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Moroccan Jews in Israel are immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Moroccan Jewish communities who now reside within the state of Israel. Approximately 1 million Israeli Jews have at least partial family origin from Morocco[2][1], making them the second-largest diaspora group after the Russian Jews in Israel.

Moroccan Jews in Israel
Total population
1,000,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya and many other places
Languages
Hebrew (Main language for all generations);
Older generation: Moroccan Arabic; Judeo-Moroccan Arabic; Moroccan French; Moroccan Ladino
Religion
Judaism

Contents

HistoryEdit

Before the Establishment of the State of Israel, The rising French influence in Morocco at the beginning of the 20th century encouraged Moroccan Jews to enroll into French schools, receive a French education and integrate into French culture until 1940 when the Vichy laws came into effect and forbade Jewish attendance to French schools. After the Second World War and the establishment of the state of Israel, The Jewish Zionist organizations encouraged many Jewish families to leave Morocco and migrated to Israel legally, with the approval of the French rule at the time. Following the war, many young Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel in a bold move and joined “Gahal” forces that were fighting the War of Independence.

Towards the end of the Turkish Ottoman Empire rule and prior to the signing of the Fez Treaty, which entailed French protection of Moroccan Jews, there was a mass escape of Jews from large cities such as Fez, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakech to the smaller towns and villages surrounding the cities. The overcrowding, the decline in the financial circumstances and the need to pray in secret caused some young families to immigrate to Israel or move to Tunisia; which employed a more liberal policy for Jews. Rumors and letters which started arriving at synagogues told of Jews migrating to and settling in Israel, encouraging the Maghreb Jews. The first community to make the move were Fez Jews were living near the synagogue (the main synagogue) in Fez. About 60 to 80 young families migrated from 1908 to 1918, and settled mainly in Jerusalem and Tiberias. Amongst the first families to settle in Jerusalem were; Ohana, and Zana, Mimeran Turgeman, and Aifraga. The Aifragan brothers, who were bankers back in Fez, could not adapt to life in Israel; they bid their cousins, the Zane family, goodbye in 1918, and moved to France and subsequently to Canada. The David, Zane and Turgeman families lived in the Jewish Quarter whilst the rest of the families lived in Mishkanot (English: Residence) and Sukkot Shalom (English: Peace Tent).

The migration was carried out largely through Tunisia, using small boats to travel from there to Israel. In the summer of 1911, a baby boy; Moshe Vezana, was born, a son to Simcha (Pircha) and David, aboard the ship on their way to Israel. Upon their arrival at Yafo port, the baby's Brit Milah was celebrated. The boy, which was a son to a 'Mugrabi' family, was recorded at times as a Tunisian native and at other times, as an Israeli native. All other eight brothers were born in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a large family of Mughrabi; the greatest living inside the walls of the Old City, until their escape to Katamon due to War of Independence. The Maghreb Jewish community was small between the first and third migrations. Leading congregations in Jerusalem were primarily communities which immigrated from Iraq, Iran, Bukhara and Yemen.

After the Israeli war of independence in 1948, and due to domestic strife in the 1950s, the next several decades saw waves of Moroccan Jewish emigration to Israel. Moroccan Jews emigrated for a variety of reasons. Some have emigrated to Israel for religious reasons, some feared persecution, and others left for better economic prospects than they faced in post-colonial Morocco. With every Arab-Israeli war, tensions between Arabs and Jews would rise, sparking more Moroccan Jewish emigration. By the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the majority of Morocco's Jewish population had emigrated to Israel.[3]

Morocco once represented the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. However beginning around the time of the establishment of the modern state of Israel, through the mid-1960s, almost 90% of Moroccan Jews made Aliyah and emigrated to Israel.[4] Jewish emigration from Morocco was uncommon before 1945. This was partially due to a lack of stressors to leave. Jews in Morocco felt like they had political security and favorable economic opportunity. They did not want to move to British-controlled Israel-Palestine where the political landscape and economic conditions were more unstable. The British restricted Jewish immigration making the process difficult and providing further disincentive. Additionally, French Moroccan authorities worked to neutralize Zionist efforts when interest in Zionism was proliferating throughout Europe.

In 1947 - 1948, interest in making Aliyah became clear in large segments of Moroccan Jewry. One reason for this was dissatisfaction with the French government’s treatment of Moroccan Jews. Specifically, there was a refusal to consider granting educated Jews French citizenship which led to a desire for more freedom and better representation in government. Additionally, many places where the current system, which included the AIU, failed had produced regions of mass poverty. Along with this, there was an emotional drive fueled by Zionism gaining popularity among Moroccan Jews. This was a result of greater clarity into the viability of a Jewish state in Palestine.

During this early period of immigration, much of it was facilitated illegally by Mossad Le’aliyah and Jewish agency emissaries. Moroccan Jews were smuggled into Morocco through the border at Oudjda. From there, they were brought to transit camps. Only three ships were able to leave. The first two were held in Cyprus until Israeli independence and the last left with only 44 emigrants due to the activity being discovered by French Moroccan authorities. This resulted in the shutdown of this entire illegal emigration operation. A consequence of these activities was an increase in antisemitism in Morocco. A notable incident was a pogrom in Oudjda and the surrounding area. On June 7th, 1948 43 Jews were killed by local Muslims whose frustration was enhanced by French Moroccan officials.[5]

Emigration under Hassan II of MoroccoEdit

Policy changed with the accession of Hassan II of Morocco in 1961. Hassan agreed to accept a large per-capita bounty from the international Jewish community for each Jew who emigrated from Morocco, and under this agreement Jews were allowed the freedom to emigrate. Between the years 1961 - 1967 around 120,000 Jews left Morocco. The Six-Day War in 1967 led to another wave of emigration of Jews from Morocco, primarily to France, but also to Canada, the United States, Israel and other countries.

The Disaster of “Egoz” (Nut) ShipEdit

In 1961 the ship "Egoz" (nut) which held 44 illegal immigrants drowned in the sea on its way to Israel. After the sinking of “Egoz” pressure was exerted on Morocco and a secret treaty was signed with King Hassan II and consequently a massive exodus of Jews from Casablanca port was carried out under the supervision of General Oufkir. Some Jews came to Israel and some migrated to France and other countries.

Politically, Moroccan Jews tend to support Likud[6][7] or Shas.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit