Jewish Cemeteries: When Tombstones Tell the Story of Moroccan ‘Co-existence’

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Recognized as a model of co-existence and mutual respect between the different components of its national identity, Morocco is replete with monuments which remind of the different faiths that have lived side by side in peace.

The Jewish funerary heritage is a perfect illustration of the Moroccan exception and an irrefutable proof of the climate of cohabitation that prevails in the Kingdom. Jewish cemeteries illustrate the depth of the geographical, historical, spiritual and cultural roots of Moroccan Judaism.

By their geographical distribution and the value ascribed to them by both Jewish and Muslim citizens, these cemeteries bear witness to a prolonged existence, built on the specificities of the Jewish community and evolving in peace and stability.

From this perspective, these “Houses of the Living” or “Beth Ha Hayim”, as they are called in Jewish tradition, have an undeniable historical and spiritual value, since they retrace the history of several families and illustrious men who have contributed, in one way or another, to the construction of the Moroccan identity.

In that regard, David Tolédano, president of the Jewish community in Rabat, gave the example of Rabat and Salé, which are home to important and ancient sites with great historical value.

“Starting with the Salé cemetery, there is a very important saint, Rabbi Raphael Encaoua, who was the first president of the chambers of the Rabbinical Court of Morocco and was recognized by his peers as a great scholar and a great righteous man,” Tolédano told MAP.

“In Rabat, there are two cemeteries. The very old one is located in the city center and the other on the road to Casablanca, next to the Christian cemetery, which is more modern,” he added.

According to Tolédano, numerous sites house the resting places of great wise elders, making them places imbued with spirituality intended for meditation, community rituals and pilgrimage, thereby promoting meetings of celebration and piety bringing together Moroccan communities from all over the world.”

“Wherever they live, Moroccan citizens of Jewish faith keep their origins and their respect for their parents and ancestors. This is why they regularly come to Morocco,” he added.

This geographical distribution, “shows this presence of Jews everywhere in the country, in the big cities but also in rural areas and the most remote places of the Kingdom.”

“What is still extraordinary in our country is that all populations have naturally protected these cemeteries and no tomb has ever been destroyed or violated, as we have seen elsewhere,” Tolédano said.

He also praised the mobilization of Muslim authorities and citizens in favor of the program “Rehabilitation of Jewish cemeteries in Morocco”, launched in 2010 at the initiative of HM King Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful.

Through this program and many others Morocco has, once again, revived a rich heritage that is an integral part of its identity, confirming its reputation as a land of living together par excellence.

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