The old medina of Essaouira hosts, "Bayt Dakira", a spiritual and patrimonial space for the preservation and enhancement of the Judeo-Moroccan memory, unique of its kind in the southern Mediterranean and the land of Islam.
This historical, cultural and spiritual space is home to the "Slat Attia" Synagogue, the "Bayt Dakira" house of memory and history and the Haim and Celia Zafrani International Research Center on the history of relations between Judaism and Islam.
This house is the house of memory and history. "Bayt Dakira" is a place of memory that tells through objects, texts, photos and films the exceptional saga of Judaism in the city of Essaouira and its heritage.
"Bayt Dakira" presents and explains all the passages of Jewish life in Essaouira, from birth to death and from Bar Mitzvah to marriage. It is also a place of pedagogy thanks to the Haim and Celia Zafrani Research Center on the history of relations between Judaism and Islam, which constitutes a space for exchange between researchers from different horizons and a platform for sharing, transmission and resistance to amnesia.
His Majesty King Mohammed VI visited on January 15, 2020, the space of "Bayt Dakira". The Sovereign's visit to this building reflects the King's special interest in the cultural and religious heritage of the Moroccan Jewish community, and his permanent desire to preserve the richness and diversity of the spiritual components of the Kingdom and its authentic heritage.
Essaouira is idyll of Jewish Muslim coexistence This city, Morocco's "little idyll of Jewish-Muslim coexistence", sets an example for other Middle-Eastern countries in terms of tolerance and understanding.
Essaouira stages, each autumn, a festival of Andalusian music, "bringing hundreds of Jews and Muslims together for a weekend of concerts and dialogue". This event dubbed "Atlantic Andalusia Festival" attracts people from around the world to celebrate this cultural melting pot.
Essaouira is what the Middle East once was and might yet be again. When Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, many fled to Morocco, and even if only around 2,500 Jews currently remain in Morocco, it is "still more than anywhere else in the Arab world.
Morocco restored 110 synagogues such as Slat Lkahal, which was opened in Essaouira during the last festival of Andalusian music. The weekly also mentioned the setting up of a centre for Judeo-Islamic studies to open in the old kasbah later this year, acknowledging that "no Arab country has gone to the lengths of Morocco to revive its Jewish heritage.
The kingdom boasts the Arab world’s only Jewish museum in Casablanca The Museum of Moroccan Judaism is located in Casablanca. It is installed in the walls of a former Jewish orphanage called Murdock Bengio children's home which was in operation until the 1970s. The building, deserted for many years was bought in 1994, rehabilitated by the Judeo-Moroccan Culture Heritage Foundation and opened the doors of its museum in 1997.
At the entrance, an extract from the preamble of the 2011 constitution mentions for the first time the place of Judaism in Moroccan culture by recalling that "the Moroccan national identity, one and indivisible was nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean tributaries ".
Two spaces are offered to visitors, one of the temporary exhibitions: currently, the room highlights, through photographs, the restoration by the Foundation of nine Moroccan synagogues, thanks to the help of the Ministry of Culture, UNESCO and the German Embassy.
The permanent exhibition space brings together "objects of Moroccan Jewish worship". Another of the Foundation's missions is to locate and collect objects in Morocco and to make this place an ethnographic museum. The long work of collecting objects and information is largely due to Simon Lévy, a Moroccan Jewish intellectual who worked a lot for the creation of this museum.
The Jewish presence in Morocco history
The history of the Jews in Morocco is very old and was nourished by various waves of refugees as a result of the vicissitudes and persecutions to which the Jews have suffered throughout history.
The Jewish presence in Morocco is attested from the 2nd century BC. especially in Volubilis during the Roman times and remained there until the 7th century AD, reinforced by the arrival of Jewish migrants from Spain who fled the Visigothic persecutions following the 7th century. With the arrival of Islam, the Jewish population came under Muslim rule and obtained the status of dhimmis. The Jewish population known as Tochavim of Morocco knew demographic and political variations until being reinforced again by the arrival of Jewish migrants from the Iberian Peninsula forced to leave the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal during the Reconquista.
Today, in Morocco, this almost 2,500-year-old story is loosely taught in textbooks. Yet it is everywhere, forever inscribed in the landscape. And of course, in the alleys of the mellahs, these districts once devolved to the Jews, not to be confused with the closed ghettos of Europe. Those of Rabat still bear their names. Rue Shalom-Zaoui, rue David-Cohen ... not a single Jew lives here. Those who still reside in the kingdom's capital have scattered around the city. But it is especially in Casablanca that we find the bulk of the community.