Searching for Traces of Jewish History in the Moroccan Desert

March 29 2023

Following the restoration of diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Rabat in 2020, Israeli, Moroccan, and French archaeologists have been working to uncover and preserve the country’s Jewish historical artifacts. Kaouthar Oudrhiri reports:

Akka, a lush green valley of date palms surrounded by desert hills some 525 kilometers (325 miles) south of the capital Rabat, was once a crossroads for trans-Saharan trade. Within the oasis, tucked away in the middle of the mellah, or Jewish quarter, of the village of Tagadirt, lie the ruins of the synagogue—built from earth in the architectural tradition of the area. While the site has yet to be dated, experts say it is crucial to understanding the Judeo-Moroccan history of the region.

Dating back to antiquity, the Jewish community in Morocco reached its peak in the 15th century, following the brutal expulsion of Sephardi Jews from Spain. By the early 20th century, there were about 250,000 Jews in Morocco. But after waves of departures with the creation of Israel in 1948, including following the 1967 Six-Day War, the number was slashed to just 2,000 today.

[In the course of a day], archaeologists amass a small trove of manuscript fragments, amulets, and other objects discovered under the bimah, a raised platform in the center of the synagogue where the Torah was once read. . . . Among the artifacts unearthed and meticulously catalogued by the team are commercial contracts and marriage certificates, everyday utensils, and coins

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Israel-Arab relations, Jewish history, Moroccan Jewry, Synagogues

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan