60 delegates…8 cities…1 mission.
In May 2016, an unprecedented delegation with constituents from across North America gathered together in Morocco under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohamed VI.
During this delegation, government officials were met, including Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, President of the House of Representatives, Rachid Talbi Alami, Senior Adviser to the King André Azoulay and others.
What prompted these high ranking officials to take time from their busy schedules to meet with a group of North American Jews?
Let’s just say a history of social and political relationships dating back 3,000 years is a good place to start. Jews have been living in Morocco since the time of King Solomon. For the most part, relations between the Berber tribes and Muslims had been quite peaceful. This allowed a very rich heritage which was commonly shared between Moroccan Jews and Muslims — a heritage that inspired myself, founder of the Sephardic Legacy Institute, Simon Keslassy, president of the Communauté Juiv Marocaine de Toronto (CJMT), and Elmehdi Boudra with Laziza Dalil of the Mimouna Association to get together for a conference primarily to further Judeo-Muslim dialogue and inter-cultural relations.
This event was a pivotal moment for Moroccan Jews and Muslims who were able to freely exchange their views on Judeo Moroccan issues such as current status of Muslim-Judeo relations in Morocco, the restoration of old Jewish cemeteries, and even set an example for extending peaceful relations to Jews and Muslims abroad in the Diaspora.
The members of the delegation consisted of ten influential North American Moroccan and Sephardic Jews alike who have devoted time and efforts in maintaining and contributing to Moroccan history, religion, art, community leadership, education, literature, cuisine, music, political science, philanthropy, amongst other disciplines. Alongside these ten individuals who were honored and recognized for their contributions came fifty other delegates who share in their passion.
The conference was held in Rabat, Morocco’s capitol, but was accompanied by visits to Casablanca, Marrakech, Ouazanne, El-Ksar El-Kbir, and Mazagan whereby the delegates met with high ranking officials as well as tapping into their roots when visiting ancient Jewish quarters and the tombs of our holy sages. One example of a goal accomplished was the promise to start the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in El Ksar El Kbir which had been overlooked in the restoration project sponsored by the Kingdom of Morocco. Furthermore, His Majesty King Mohamed VI had graciously provided full security escort for the delegation’s entire duration. These are just a few of the gracious extensions of Morocco’s kind gestures to the Jews whom they officially consider equal citizens to their Berber and Muslim counterparts.
This delegation certainly served its purpose and reinforced the good and peaceful relationship the Moroccan Jews have with the Moroccan government. This surely sets the precedent that Jews and Muslims can live peacefully together provided respect, honor, and gratitude is extended from both sides.
There is so much the world can learn from furthering Judeo–Muslim Dialogue & Intercultural Relations as Morocco is a country filled with tolerance and respect to all people. Much of this credit is to His Majesty King Mohammed VI and may his Kingdom, people and royal family be blessed.
This post was co-written by Dr. Adam Ohayon