Searching for Traces of Jewish History in the Moroccan Desert

March 29, 2023 | Kaouthar Oudrhiri
About the author:

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 on Times of Israel: