Migration of Moroccan Jews to Israel–by Shanel

There were two main migrations of Moroccan Jews to Israel. The first group were those who were inspired to . The second were those who were inspired to live in the country of which their brothers fought for.

There was a rise of French influence in Morocco at the beginning of the 20th century. This encouraged Moroccan Jews to integrate into French culture by enrolling in French schools, and receiving a French. The AIU, Alliance Israelite Universelle, sought to de-orientalize the Jewish communities by building modern schools throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe (Gottreich, 9). When the Vichy laws came into effect, anti Jewish laws aimed at degrading and depriving Jews of citizenship in 1940, they started forbidding Jews from attending French schools. This turn of events inspired the Jewish Zionist Movement  in Morocco to encourage the Jews of Morocco to leave their homeland and migrate to Israel. Many did migrate and fought alongside other Jews in the War of Independence.

After the establishment of Israel, the conditions for Jews living in Morocco worsened. There was an increase in terrorism in the country, along with hostile attitudes towards the Jews by local populations. On June 7, 1948, a riot broke out against the Jews in a city called Oujda, in northeast Morocco. A mob armed with axes and knives gathered at shuk al Yahud, which was the Jewish market in Oujda, and killed five people. Four were Jewish and one was a Frenchman. Police eventually gained control over the event and the crowd dispersed. The second violent event that took place was in a coal mining town called Jaradah. There, a group of Muslims gathered; armed with weapons, and spread a rumor that a Jew murdered a Muslim . The mood changed very quickly and a terrible massacre occurred, murdering thirty-eight Jews. The murders reached a total of 44 people that day, and another 55 were wounded by Arabs in the cities of Jaradah and Oujda, of French Morocco. The shops and homes of Jews were robbed as a result of these riots. The French military court put thirty-five Arabs on trial in Casablanca after the massacre. The emigration rate of Moroccan Jews increased after these incidences.

When the once-exiled sultan of Morocco, Mohammed V, returned and Morocco was declared as an independent state in 1956, the Jews received full rights. Due to the prohibition of immigration  to Israel by the Arab league in 1959, Jews from Morocco immigrated illegally by means of the underground Jewish organization in Morocco. When emigration was finally legalized in 1963, 100,000 Moroccan Jews reached Israel.

Said Ghallab, a Moroccan writer, describes here the attitude of Muslims toward their Jewish neighbors in 1965:

“The worst insult that a Moroccan could possibly offer was to treat someone as a Jew….My childhood friends have remained anti-Jewish. They hide their virulent anti-Semitism by contending that the State of Israel was the creature of Western imperialism….A whole Hitlerite myth is being cultivated among the populace. The massacres of the Jews by Hitl er are exalted ecstatically. It is even credited that Hitler is not dead, but alive and well, and his arrival is awaited to deliver the Arabs from Israel.” (Jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

As striking as this description of how the Muslims  in Morocco felt toward the Jews at that time, King Hassan tried to change this mindset. He tried to protect the Jewish population, and in 1999 after his death, former president Chaim Weizman  of Israel referred to him as a “true partner in the peace process .” (Sedan, Jweekly) Currently, Morocco has one of the most tolerant environments for Jews in the Arab world. Jews who previously left Morocco, even those with Israeli citizenship, are able to freely visit friends and relatives in Morocco. Moroccan Jews have even held leading positions in the business community and government.


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