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Jewish and Muslim peaceful co-existence in Morocco

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There is no doubt that Morocco occupies a strategic position in its region. It sits on the crossroads of many cultures, religions, and civilizations and has, through centuries, become a true melting pot of many ways of life. Because of this mixing of cultures, Moroccans have acquired the ability to live alongside individuals and communities holding different beliefs from the official and majoritarian Sunni Islam, in some cases fully integrating them into the national community. Jewish presence in Morocco is as old as the country itself, even though, in the aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, there was a significant migration of Morocco’s Jewish citizens to Israel.
Jewish communities are documented as having been present since 70 AD, all over Morocco, in villages, towns, and cities, and lived on commerce, trade and finance. Because of their experience in international trade, Moroccan sultans often appointed Moroccan Jews as their financial and commercial agents. A good example of interfaith dialogue in Morocco can be witnessed in the city of Sefrou, situated 30 kilometres south of the spiritual capital Fez. In Sefrou, both Muslims and Jews lived in good harmony door-to-door and practised their religious rituals in unison, to the extent that it was difficult to tell what was Islamic and what was Jewish. What is more, both communities considered holy a burial site in a grotto in a neighbouring mountain.
It was named “the grotto of the faithful,” and times of worship in this site were equally allocated. The example of Sefrou, known by the name of “Little Jerusalem” because of its large Jewish population in the first part of the 19th century, is not unique in its kind in Morocco. It is found in other places, like Debdou, Azrou, Fez, Rabat, Meknes, Marrakesh, Essouira, and Tangier. Jews were considered full Moroccans and, as such, enjoyed the full rights and obligations of their Muslim co-citizens. Morocco remained true to its multifaith identity and to the longstanding peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Jews even during the Second World War, when the country was a French protectorate and Nazi-occupied France wanted to prosecute Moroccan Jews.
King Mohammed the V, in fact, resisted the order and called for the prosecution of all Moroccans if this were to happen, on the ground that there was no difference among his people, whose safety he was responsible for.

Here we discuss the historical peaceful coexistence of Muslim and Jewish communities in Morocco and their sharing of religious and cultural heritage in the city of Sefrou.

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