Peace between Morocco and Israel Has Aided in the Preservation of Ancient Documents

In 2020—in the wake of the Abraham Accords—Jerusalem and Rabat agreed to normalize diplomatic relations. Besides the various economic and strategic benefits, the move has also helped efforts to study the remains of Jewish life in two oasis villages in southern Morocco. Melanie Lidman explains:

Deep in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco’s Sahara Desert, an abandoned mudbrick synagogue was in the process of slowly crumbling, its roof caving and columns teetering, when, in 2020, it was rediscovered by a group of Israeli and Moroccan researchers. Antiquities thieves had already ransacked the former house of prayer, searching for anything of value and scattering sacred Jewish texts that had been buried in the genizah, a repository for old or unusable holy texts.

To salvage and study what remained, the group of researchers started the process of obtaining permits to start an archaeological dig at the synagogue. The Israeli researchers—as usual—played down affiliations with their home universities. But in December of 2020, Israel and Morocco normalized relations as part of the Abraham Accords. This was a boon for Israeli researchers who, having worked in Morocco in an unofficial capacity for years, could now formalize their academic relationships and pursue joint research projects—such as excavating and preserving the synagogue.

The genizahs [found in this synagogue and in that of another nearby village] have led to a number of interesting discoveries, including that both villages were likely workshops for writing all sorts of magical, kabbalistic charms to protect women in childbirth, children, or elderly people. Other documents included letters from rabbis to various communities dating from the 17th and 18th centuries until the 1950s, and legal land documents between Jews and their Muslim neighbors.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abraham Accords, Archaeology, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco, Synagogues


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount