the government and civil society, Morocco devotes intense efforts to preserve and maintain what remains of Jewish culture in the country. In diplomatic terms, this has culminated in Morocco's accession to the Abraham Accords and the normalisation of relations with Israel. 

There are no more than 2,500 resident Jews left in Morocco, according to the numbers kept by the associations.  There were many more in the past, before the great migrations that began with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947. Morocco was then home to the largest Jewish population in North Africa, which was later divided between Canada, Israel and France. 

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 Marrachek on October 12, 2017

Peace with its past and with Jewish culture has become an important tool for Moroccan diplomacy, which has always held its diaspora in high regard. The Moroccan constitution maintains nationality, albeit without administrative process, on the basis of a strong principle of Ius Sanguinis, i.e. hereditary nationality by blood. 

Through these efforts to revitalise an important cultural legacy left by the Sephardic and Mizrahi population in Morocco, relations with Israel have grown by leaps and bounds since 2020. From defence cooperation to investment in industry and tourism. 

In 2017, the Moroccan government has already largely restored Marrakesh's mellah, the city's Jewish quarter. Now only inhabited by some 300 elderly people, it has become one of the attractions of Morocco's tourism capital. In its heyday, an estimated 50,000 Jews populated the Marrakesh mellah.