The History Of The Jews Of Sefrou – Analysis


The Moroccan Jewish community has always been and remains one of the largest in the Arab world. Its heritage and history are little known abroad, although every part of the Kingdom has an important Jewish legend.  Jews have been in Morocco for hundreds of years, and have lost none of their ancient traditions, customs, religion, and culture. Moroccan kings protected the Jews from harm and helped some of them develop the wealth that sustained the monarchy for many years.

Sefrou, the city of tolerance and coexistence

Sefrou is a large town in north-central Morocco that has 87 162 inhabitants according to the figure of the Haut-Commmissariat au Plan for 2023. (1) It is located at an altitude of 850 meters (2,790 feet) in the foothills of the Middle Atlas just above the Sais plain, and only 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Fez. The city is bordered to the north by the mountains of the Rif, to the south by the Atlas Mountains, to the east by the Taza Straits and to the west by the Sais Plateau. The town is situated in a green, picturesque setting surrounded by gardens and fruit orchards.

The city spreads out over a fertile plain irrigated by the Oued Aggaï (or Assif n-wAggay which means ‘’cheeks’’ in Tamazight language), a river renowned for its devastating floods. The river crosses the city of Sefrou. (2) The name Sefrou is Assefrou (ⴰⵙⴼⵔⵓ): As, is the place in Amazigh language, and Afrou is the hiding place or cave. Beyond the mellah, the river is called Oued Lihoudi “The River of the Jew”. This river supplies all the canals and allows the irrigation of the numerous gardens of the city. Sefrou is also known for its waterfall, which explains the freshness of the place, as well as the abundance and richness of the vegetation, which earned the city the nickname of Le Jardin du Maroc “Garden of Morocco”.All the names, or toponymy, in and around Sefrou; are in Tamazight language, and this was very long before the arrival of the Arabs; for example: Tighdouine, Taryala, Tagnite, Igurazen, Glat, etc. 

Historically, it is the valley of the Oued Aggay, a small tributary of the Sebou, which first channelled human settlement in this region. The presence of a multitude of caves dug in the limestone and travertine, facilitated the first settlements as well as in Mazdghat Al Jorf, Bhalil, Imouzzar Kandar and Al Hajeb. According to Mbarek Bekkai, (3) this form of occupation dominated until the seventh century, when the Amazigh/Berber troglodytes began to familiarize themselves with construction techniques. 

However, the need for defense, probably linked to the first Muslim incursions into the Atlas, dictated that they regroup and build fortifications. Thus, there are erected along the valley a cordon of qsûr, (4) located in three points: upstream of the Oued Aggay, in the center, and downstream of the Oued, near its confluence with Oued Sebou. But gradually, the central site coinciding with that of the current Medina of Sefrou, proved advantageous and became a pole of crystallization, and this to the detriment of the other qsûr. Consequently, an agglomeration bearing the name of Sefrou was born since, it was probably towards the end of the 7th century. However, a small residual core remained upstream. Namely the district of Qalca, whose inhabitants do not hesitate until our days to distinguish themselves from the inhabitants of Sefrou proper.

The Ahl Sefrou, who lived in the region, were once Amazigh/Berbers converted to Judaism. They were Islamized in the 8th century by Moulay Idris II (791-828). In addition, in the 13th century, the city became home to a large Jewish colony from the Tafilalet region and southern Algeria, some of whose descendants are said to still exist today. (5)

Sefrou became from the 12th century a center of trade and exchange where the producers of the northern regions of Morocco and those of Tafilalet gathered, and as such there were trade caravans between the two regions. (6)

The mellah (Jewish quarter) of Sefrou, located in the old city, south of the medina and separated from it by the Oued Aggay, contains the Zaouïa of Sidi Lahcen Ben Ahmed, a 17th century Sufi saint. From there, there is an old stone bridge which spans the wadi to reach the mosque Jâmec l-Kbir and the suq (bazaar) of the medina. The old city, made up of a maze of tortuous lanes and where the houses built on the side of rocks are tiered, is surrounded by a rampart with crenellations of the 18th and 19th centuries. (7)

At the exit of Sefrou, the mills and the laundries border the Oued Aggay, whose cascades, located more in the North-East, were partly damaged by the flood of 1977. The city is known for its cherries, and thus it celebrates annually, with much gusto and pomp, the Cherry Festival, known in Arabic as moussem habb l-mellouk (The Season of King’s Grains), created in 1920 and protected since 2012 by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Prior to the massive emigration of the Jews to Israel, during the Cherry Festival, the inhabitants of the region follow the procession to the cave of Kâf al-Moumen which shelters the tomb of the prophet Daniel and where, according to a local legend, ‘’Seven Believers and their Dog’’ (8) /’’Seven Sleepers” (9) would have fallen asleep during centuries. Fantasias, dances, and songs punctuate this important agricultural event. In the west of the city, a miraculous spring, called Lalla Rkiya, which is supposed, according to a popular belief, to have the power to cure madness. The blood of sacrificed animals is poured into this spring during this moussem to give it more vibrancy and revive its curing power. (10) For local intellectuals, this is one of the many pagan rites found in Morocco and recorded by the Finnish ethnographer Edward Westermarck in his book entitled: Ritual and Belief in Morocco. (11)

Sefrou was once a major center for Morocco’s Jews and its walled white pedestrian medina is still characterized by their houses with wooden balconies.  It was a good example of interfaith dialogue in Morocco, coexistence and toleranceIndeed, in Sefrou lived Muslims and Jews in good harmony door to door and practiced their religious rituals in unison. 

Sefrou is an old city, surrounded by ochre or red walls, crenelated which enclose since 1820, its picturesque districts, its suqs, its bridges, its waterfalls on the Aggai wadi which crosses the city and irrigates all the enchanting corners of this garden city, it was called ” the Garden of Morocco “.

The curiosity of the visitors was solicited by the mellah which offered a particular interest with its high three-storey houses, painted with bright colors, its balconies in painted wood and its facades pierced with small grilled windows. In these high houses, a little mysterious in the maze of narrow streets, lived a large and cheerful Jewish population, respecting ancestral traditions. Today there are no more Jews in Sefrou and a large part of the mellah is in ruins.

It is undoubtedly one of the oldest cities of the country. It would even have been built before Fez, in the year 682. The anteriority of the construction of Sefrou, compared to that of Fez, was noted by Hassan al-Wazzan al-Gharnati, known as Leo Africanus. (12) A reality that would have been underlined, from the beginning of the 14th century, by the chronicler Ali Ibn Abi Zar in his “Rawd al-Qirtâs“: “One went from the city of Sefrou to the village of Fez“, he could write. (13) The city will be described, at the beginning of the 20th century, as “one of the most prosperous and orderly of Morocco“.

It was in 807, when the construction of Fez had just been launched, that Idris II, the native of Volubilis would have come to settle for more than two years in a village on the banks of the Aggay river, which he would have named “Habouna“, “those who loved us”, and which is today one of the districts of the city.

Sefrou is also famous, since centuries, for the harmonious cohabitation of the three Abrahamic religions, of which it was the haven as the following verses of the venerable Sufi Sheikh Abdelkader Tomouri testify: (14)

O you visitor, have you been informed of the beauty of this city?

 Its gardens, its waterfalls and its sites, 

Which give you the joy of the eyes and the happiness of living. 

Its climate, its water and its cherries are for you the remedy to all the evils.’’

Oued Aggay, photo taken in 1926 (Anonymous)

Whether you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, the people of this city welcome you with open arms. And at dawn, they will, customarily, take you to the highest point of the hill to recover the baraka (divine grace) of the venerated patron Saint Sidi Ali Bousserghine. (15)

In the 19th century, in fact, in Sefrou, the Jews were more numerous than the Arabs and the Amazighs and the city was a haven of peace and conviviality (16) where Muslims and Jews lived in total communion. (17) The mellah would have been built as early as the 13th century, under the reign of the Marinid Sultan Yaqoub ben Abdelhaq (1215–1217). The city’s Jews were mostly artisans specializing in copper, silver, gold, and leather, but also practiced weaving, carpentry, and the wood and coal trade and were also small bankers and caravan guides.

The old medina is surrounded by crenelated ramparts, has 7 gates, many borjs (towers), Jewish houses with their balconies, zaouias (religious lodges), mosques, bridges and funduks (caravenserais).

After the foundation of Fez in the 9th century, Moulay Idris II succeeded in converting the inhabitants of the city. The city gained in importance in the 12th century thanks to its location between Fez and Tafilalet, developed further a century later when it received an important Jewish colony from Tafilalet and southern Algeria. 

The city visited by Maurice de Perigny in 1916 is described in the following terms: (18)

[‘’The Oued el Youdi, after having crossed the city, passes at the foot of a beautiful mosque under a very old bridge and rushes in a series of cascades at the bottom of a gorge all covered with a thick grass and green plants, dotted with clumps of trees. The natives have skilfully harnessed its waters with various small canals operating several mills arranged in stages. This is about the only industry that exists in Sefrou. There are about ten of these wheat mills, while a dozen oil mills are scattered throughout the city.’’]

‘’The Oued el Youdi, after having crossed the city, passes at the foot of a beautiful mosque under a very old bridge and rushes in a series of cascades at the bottom of a gorge all covered with a thick grass and green plants, dotted with clumps of trees. The natives have skilfully harnessed its waters with various small canals operating several mills arranged in stages. This is about the only industry that exists in Sefrou. There are about ten of these wheat mills, while a dozen oil mills are scattered throughout the city.’’

The city of Sefrou is the city of saints and sainthood, it counts the marabouts of Sidi Boumadian, Sidi Lahcen, sidi Ahmed Tadli, Lalla Rkia and Sidi Bouserghine. The zaouias are about fifty in number, including the Zaouia Sadikia in Qalca , a former district of the Boukharas (19) (old army of foreign fighters of the Alaouite Sultan Mouly Ismail (1645-1727)), it is situated on the right bank of the Aggay river, on a hill giving a panoramic view of the city. Not to forget of course the numerous Jewish scholar saints of the city that earned it the title of Little Jerusalem of Morocco

The Jewish population of Sefrou

In the time before the arrival of Moulay Idris II, many Jews driven out of Algeria by the Arab conquest took refuge on the banks of the Aggaï wadi. Thanks to the rich gifts that they offered to the qsûr (early inhabitants of Sefrou), the latter welcomed and protected them.

The tranquillity that the Jews enjoyed in Sefrou was well known, so many of their co-religionists from Debdou, Tafilalet and even southern Algeria came to join them. Numerous and sufficiently rich, they bought from the Sultan reigning at that time the site where the current mellah was built which replaced the “Ksar al-Koufâr” (village of the miscreants). The location of this old mellah is at the bottom of the waterfall located downstream from the city.

The mellah was built there during the reign of the Marinid sultan Yaoqub ben Abdelhaq. The Jews of Sefrou were craftsmen specialized in copper and leather, but they also practiced weaving, carpentry, wood and coal trading. (20)

In 1890, the flooding of the river caused the death of many of its inhabitants, including several members of the Jewish community; the same disaster was repeated in 1950 and further reduced the community, which then numbered 5,000 people. (21)

The fame of the rabbis of Sefrou, such as Rabbi Moshe Elbaz, known as the ‘’Master of the Cave’’, extends beyond the city, throughout Tafilalet and outside Morocco. The city is also a resort for the townspeople of Fez and Meknes, and a place of Jewish pilgrimage to a saint buried near the Jewish cemetery. The city is known worldwide for its scholarship in Talmudic studies and religious knowledge.

The mellah of Sefrou included seven synagogues of various sizes. Only one family synagogue, founded towards the end of the 18th century, remains, but in a state of ruin. It testifies, however, to the architectural layout and ornamentation of the synagogues of this city.

It is also worth noting the presence of a school belonging to the Alliance Israélite Universelle, created by this very organization in the 19th century, and which remains in a good state of preservation. It presents the typical plan of a Moroccan synagogue. The prayer hall is divided into three naves parallel to the Haykhal by two rows of arcatures surmounted by columns topped with tree-trunk capitals. This synagogue also has a Thiba and a room on the floor reserved for women.

Walking through the city, one imagines the melodies of Hebrew songs coming through the windows of the synagogue. It was warm, it was vibrant, it was cheerful, it was the Jewish community of Sefrou that prayed, sang, and wished each other well in this synagogue. (22)

A synagogue in Sefrou, Morocco. Photo Credit: Yeudameir, Wikipedia Commons
A synagogue in Sefrou, Morocco. Photo Credit: Yeudameir, Wikipedia Commons

The Jewish population of Sefrou has declined from a peak of 33% to 44% in the 1930s-40s, the cemetery is being restored by the small remaining community and with contributions from expatriates. Headstones have been mounted inside cement monuments, many of which honor the memory of a group of merchants who died in a truck accident, while others commemorate the victims of the 1950 flood.

The cemetery features a number of “saints,” including: Moshe Elbaz, ‘’the Master of the Cave’’, Eliahu Harraoch, David Arazil, Rabbi Rapyhael Moshe Elbaz, Rabbi Abba Elbaz, Rabbi Ismah Ovadia, Rabbi Raphael Maman, and Rabbi Zeev khalfon .

Jewish burial in the cemetery is normally on the day of death. The deceased is be buried as soon as possible. There are no Jewish funerals at the synagogue. The coffin does not pass through the synagogue, which is considered a place of life. The cemetery is, however, the place for the religious ceremony, the prayer is made by the rabbi who says the prayer of the dead, a hymn of praise to God (23) (Kaddish  קדיש). 

Everyone participates in the burial by placing a stone on the coffin or grave. No flowers are sent. Before leaving the cemetery, one washes one’s hands, without wiping them, because one has contracted an impurity. Then everyone meets at the house of the deceased to eat bread and boiled eggs.

Jbel Binna and its caves

The archaeological site of Binna was the subject of an important discovery. Thus in 1965, the two caves of Kâf al-Moumen and Kâf al-Bagra which pierce this rocky outcrop would have revealed the existence of a prehistoric industry of tools in flint and basalt. Paleontological remains such as teeth of bears, rhinoceros, and other extinct species. Cave paintings have unfortunately completely disappeared and can only be seen in photography.

The natural cavity located on the side of Jbel Binna is at the entrance of the city of Sefrou. The cave of the believer, Kâf al-Moumen, keeps in its heart many legends. It is venerated by Jews and Muslims. (24) This cave is a good example of shared spirituality. (25) Today, it is completely abandoned because the Jews of Sefrou all left for Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War and most Muslims despise the idea of worshipping a cave on their own and consider it a pure expression of shirk resulting from popular beliefs rooted in pre-Islamic practices. (26) This appears, however, as an extreme reaction to the departure of the Jews who were their co-worshippers of this unknown saint. Today, Islamists to mock this shared saint argue forcefully that it is the graveyard of a mule that faithfully served his owner, so upon its death, he built a shrine for it and circulated the story that it was a saint. For others, it is an illustration of the naturalistic cults that still exist in Moroccan beliefs among Muslims and Jews and that have been studied in detail both by Doutté (27) and by Westermarck (28) during the last century.

Every year, this cave was the object of a real naturalist cult on the part of the Jews of Sefrou and Fez. The pilgrimage of this cave took place at the same time as the one of the sanctuary of the great Rabbi Hamou ben Diouane, in Ouezzane.(29) 

Children from the mellah of Sefrou (Photo: Niddam and Assouline)

As for the existence of Christians in the country, Arab texts also suggest it. Moreover, from the seventh to the ninth century, pagans, Jews, and Christians are often mentioned in the chronicles that report on the military campaigns carried out in Bhalil by the Chkounda family, probably descendants of the Second Roman Legion, and the discovery in al-Anaser, south of Sefrou, of the fountain of idols (Ain Sname) from which five Latin inscriptions were exhumed, attest if not to a Roman settlement, at least to an interest by Volubilis in the southern front. In this case, were not al-Anaser, Bhalil, and Mimmet (now disappeared) watchtowers erected by Romans to face the Atlas Mountains with a military aim? For the moment, no argument allows to affirm this, and only thorough excavations would allow detecting traces of it. It is, thus, in a very coveted site that Sefrou was born. 

Leo the Africanus says that Sefrou was founded by the Africans, that is to say the Amazigh/Berbers. If one believes the public rumors, the city would have been built before Fez. “One was going from the city of Sefrou or the village of Fez“, the Sefrioui inhabitants have been repeating for a long time. According to the local legend, abusively attributed to Rawd al-Qirtas, Idris II, at the time when he had launched the construction of Fez, would have come to settle for two years in this city of piedmont (807). He resided in the dshar (quarter) known as “Habouna”, the village of “those who loved us”, a name that Idris II would have given to this place, which is now located south of the Medina, as a sign of gratitude for the warm welcome he had received from the inhabitants of the city during his campaign of Islamization. The Bahloula (people of the village of Bhalil), being more reluctant, would not have received his blessing.

In any case, Sefrou seems to have existed at the time of the foundation by Idris II of the city of al-cAliya (the city of Ali) on the left bank of the Oued Fès, in 809, on the site of the Qairaouan quarter which faces the Andalusian quarter, built by Idris I in 789. The fact that during the reign of Ali Ibn Idris, grandson of Idris II (836-848), a political opponent seized Sefrou, and marched on Fez, proves that around the 9th century, the city was already strong enough to mobilize against an Idrisid sultan.

The Jews of Sefrou

The city began as a market town in the Roman era and as a stopping point for caravans of traders making their way from the Mediterranean to the Sahara Desert, then became a major Moroccan town long before Fez was built in the 8th century.

Sefrou was once home to one of the largest settlements of Moroccan Jews, with an estimated population of 8,000. The first Jews lived in the Ahl Sefrou region, most of them having been converted to Judaism about 2,000 years ago. In the 8th century, most of them were converted to Islam under Idris I (743-791). In the 9th century, a second Jewish population wave from the Tafilalt region and southern Algeria settled in the city. Most of the descendants of these Jews remained in Sefrou until 1967, when they made their Aliyah to Israel.

However, in the 19th century in Sefrou, Jews outnumbered Arabs and Berbers. Peaceful and welcoming, this city dazzled travellers through the ages to the point that Colette spoke of it in 1926 as a “Le paradis terrestre/The earthly paradise“: (30)

[‘’Sefrou: The earthly paradise, more or less as we imagine it, if we imagine it oriental and populated, and restricted. Sefrou is a puddle of fertile, juicy earth, all quivering with the laughter of water. The pomegranate tree blazes, the cherry swells, the fig tree smells of milk, the grass delivers its juice as soon as you crush it. The rose of Bengal masters the vine, a playful wind whitens the pens showing the backside of all the leaves at once. Such a sweet place makes the man amiable: the boys are beautiful, the smooth young Jewish girls sparkling with eyes and teeth, and the water leaps under the bridges between rocks and wheat terraces where the grain, shoveled by children, flows like a blond shore.”] 

”Sefrou : Le paradis terrestre, à peu près tel que nous l’imaginons, si nous l’imaginons oriental et peuplé, et restreint. Sefrou est une flaque de terre fertile, juteuse, toute frémissante du rire de l’eau. La grenaderaie flambe, la cerise enfle, le figuier sent le lait, l’herbe livre son suc dès qu’on la froisse. La rose du Bengale maîtrise la vigne, un vent joueur blanchit les enclos en montrant l’envers à la fois de toutes les feuilles. Un lieu si doux fait l’homme aimable : les garçons sont beaux, les jeunes juives lisses étincelantes d’yeux et de dents, et l’eau bondit sous les ponts entre des rochers et des terrasses à blé où le grain, pelleté par des enfants, coule comme une grève blonde.”

The Jews who resided in this city were Amazigh/Berber-speaking natives from Tafilalet, Arabic-speaking Fassis (from Fez) as well as descendants of the Spanish exiles of 1492 known as megorashim

Very much a part of their city, the Jews were masters of their own situation and prospered as small craftsmen, merchants, bankers, caravan guides, rabbis, or Hebrew teachers. One of the most eminent members of the community was the Rabbi and judge Shaoul Yéhoshouah Abitbol (1740-1809), known, among other things, for his collection of legal decisions Avné chèch (Blocks of Marble). 

With the arrival of the French, the decadence of the city of Sefrou went hand in hand with the economic crisis that hit Morocco. The Alliance Universelle opened French-speaking schools and disrupted the educational model of the Hedarim (traditional Jewish elementary schools around the teachings of the Torah). In the early 1980s, Norman Stillman  reported that there were only four old people of Jewish origin left in the mellah of Sefrou.

Just south of Bab Merbac, there is former Jewish school with its own synagogue that is now closed, but one can still peak through the doors – it’s pretty rundown, however. 

The mellah

On the right bank of the Aggay river, and in the heart of the old Medina of Sefrou is the residential district of the Jews near the great mosque Jamac Lakbir and near the commercial center of the other bank of Oued Aggay.

Sefrou is also known as the Little Jerusalem of Morocco which is a bastion of the country’s diverse heritage. It’s old mellah, or Jewish quarter still stands in Sefrou’s medina. It is distinguished by its low walls and reached by crossing a short bridge over Oued Aggay, which passes through the old medina. Today, this part of the city is mostly inhabited by Muslims.

In addition to their commercial role, the Sefrioui Jews provided communication services in the whole region of Sefrou which extends from the city of fez in the north to the region of Tafilalt in the south. The Jewish population accounted for almost half of the sefriouis before the French colonization, but after independence, they started leaving for Israel. The district remains without maintenance, degrading and sheltering among others the prostitutes and the outlaws.

While there were no more than 5,000 Jews in Sefrou in 1948, they lived mostly in the mellah. The population density of the Jewish community at that time was 415,815 per square kilometer, the highest in the country. To cope with the high population density, most buildings have three stories, with balconies facing the street. In 1960, the 3,000 Jews constituted 15% of the population. However, with the arrival of the French in 1912 (French Protectorate 1912-1956), rich Jews moved to live in the European quarter known as Ville nouvelle as well as Jews that worked for the French administration as civil servants mainly as interpreters or translators for those who were learned in Arabic language.

In the heart of the city, there is the famous “Jewish washhouse” where every morning a good number of Jewish women come to wash their copper basins and to beat the linen, in the clear, fresh and fast waters of the Aggay river (which will take the name of Oued Lihoudi – River of the Jew – after its passage to the Mellah), forming a unique and picturesque picture which has often seduced the artists.

Jewish house of the Mellah, 1920 (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme)

Sefrou is, also, home to the oldest school of Rabbis in Morocco as well as other Jewish sanctuaries and synagogues.

As soon as Mohammed V ascended the throne, the Jews felt that a radical change would take place between the Jews of Sefrou and all of Morocco and their ruler. The new sultan, who ascended the throne in 1927, was exactly the opposite of what the French expected. They wanted a docile sultan; they found in him a nationalist who gradually established himself as the leader of the struggle for independence, and as far as the Jews were concerned, he systematically obstructed the anti-Semitic measures that the Vichy government wanted to impose on the Jews of Morocco. With each new Vichy law, the sovereign took a fierce defence of the Jews, even to the point of confrontation with the Resident General, taking care to recall each time that Jews and Muslims were equally his subjects and that he would not suffer any discrimination between his children. (32)

The Jews of Sefrou, like all the Jews of Morocco, expressed great veneration for Sultan Mohammed V during the period of the French protectorate for having always protected his Jewish subjects. In fact, Sultan Mohammed V, during the Feast of the Throne in 1944, addressing his Jewish subjects said: (33)

”Just like Muslims, you are my subjects and as such, I protect and love you, believe that you will always find in me the help you need. The Muslims are and have always been your brothers and friends.”

On his deathbed, Mohammed V is said to have made his son (the future Hassan II) promise to watch over the “salvation of the Jewish community“.

On the day of the death of the sovereign, the Jews of Sefrou felt great sorrow and went out into the street to mourn him, and to share the grief of their Muslim brothers.

Chief Rabbi Yossef Messas with King Mohammed V

Rabbi and judge Shaoul Yéhoshouah Abitbol (1740-1809)

Son of Rabbi Yitzhak, he is the founder of the dynasty of rabbis who distinguished themselves for two centuries in Sefrou. (34) Nicknamed, according to the Hebrew initials of his name, Rav shisha. He was appointed Dayan judge at the age of 18, and he presided over the rabbinical court for half a century.

His reputation in Halakha הֲלָכָה went far beyond the borders of his city, reaching the whole of Morocco. By witnessing the elegies composed at his death by the two great Jewish poets of Meknes, Rabbi David Hassine (35) and Rabbi Yaacob Berdugo.

His legal decisions set precedents before the rabbinical courts of Morocco, although they were printed only very late – with his sermons and commentaries – in Jerusalem in two volumes in 1930 and 1934, under the title of “Avne Shaish”. (36) His son Raphael was also a well-known Rabbi in Sefrou.

50 – אל משוש אר”ש יפה נוף

פיוט יסדתי לכבוד החכם השלם דיין מצויין כבוד הרב ישועה שאול במתא צפרו יע”א

אֶל מְשׂוֹשׂ אֶרֶ”שׁ יפה נוף / לכבודו זמר שיר אביעה

במצנפת בַ”ד צָנוֹף יִצְנֹף / ובראשו כובע ישועה

כאן הכינויים של כבוד רבי ישועה

משור אר”ש – משחק לשון שכיח, המילה אר”ש מציינת יכולת הבעב ולמדנות

במצנפת…יצנוף : ציין ב”ד בגרשיים לציון ראשי תיבות בית דין, ששירב רבי ישוה כחבר בו

נאספו בו כל ההדרים / פקודי ה’ ישרים

מפי סופרים גם ספרים / מרכבותיך ישועה

מפי סופרים וספרים…שלמד גם ממוריו וגם מן הספרים

יום זה נכבד ראו עיני / גבעת שאול בחיר ה’

אשר בשירי ורנָנָי / זמרת יה ויהי לי לישועה

גבעת שאול בחירו : ציין בזה את מקום מושבו של רבי שאול ישועה, העיר צפרו

דור ישרים בואו שעריו / מצוף דבש מָתקו אֲמָרָיו

יראת ה’ אוצריו / רחוק מרשעים ישועה

ואותו יום תדרשוּן / אשר יאמר לכם תעשון

ושאבתים מים בששון / ממעיני הישועה

דָן ידין עמו בְּיֹשֶר / ומטיב דרך מְיַסֵּר

משיע שלום מבשר / טוב משמיע ישועה

ומטים דרך : הסרים מדרך הישר ומדרך התורה

מיסר : הוא מעניש ומוכיח

חסין קדוש ירבה שלומו / ישים את המִשְׂרה על שכמו

יִרצה ה’ בעמו / יפאר ענוים בישועה

The elegy composed by Rabbi David Ben Aharon Hassine (The Poet of Meknes) in Hebrew

Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz (1823-1896)

In the image of a plural Morocco with its cities where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived side by side, is exemplified in the city of Sefrou which has for centuries welcomed a community of Moroccans of the Jewish faith. This is notably the case of the El Baz family. (37) With a name of Arabic origin meaning “the hawk”, El Baz was a family of scholars, judges and rabbis. These include Maimon El Baz, rabbi in the seventeenth century, author of a cabalistic commentary on prayer rituals, Shmuel El Baz rabbi in the seventeenth century, member of the Rabbinical Court and author of Talmudic commentaries or Amram El Baz, a rabbi-judge and codifier who lived in the eighteenth century.

Born in Sefrou, Morocco, in 1823, and died in the same city in 1896. He was the son of Rabbi Samuel who was the son of Rabbi Yehuda. He symbolized the last incarnation of the perfect scholar of the Spanish tradition, harmoniously mixing sacred studies with the so-called profane sciences, whereas since their installation in Morocco, the descendants of the expelled from Spain, the megorashim, did not show any interest in sciences and philosophy. He was the revered guide of his community and his reputation went far beyond the borders of his city. (38)

It is within this family, which is of Spanish origin according to some sources, that Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz was born in 1823 in Sefrou. He was the son and grandson of two prolific rabbis and authors: Rabbi Yehuda El Baz and Rabbi Samuel El Baz.

Precocious, Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz was appointed rabbinical judge at the age of only 28. And at the time, he was already a “prolific writer”, dealing in his books with various fields, such as the writings of rabbinic jurisprudence, precepts, laws, and commandments that govern the life of the individual according to the law of Moses.

He symbolized the last incarnation of the perfect scholar of the Spanish tradition, harmoniously blending sacred studies with the so-called secular sciences, whereas since their settlement in Morocco, the descendants of the expelled from Spain no longer showed any interest in science and philosophy.

Talmudist, Kabbalist, grammarian, poet, singer, philosopher, astronomer, historian, paytan,  (39) and mathematician, he entered the rabbinical court at the age of 28 and was, until his death at a very advanced age, the revered guide of his community. His reputation went far beyond the borders of his city. 

Over the years he cultivated a reputation as a great scholar and religious authority. Indeed, one year when the drought threatened to bring famine to Morocco, Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz organized according to custom a great prayer at the cemetery with all the men of the community. On their way back to the mellah, heavy rain began to fall and he was received like an angel from heaven by the Muslim peasants. The Pasha (mayor) of Sefrou ordered the farmers to give a share of their harvest to the rabbi that year, because they owed it to him.

The rabbi maintained excellent relations with his Muslim compatriots, not hesitating to go to the mosque to listen to Muslim liturgical music or to echo, from his window, the call of the muezzin to prayer, reciting bakkachot (Baqashot) שירת הבקשות (sung prayers) (40) in their translation into Arabic.

For, in addition to being a rabbi and a judge, Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz was also a lover of songs and poetry. He composed several didactic songs and poems in dialectal Arabic, in addition to many poems that have become part of the liturgy.

Along with Nissim El Baz, Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz is also considered one of the Jewish poets who adopted the popular Arabic, semi-classical genre called qasîda. (41) He is even described as one of the most representative artists of Hebrew poetry in Morocco. (42)

During his 73 years, Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz also wrote several books, including “Halakhah Le-Moshe” which is a collection of legal rulings, “Parashat Ha-kessef” which is a work of morals and proverbs, “Arbah’a Chomrim” on jurisprudence, “Chir Hadach” where he collected liturgical songs and poems or his famous “Beer Cheva” on the sciences; in this case mathematics, astronomy, and geography, as well as a book on the Moroccan Jewish community, entitled “Kissé Hamélakhim“.

To illustrate the Rabbi’s investment in sixteenth-century texts, Sina Rauschenbach and Jonathan Schorsch (43) recall that Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz wrote a commentary on the sixteenth-century law code “Sefer ha-Taqqanot” (The Book of Ordinances) written by Rafael Berdugo (1747-1821) of Meknes. (44)

Having left no heirs behind, Rabbi Raphaël Moshe El Baz bequeathed no less than 19 manuscripts, which he considered “his children”, to his nephew Rabbi Benyamine El Baz. But some of these manuscripts will only be printed around the 19th century.

He is the author of Halakha le-Moché responsa, 1901 (The Law of Moses), legal consultations; Tsione Ba-Michepat (Zion in Justice); Zivhe Tzedek (Sacrifices of Justice), on the rules of the slaughter of animals; Shekel ha-kodech (Holy Shiur); Beer Sheva, on the seven sciences; Poter Mayim; Perachat ha-Kessef (Chapter of Money), a work of morals and proverbs; Holat Ahavah (Evil Love); Arba Chomerim (The Four Guardians), a work of jurisprudence; Sefera Keritut (The Book of Divorces); Kissa ha-Melakhim (The Throne of Kings), a history of the Jewish people, Jerusalem 1985; Chir Hadache, collection of poems, Jerusalem 1930 (New Songs), liturgical songs; Ateret Paz (The Crown of Pure Gold); Eden Mi-kedem, Kabbalah, Fes 1941 (The Garden from Before the Origin); Hatzer ha-mishkan (The Temple Courtyard); Turbatz he-Hazer (The Courtyard of the Courtyard).

He composed several songs and didactic poems in Arabic dialect. In addition to many poems entered in the liturgy. He left a prodigious work of which only a few volumes have been printed. His book of legal advice and responsa, Halacha the Moche, which could not be printed, was copied by hand for generations and was first printed in 1911 in Jerusalem. His collection of poems Shir Hadash was also printed in Jerusalem in 1935. His book on the history of Israel and mankind from creation to his time, written to demonstrate the inevitability of Israel’s final redemption, Kisse Melachim, was first printed in 1988 in Jerusalem by the former Chief Rabbi of Sefrou, Rabbi David Obadia as part of his series of books on the Sefrou community. His collection of seedlings Eden mikedem, first printed in Fez in 1930, was republished in Jerusalem in 1993, as well as his scientific work, unique in the literary production of Moroccan rabbis, Beer Sheva, ‘’the seven wells’’, on the seven branches of science, grammar, astronomy, mathematics, etc. This book was edited by the Rabbis of Sefrou, and was published in Jerusalem. 

The recent publication of some of his works in Israel has aroused great interest in the work of R. Raphael Moshe Elbaz. The work Kissé hamelakhim (The Throne of Kings) is a universal history book, from biblical times to the time of Rabbi Raphael Moshe Elbaz. It is one of the few works that integrates the European, Ottoman and North African dynasties into one compendium. It includes important information on the condition of the Jews of Morocco throughout history.

Rabbi Raphaël Moshe El Baz died in 1896 in Sefrou, his hometown, where he was buried in the city’s Jewish cemetery. His hillula הילולא is celebrated during Lag Ba’omer, the Jewish holiday of rabbinic institution.

Zohra al-Fassiya, the icon of the melhoun music (1905-1994)

Morocco’s cultural eclecticism translates into a multiplicity of musical influences that have given rise to musical genres that now occupy a place of their own in the country’s rich musical culture. (45)

Judeo-Moroccan music is very strongly influenced by the legacy of the Moors. This style of music was born in Morocco after the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from southern Spain. Jewish artists did not only contribute to popular culture in terms of musical interpretation, over the centuries these musicians have composed many songs in the Arabic dialect, (46) known as melhoun. (47)

Known by her pseudonym Zohra al-Fassiya (born in 1905 in Sefrou and died in 1994 in Ashkelon in Israel), she was one of the emblematic figures and pioneers of melhoun, an authentic Moroccan musical genre.

Her father, Eliyahu, was a butcher who also sang as a Hazzan in the neighborhood synagogue. This is perhaps where al-Fassiya began to exercise her own voice by learning the piyyutim and, by extension, the North African repertoires on which their melodies were based. The young al-Fassiya probably attended the primary school of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the French Jewish education system which, at the beginning of the 20th century, spread throughout the Maghreb for the express purpose of Europeanizing its Jewish residents. 

She began her artistic career singing Moroccan melhoun in the 1920s. In the 60’s she lived in Casablanca, precisely on Sarah Bernard street, where many witnesses could hear Zohra al-Fassiya’s voice in the whole neighborhood. (48)

After her great success, she left her native country of Morocco to settle in Ashkelon in Israel until her death in 1994. Marc Tobaly, a French guitarist (born in Fez in 1950) is her grandson. In 2009, a tribute was paid to her by many artists during the festival “Warchane Slam l’Malhoun”!

She is considered as one of the icons of the grenadine song and Sh’gouri, especially since she entered the artistic field at a time when Moroccan women did not dare to go out without veils in the street, and even less to make live concerts, to make her voice heard and to spread her art in front of the public. She therefore tried to hide her family’s real name in order to preserve her “reputation”, especially since art and music were frowned upon by society. (49)

Album cover of Moroccan musician and singer Zohra al-Fassiya’s Song for Mohammed V (Courtesy of Haim Shiran)

She is one of the oldest Jewish Moroccan voices to have recorded her first works in the 20’s of the last century, with the big names of the time, such as Pathé and Gramophone, when the access of women to the world of art was considered, by society, to be an infamy. It is probably for this reason that Zohra al-Fassiya was not known by her real name. She settled for the nickname “al-Fassiya”, in reference to Fez where she spent a large part of her life and from where her artistic career started, not far from the city of Sefrou where she was born in a Jewish family in love with art and singing. (50)  

Zohra al-Fassiya became known for her mastery of melhoun in addition to sh’gouri, ghranati, and tlemsani, as well as some of the popular songs that Moroccans used to hum. She became famous for her song “Hbibi Diyali Fin Howa” (Where is my darling?) which many voices have taken up after her, both in Morocco and in other Maghreb countries. Salim Hilali, an Algerian Jewish artist, and lover of Morocco, was the most famous singer who sung this song in his own way. (51)

A few centuries ago, poems were sung only by men. Sometimes tinged with eroticism, they also had a social anchor. Zohra El Fassiya was the first woman to sing the famous song “Hak a Mama”. She sung at the court of King Mohammed V. She was the first Moroccan woman to write and compose songs and then sing them in public (and not just in a private setting); the first Moroccan woman also to record discs for major record labels such as Columbia Records and Gramophone Company.

Her contribution to modern Moroccan music, and more particularly to the genre of melhoun (songs composed of long stanzas in dialectal Arabic) is widely recognized. Her repertoire also includes many other genres such as shacbi, gharnati, all musical styles related to the Arab-Andalusian music of Morocco and Algeria, as well as popular songs of a more European character. (52) She emigrated in 1962 to Israel, where her talents were buried in complete oblivion. (53)

Rabbi David Obadia  

David Obadia was born on 25 Yiar 5673 (May 3, 1913) in the shade of the cherry blossoms of Sefrou, son of Chimone Hayim (Yeah), president of the Rabbinical Court, author of the famous books Yismah Levav and Torat Hayim. Rabbi David was 29 years old when he was appointed rabbi of his community, thus becoming the youngest Dayane in Morocco. The chief rabbis of Fez, Meknes and other Moroccan cities had come for the occasion, as well as the members of the Sherifian Authority.

His intense activity in Sefrou revolutionized the life of this small community which will become a true spiritual center for the whole of Morocco. Very quickly he is recognized for his erudition, for his expertise in halakha, in biblical and Talmudic exegesis; for his incomparable mastery of the classical, and Arabic language; for his engaging preaching and sacred study which he brought back to the synagogue many believers who had drifted away.

Under his leadership, dynamism and charismatic personality, a new spiritual era began for the city where new ritual baths and many other religious services were built. He also founded a network of community institutions including the famous Bet David and a school for young girls, the first of its kind in Morocco. His fame spread beyond the borders and all Moroccan communities wanted him as their rabbi. In 1942, the Chief Rabbinate asked him to take over the presidency of the Rabbinical Court of Rabat, and the chief of staff of the Minister of Justice asked him to sit in Casablanca as president of the Rabbinical Court of that city. But fearing the dissolution of the network of institutions he had established in such a short time in Sefrou, he rejected all offers. In 1961, he was appointed to head the civil court of the large city of Fez, and later to head the rabbinical court of Marrakech.

His notoriety spread throughout Morocco and reached the ears of the authorities, who invited him to sit as a member of the First Consultative Assembly of independent Morocco, then, as a deputy in the Moroccan Parliament, as a representative of the Jews of Morocco to the Government of the Sherifian Kingdom.

In 1964, for reasons related to his high standards in religious matters, Rabbi David decided to move to Israel. The first years in Jerusalem were difficult: destitution and isolation. His immense humility prevented him from seeking any help or appointment. Nevertheless, he was appointed Vice-president of the Religious Council of Jerusalem.

He has published several works including A History of Sefrou in five volumes, and A history of the community of Fez and its rabbis in two volumes and he edited the Kissé Mélakhim of Rabbi Raphaël Elbaz.

He made his Aliyah in the 1960s and published in 1980 Fas vehachémeha (Fez and its rabbis). He was a member of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem. He opened a Yeshiva for students from Morocco.

On the death he King Mohammed V on February 26, 1962, great protector of the Jews during the Nazi Vichy government (1940-1944) in France, Chief Rabbi David Obadia pronounced this eulogy in Sefrou before the faithful gathered in the great synagogue of the mellah: (54)

[‘’Lord, our God and the God of our Fathers, in this hour of the office of Minha, accept the offering of our lips, you, Rock of the Universe! In your compassion, you who forgive and console, accept with the soul of our king Mohammed the Fifth. You, O Lord, take pity on him, forgive him, take him under your wings, place him in the midst of the pure souls of the righteous of the Nations, under the portals of Your mercy. May he rest in peace. May it be so. Amen to that!’’]

‘’Éternel, notre Dieu et celui de nos Pères, en cette heure de l’office de Minha, accepte l’offrande de noslèvres, Toi, Rocher de l’Univers ! Dans ta compassion, Toi qui pardonne et console, accueille avec faveur l’âme de notre roi Mohammed le Cinquième. Toi, ô Seigneur, prends-le en pitié, pardonne-lui, prends-le sous Tes ailes, place-le au milieu des âmes pures des Justes des Nations, sous les portails de Ta miséricorde. Qu’il repose en paix. Qu’il en soit ainsi. Amen !’’

Entrance to Sefrou in the 1920s. A gate known as Bâb lamqâm (Photo by Maitrejean)

David Assouline (1959-)

Born in Sefrou, Morocco, on June 16, 1959, David Assouline is a French politician and father of three children. A member of the Socialist Party. David Assouline began his career as a history-geography teacher at the Paul-Valéry high school in Paris. Holder of the CAPES, David Assouline has been involved in militant activities since his youth. When he entered the Jules Uhry high school in Creil, he became the head of the high school coordination against the high school reform within the Mouvement des Jeunes Communistes de France

The Jews of Sefrou are known for their trade. But David Assouline, chose another path: history and militancy in the ranks of the far left student movements.

He continued to express his demands for social justice, notably by taking part in trade unionism and in the fight against the rise of the extreme right. He was one of the many participants in the ‘March of the Beurs’ in 1983. Three years later, he became one of the emblems of the movement against the Devaquet bill, which provided for the establishment of a selection at the entrance of universities. 

The following year, in 1987, he joined the national office of the National Union of Students of France – Independent and Democratic (UNEF -ID) and joined the Revolutionary Communist League. During the presidential elections of 1988, David Assouline joined the campaign of Pierre Juquin, dissident communist candidate. In 1995, he turned to the Socialist Party. 

Even if he evolves in the teaching world, David Assouline does not give up his militant convictions, in particular by following the movements ‘’Faut pas décoder’’ against the reform of the nationality code in 1993, and ‘’Stop La Violence’’’in 1999. 

In 1995, he joined the Socialist Party and became director of the campaign of the socialist lists “Paris s’éveille en 1995“. He was then elected to the city council of the 20th arrondissement and contributed to the establishment of direct democracy and participatory democracy bodies, the neighborhood councils. In 2001, he was elected to the Paris council and became deputy mayor of Paris in charge of student life. He resigned from this position in September 2004 when he was elected to the Senate, but remained a Paris councillor.

In 2004, he was elected to the Senate, while being a Councillor of Paris. At the same time, he is one of the instigators of the New Socialist Party, which supported the candidacy of Ségolène Royal in 2007. In 2011, he supported Martine Aubry during the socialist primaries. David Assouline became the spokesman of the PS in 2012, until he left this position in April 2014.

A historian specializing in the history of immigration, David Assouline is the co-author of Notre Printemps en hiver (Éditions La Découverte, 1987), of the trilogy Un siècle d’immigrations en France: De la mine au champ de bataille (1851-1918), De l’usine au Maquis (1918-1945), and Du chantier à la citoyenneté (1945 à nos jours) (Éditions Syros. 1995-1997).

David Assouline wrote and directed the documentary film Entre Paradis perdu et Terre promise on the history of the Jews of Morocco (60 minutes). Introducing this nostalgic documentary, Béatrice Bantman et Nicolas Santolaria wrote in Liberation, the following introduction: (55)

[‘’What remains of Sefrou, the little Jerusalem of Morocco, the oriental earthly paradise adored by Colette? A memory, a sweet wound for the children of the thousands of Jews who once lived in this small Moroccan town near Fez. “The land of Israel was here” says Moshe, one of the last Jews to leave Sefrou for Israel. They left one after the other, driven out by Moroccan independence, the wars in the Middle East and the widespread fear that overcame the sweetness of living together, Jews and Arabs, without fuss. David Assouline’s documentary should be seen for the beautiful images of this peaceful past in the medina and to discover, once again, that the drama of integration is not necessarily played out where we expect it to be. For the elders of Sefrou, the promised land had a bitter taste. “I was a master, I became a servant”, says one of them who tells of the humiliations, the morgue of the European Jews and the young girls who turn their backs when they say they are Moroccan. In the end, he came to terms with the fact that “at least my sons were not called dirty Jews”.’’]

”Que reste-t-il de Sefrou, la petite Jérusalem du Maroc, paradis terrestre oriental adoré de Colette? Une mémoire, une douce blessure pour les enfants de ces milliers de juifs qui vécurent autrefois dans cette petite ville marocaine proche de Fès. «La terre d’Israel était ici» dit Moshe, un des derniers Juifs à avoir quitté Sefrou pour Israël. Ils sont partis les uns après les autres, chassés par l’indépendance marocaine, les guerres du Moyen Orient et cette peur diffuse qui a eu raison de la douceur de vivre ensemble, Juifs et Arabes, sans histoires. Il faut voir le docu de David Assouline pour les belles images de ce passé paisible dans la medina et découvrir, une fois de plus, que le drame de l’intégration ne se joue pas forcément là où on l’attend. Pour les anciens de Sefrou, la terre promise a eu un goût amer. «J’étais maître, je suis devenu serviteur», dit l’un d’eux qui raconte les humiliations, la morgue des juifs d’Europe et les jeunes filles qui tournent le dos quand on dit qu’on est Marocain. Pour finir par s’en accomoder, «Mes fils, au moins n’ont pas été traités de sales juifs».”

Author of several researches, studies and exhibitions on the repression of Algerians in France during the Algerian War, he published a collective work, with Mehdi Lallaoui, À propos d’octobre 1961 (Éditions ANM, 2001). David Assouline was the first to find and have published the archives of the Paris public prosecutor’s office proving irrefutably the death of dozens of Algerian FLN militants following the police repression under the orders of Maurice Papon on October 17, 1961.

The departure of the Jews of Sefrou

What remains of Sefrou, the ‘’Little Jerusalem of Morocco,’’ the oriental earthly paradise adored by Colette?  A memory, a sweet wound for the children of the thousands of Jews who once lived in this small Moroccan town near Fez. “The land of Israel was here” says Moshe, (56) one of the last Jews to leave Sefrou for Israel. They left one after the other, driven out by Moroccan independence, the wars in the Middle East, and the widespread fear that overcame the sweetness of living together, Jews and Arabs, without fuss. (57)

The drama of integration is not necessarily played out where it is expected. For the elders of Sefrou, the promised land had a bitter taste.  “I was a master, I became a servant“, says one of them who tells of the humiliations, the morgue of the European Jews, and the young girls who turn their backs when they say they are Moroccan. (58) In the end, he came to terms with the fact that “at least my sons were not called dirty Jews“. (59)

On the immigration of the Jews of Sefrou to Israel (Alyah), Yaron Tsur wrote: (60)

‘’L’activité de Lévy n’a pas débuté à Fès, mais dans la ville proche de Séfrou, qui comptait de 4 000 à 5 000 juifs. Lévy y séjourna lors de l’été 1920, peut-être pour ses affaires. À la fin des offices célébrés dans les synagogues, il profitait de la présence de fidèles pour organiser de petites réunions. Il ne mit pas par écrit le contenu de ses discours aux fidèles, ni la manière dont il avait coutume de faire sa propagande auprès des juifs de sa région, mais il décrit la réaction du public à ses paroles : « Toute la population était très émue au point que plusieurs familles respectables liquidèrent rapidement leurs affaires immédiatement après que je les ai quittées, pour monter en Eretz-Israël. » Ses propos indiquent clairement que sa propagande s’inspirait du discours messianique traditionnel. Seul le mélange de l’ancien et du nouveau, c’est-à-dire la croyance dans la vision rédemptrice allant de pair avec une propagande sioniste et moderne, peut expliquer la décision immédiate de plusieurs familles aisées de prendre ainsi la route. La motivation économique ne représentait pas pour elles le facteur décisif.’’

[‘’Levy’s activity did not begin in Fez, but in the nearby town of Sefrou, which had 4,000 to 5,000 Jews. Levy stayed there in the summer of 1920, perhaps for business. At the end of the services in the synagogues, he took advantage of the presence of the faithful to organize small meetings. He did not write down the content of his speeches to the congregation, nor the way in which he used to propagandize the Jews of his region, but he describes the reaction of the public to his words: “The whole population was so moved that several respectable families quickly liquidated their affairs immediately after I left them, to go up to Eretz-Israel. “19 His words clearly indicate that his propaganda was based on the traditional messianic discourse. Only the mixture of the old and the new, i.e., the belief in the redemptive vision coupled with modern Zionist propaganda, can explain the immediate decision of many well-to-do families to take the road in this way. Economic motivation was not the decisive factor for them.’’]

The history of Sefrou according to its Jewish inhabitants

History tells us that the inhabitants of Sefrou practiced the religions in vogue during ancient times: Christian, Jewish, and Majousse (also spelled Majus) or magism, worshippers of fire and offered their children in the holocaust; this practice is prohibited by Jewish and Muslim religions.

It is probable that to escape this barbaric practice, which takes its name from “Berberia”, the ancient name by which Morocco was designated (mentioned in the Talmud and even in the Bible), the tribes of Philistines or Pelistims in Hebrew, who came from Palestine at various times, became Jews. This fact is unanimously reported by Arab historians and others.

The city of Sefrou was a frequented economic center, being closer to the ancient city of Sijelmassa on the one hand, to Taza (also older) and Debdou on the other hand, without forgetting the center of Volubilis and its region, as well as the city of Fez. The city of Sefrou is one of the seven famous cities of ancient Morocco.

As everywhere in Morocco, historical and linguistic vestiges attest to the presence of the Jews in the regions where they settled, and the city of Sefrou is not exempt from this rule, for its main river known as Oued Aggay bore also the name of “Oued Lihoudi” or “River of the Jew” which indicates that the river belonged to the Jews since their mellah was built on its bank

in parallel with the name “Aggay” of Tamazight/Berber origin, it is also found in Greek, and it is, also, a word used in the Talmud by the Jews, “aggia” which means capture or gathering of water. It is admitted that the Jews along with the Phoenicians frequented Morocco before the Greeks, the oldest name of the Arabized river must be that of “Oued Lihoudi.

The Israelites of Sefrou come for the most part from the region of Tafilalet and that of Debdou; both are known for their demanding, stubborn character and sometimes harder in business or in discussions, than those who come from the neighboring regions, Bahlil, Azrou, etc. or even from Fez.

The number of Israelites in Sefrou, around 1900, was according to a local chronicle of 2,200, forming 550 families, occupying 64 houses composed of 542 rooms or bedrooms; there were five synagogues (in Fez 15 at the same time). (61) Apparently, this figure, which was exactly counted, is double that indicated by Charles de Foucauld, who was passing through Sefrou at the same time. (62) 

At the arrival of Moulay Idriss II, the Israelites of Sefrou lived in ksar Tofr and ksar al-Koufâr (Ksar of the miscreants). The Mellah of Sefrou was built during the reign of the Marinids.

The trade of the Israelites was mainly with the neighboring tribes. Their habits and way of life were those of country people, even in their clothing, except for rare exceptions. Rabbis, notables, children, and women always wore traditional clothing on the Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

The life in the open air, in the country for the men, the needs of housework, laundry, wool washing, and other occupations on the banks of the Oued Lihoudi, for the women, gave them robust and flourishing health; these habitual occupations from their young age made them very active and courageous, compared to the Jewish women of the other cities of Morocco. Accustomed to these sober conditions, both men and women lived very long lives. It is said that a Jewish woman who had run out of pepper for her soup went on foot to buy it in Fez and returned during the day to resume her occupations. 

  The Jewish washhouse, 1929

Many women came to work in Fez during the week and returned to Sefrou on Friday to celebrate the Shabbat; others settled in front of the door of Bab Semmarine in Fez, to sew and mend the clothes of passers-by at a suitable price. Bab Semmarine is the entrance to Fez-Jdid, on the side of the mellah of Fez; Jewish women from mellah worked as menders and lined up in two lines at Bab Semmarine while waiting for Muslims from Fez-Jdid to call on them to mend their clothes: this explains why women from Sefrou were also at Bab Semmarine. A team of these women settled for the washing of wool in Aïn Tchoutcha (source of the mulberry tree) at the same time as the Muslim women in Fez. This source and its destination still existed until recently in the shallows of the Bab Jiaf square, recently occupied by the municipal auction of Fez. It could be Aïn Touta, “tut” being the Moroccan Arabic name for the blackberry.

The Jews of Sefrou were specialized in the work of copper objects used for ritual needs (lamps of ancient form to celebrate the festival of Chanukkah (or Hanukkah), chains used to hang vases in the synagogues, etc.) or for the household, leather bags and slippers, weaving of woollen carpets, trade of carpentry wood that the proximity of the forest regions of Guigou and Azrou facilitated, charcoal, etc. The blackberries and cherries of Sefrou were particularly famous and were always sought after by the inhabitants of Fez and other regions of Morocco, they were picked up and sold by Jewish people.

For the trips between Fez and Sefrou, one went on a mule; the transport of wood and coal was done by caravan, on a donkey, the men travelled on foot. During the periods of hostility, the muleteers paid an illegal tax called “zttata” (63) under the threat of the usual expression at the time “zttata walla takshât” which means “payment or stripping” while passing at the place called “Ayoun Smar” located at approximately halfway. The payment of the “zttata” guaranteed that the caravan would not be disturbed on its way. It goes without saying that this payment applied only to the muleteers or Israelite travelers because it could not be demanded from the tribesmen for fear of reprisals.

When an Israelite merchant from Sefrou became rich or if the development of his business required it, he settled permanently in Fez, as such many families considered as a Fassi originated from Sefrou. Sometimes, the opposite happened and some families from Fez moved to Sefrou to benefit from a simpler and more economical way of life.

An unfortunate event took place in the year 5650 of the Hebrew era, that is to say in 1890, when one Friday evening the river overflowed its banks following heavy rains and a flood invaded the Mellah, this district being on the bank of the river. There were many deaths and considerable damage. Several teams of Israelites from Fez left the next morning, a Saturday, to help their co-religionists in the neighboring city.

The same event occurred in 1950. The flood on the eve of the Israelite festival of Sukkot or huts destroyed several houses and many people died. The flood spread to Fez, demolished a bridge on its way to the new city, and filled a huge basin-like ravine between the new city and the medina, which would otherwise have suffered an unprecedented disaster. In Sefrou, the streets of the medina and the mellah were washed away in some places to a depth of more than two meters: more than 60 houses and stores collapsed. The violent storms of September caused damage in Immouzer and in Fez where Oued al-Mehraz overflowed, flooding the Sidi Brahim district and ravaging everything in its path.

Since the old days, the wealthy families of Fez went to Sefrou during the hot season to benefit from the excellent and healthy climate and the green gardens around the mellah. During the month of May, Jews come on pilgrimage to the tomb of an unknown Jewish saint, which is located in the cave of Kâf Lihoud (Jbel Binna) at the bottom of the mountain, next to the present Israelite cemetery. The interest of the cave lies in the cult of which it is the object. Pregnant women make pious visits there so that their delivery is easy. Sterile women bring candles to become fertile.

The Jews of Sefrou spoke either Arabic (64) or Tamazight or both because in their commercial daily work they had to deal with Berber farmers from the plain surrounding the city and in their daily life Arabic was the medium of communication while Hebrew was used for prayers and Jewish holidays.

In reference to the linguistic reality of Moroccan Jews, Simon Levy, a Moroccan Jewish linguist, writes: (65)

‘’Why do some Jewish communities such as those of Midelt, Demnat, and Tahala remain Arabic-speaking in a Berber-speaking environment? Why has Judeo-Spanish (ḥakitiya) survived in Tetouan and Tangiers but not in Fez or Meknes? How did one community influence another? And above all, how did they arise in particular areas, at what time, and from which center? Why does the Jewish dialect of Marrakesh contain so many characteristics of urban Arabic while the speech of their Muslim neighbors has so many rural features? To answer these questions, we need to start by sketching out the historical and social context of this study and by undertaking a history of Jewish settlement in the host country while avoiding all Manichaean dualism or ghettoization.’’

The Jewish community of Sefrou celebrates the Throne Day in 1957

The President of the Jewish Community Committee Rahamin Tobaly and Chief Rabbi David Obadia, surrounded by the members of the Committee, received in the premises the President of the Communal Council of Em Habanim, His Excellency El Hassane El Alaoui, Pasha of the City, accompanied by local authorities and Muslim and Jewish notabilities.

In an emotional and warmly applauded speech, which preceded the traditional prayer on the occasion of the Throne Day, Rabbi David Obadia recounted a parable from the Talmud. He compared the wishes made by the people of Morocco to those made by a traveler lost in the desert and hungry and thirsty. When he looked up to heaven to pray to God, he saw a tree covered with green leaves, succulent fruits and at the foot of which flowed a spring. He ate and drank and then addressed the tree: 

What prayer can I ask God for you? Green leaves, delicious fruits, water at your foot you have – I only wish that each of your offshoots would give a tree in your image”.

Rabbi David Ovadia in his prayers said: 

’We all, like this traveler, addressed this prayer to our Most High God during the lifetime of our King Mohammed V and God the Merciful answered our prayers. May God give him long life, honor, glory, guide him and enlighten him in his actions, and may his reign be one of progress, well-being, freedom and peace.’’

On what concerns the daily affairs and welfare of the Jewish community, Rabbi David Obadia wrote the following letter to the Pasha (Mayor) of Sefrou:

‘’Sefrou, January 23, 1957

Mister the Pasha of the City of Sefrou,


I would be very grateful if you would grant a weekly day of rest, in addition to the Sabbath, to Mr. Mardoché Haroche, sweeper at the Mellah.

The latter works half a day on Saturday, which is contrary to the Jewish religion.

Counting on your customary benevolence, please accept, Excellency, the expression of my respectful greetings.

signed: Obadia David.’’

 Two days later the Pasha answered favourably to the request of the Rabbi:

‘’Sefrou, January 25, 1957 

The Pasha of the City of Sefrou to Mr. David Obadia Chief Rabbi of Sefrou

Further to your letter dated January 23, 1957 concerning the subject mentioned in the margin, I have the honor to inform you that I do not see any inconvenience for the worker Mordechai Harroch to take his rest on Saturday in exchange for Sunday.

Please accept, Sir, my best regards.

Signed: El Hassane El Alaoui’’

David Obadia, Chief Rabbi of Sefrou

On the sad occasion of the passing away of the president of the Jewish community of Fez Oujda and Sefrou, Dr. Armand Guigui, on December 2019, His Majesty King Mohammed VI sent a message of condolences and compassion to his family members. In this message, the Sovereign said he learned with deep emotion the death of Armand Guiguin, may God surround him with His great mercy.

In this painful circumstance, H.M. the King expressed to the members of the family of the deceased, and through them to his relatives and to the members of the Moroccan Jewish community, his deep condolences and his sincere feelings of compassion, following this cruel loss, imploring the Almighty to grant them patience and consolation.

The Sovereign recalled the qualities of the deceased, invoking his patriotic spirit and his attachment to the constants and sacred values of the Nation and to the Alaoite Throne, praying to God to accept the late Guigui in His Celestial Kingdom and to reward him amply for the commendable services rendered to his country.

The suq of Sefrou

After his multiple academic works on Islam in Indonesia, Geertz chose the city of Sefrou at a time when its Jewish inhabitants had almost all emigrated to Israel following the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the need to make their Aliyah.

Geertz, his wife Hildred, and his friend Rosen Lawrence were interested for many personal and academic reasons in studying the economy and society of this thousand-year-old city known for its tolerance and interfaith communication.  Before their arrival, the city had attracted many civilian, military and religious travelers obsessed with its magic and exoticism, but never academics.

For Geertz, the bazaar is a “key institution.” The one in Sefrou, is of relative importance on the scale of Morocco. It includes some 600 established stores, forty professions, 300 workshops and a large number of mobile actors. Geertz noted that this market is sorely lacking the average customer. The quasi-totality of its actors, indeed, take part there, simultaneously, in two titles: salesmen and purchasers. They are “intimate antagonists”, who are constantly putting their own personal status at stake. 

This interdependence is the basis of the very specific relations of client vs salesman: rather than vertically linking clients and bosses, these erect the principle of mutual dependence between clients and clients, obliged and obliged, service providers and service providers. Such relations can therefore only be equivocal, situational, and, above all, reversible. It is their constant reproduction, in fluidity and flexibility, that gives meaning to the market as a whole. Thus, nothing prohibits breaking with a seller or a buyer without jeopardizing the principle of the mutual dependence on the intimate antagonists.

When Geertz started his fieldwork in 1967 there were 600 Jews and the number dwindled to 200 in 1972. (67) He goes on to say that back in 1950, the density of the population was so high, that Jews moved to the French Ville nouvelle.  The economic situation in the city became precarious and such Jews either left for Israel, France or bigger Moroccan cities such as Fez and Casablanca: (68)

‘’The diminution- and probable demise- of the Jewish community of Sefrou is not the result of any breakdown in Muslim-Jewish relations, but it stems from the Jew’s general uncertainty about the stability of the Moroccan economy and the opportunities that would be available to their children in contemporary Morocco. During the period of fieldwork, the Jewish schools still operated and Jews were still seen in the marketplace, but the familial hierarchy, the elaborate internal institutions, and the economic importance of the Jewish community, like the mellah community itself, were almost entirely gone.’’

The Jews played a major role in thesûqeconomic business of the city and its prosperity. They were the link with the outside world, mainly the countryside. A sort of extension of the merchant activities of the bazaar to the countryside. In this regard, Geertz distinguishes two type of Jews: the sitting (gles) Jews and the riding (rkeb) Jews.

Geertz speaks of these two categories of Jews of Sefrou as follows: (70)

‘’The riding Jews were, in fact, riding camp to camp, suq to suq, virtually the whole of the year, returning to Sefrou for any length of time only during the two main holiday seasons. In town, the sitting Jews sat, sources not only of capital for the riding Jews, but of food and housing, and indeed of a whole range of welfare services, for the latter’s families, including governance of their morale and religious life. Though not explicitly conceived as such, the riding Jews were almost as much the sitting Jews’ servants as their agents.’’

And he goes on to further explain the place of the Jews in the bazaar economy: (71)

‘’Towards the artisans, most of whom, especially in shoemaking and tailoring, were also dirt poor, the financiers had a similar relation, capitalizing them, engrossing their output, and providing for their subsistence almost as an extension of an expanded family economy. The welfare hierarchy that governed community life generally provided the framework for commercial relations within the community as well. Outside the community, whether dealing with a Berber pastoralist, a town weaver, or a Fez importer, the Jews fitted as mentioned, into the more general structure of the bazaar as a whole. Indeed, in Sefrou at least, trying town and country together, permanent suq and periodic, they helped create the bazaar.’’

For Geertz, the Jewish society was hyper-organized and that helped it to survive in a Muslim environment but more than that be the motor of the bazaar economy in so much as it could evolve in all the areas in which Muslims could not either for religious reasons or practical economic expertise.

Geertz describes the Mellah of Sefrou in the following terms: (72)

‘’That world was marked by three main characteristics: hyperorganization, thoroughgoing plutocracy, and intense piety. Pressed in behind the wall of their own quarter, the mellâh, where, until the Protectorate they were obliged to live, the Jews seem to have concentrated their social personality as the Muslims diffused theirs. Locked each night in their quarter (no-non Jews could enter after dark), an increasingly crowded and unexpendable ghetto, whose buildings raised up like miniskyscrapers to accommodate the pressure, the Jews developed a society whose close counterpart, the religiosity perhaps somewhat aside, seems to be the merchant oligarchies of Rennaissance Italy.’’

Within the bazaar economy, the interrelationships between the different types of people who were there – sitting Jews (gles), riding Jews (rkeb), Amazigh chiefs, Arab notables, Saharan mule skinners, and a number of other types not yet mentioned – were complex, cross-cutting, and anything but remote. The economy of the bazaar was multicolored from the start: different varieties of people entered it to varying degrees, in different ways, and with not entirely complementary views of each other. (73)

For Mourad Moulai Hadj, the opus of Geertz et al. was an intense anthropological work that linked culture, religion, history and ethnography in the study of the people of Sefrou and their environment through the study of their sûq and its economic and social correlations: (74)

[‘’The souk of Sefrou was a field of study that contributed to the development of an anthropological approach linking the economic, the historical and the cultural to the daily life of individuals. The methodological contribution of Geertz in this research through its observation and thick description, was able to give birth to an anthropological current favoring the understanding of the meaning that the individuals give to the symbols, and the interpretation of culture.

The identity and cultural belonging of the people of Sefrou was an element of analysis and excavation from the use of the term Nisba, in order to discover the link of the trade with a religious and cultural heterogeneity of the merchant class or an ethnic mosaic in the Souk.’’]

‘’Le souk de Sefrou c’était un champ d’étude qui a contribué au développement d’une approche anthropologique reliant l’économique, l’historique et le culturel à la quotidienneté des individus. L’apport méthodologique de Geertz dans cette recherche à travers son observation et description dense, a pu donner naissance à un courant anthropologique favorisant la compréhension du sens que donnent les individus aux symboles, et l’interprétation de la culture.

L’appartenance identitaire et culturelle des gens de Sefrou a été un élément d’analyse et de fouille à partir de l’utilisation du terme Nisba, afin de découvrir le lien du commerce avec une hétérogénéité religieuse et culturelle de la classe marchande ou une mosaïque ethnique dans le Souk.’’

The city might be small in size and importance but it is ‘’thick’’ in cultural symbolism and anthropological significance. The ethnic mosaic created is reproduced and organized around the division of labor that inculcates a perception towards the different socio-ethnic groups and influences the social stratification and the social position of these groups in the society.

 Mourad Moulai Hadj goes on to say in this regard: (75)

[‘’This thesis led Geertz to develop a description of religion and its effect on the organization of merchant activity, social, cultural and cultic activity of two communities: the Muslims and Jews. For this purpose, Geertz used the religious institutions (Habous, Zawiyas and Hinta) in the case of Muslims and (the community council and the Riba) for the Jews, to analyze the social and cultural interactions in the two communities. Moreover, this religious system does not exist without an interdependence with the economic one and by this Geertz shows us a division of labor between the two communities; Muslims oriented towards El Hirfa and the craft industry and Jews towards commercial activity.’’]

‘’Cette thèse menait Geertz à développer une description de la religion et son effet sur l’organisation de l’activité marchande, sociale, culturelle et cultuelle de deux communautés : les musulmans et les juifs. Pour cela, Geertz utilisait les institutions religieuses, (Habous, Zawiyas et Hinta) chez les musulmans et (le conseil communautaire et le Riba) chez les juifs, pour analyser les interactions sociale et culturelle dans les deux communautés. En outre ce système religieux n’a pas d’existence sans une interdépendance avec l’économique et par là Geertz nous montre une division de travail entre les deux communautés ; des musulmans orientés vers El Hirfa et l’artisanat et des juifs vers l’activité commerciale. ‘’

Sefrou and the caravan trade with Africa

Anyone who visits Sefrou will be struck by the number of caravanserais (funduks) that exist in the Medina, today most of them are converted into kissariyas, mini inner markets, or markets for a special guild. These caravanserais in the past were inns for caravan Jewish guides and caravan merchants that traveled all the way to Timbuktu to deliver goods in exchange sometimes for gold (this is known today in the politically correct jargon as the’’unfair trade’’). (76)

The megorashim Jews came to Sefrou in 1493 and were joined later on by the Tafilalet Jews who escaped Arab persecution in that area. While the megorashim came from al-Andalus with expertise in trade and business, the Tafilalet Jews were expert guides and had great knowledge of commerce with African tribes. Their co-presence in Sefrou, a city with a strong bazaar economy incited to mount caravan trade venture with Africa.

Larbi al-Adlouni (1912-1995), a religious scholar who lived on zankat Chebbak,near Bab Lamqam in Sefrou: (77)

‘’From the early 16th century to the end of the 19th century caravan trade flourished in Sefrou. The money was provided by the megorashim. To make the trade Halal the caravan was always accompanied by Muslim religious Fqihs who served as Imâms and provided as religious guidance for the Muslim merchants of the caravan and sometimes as negotiators with Amazigh/Berber tribes. Many of these scholars became qâdîs (judges) in Africa and married there and never returned. The guide of the caravans were Moshés (Jews) known as azettat and had great knowledge of the terrain and the tribe leaders. They were people of great integrity and boundless diplomacy and always managed to lead the caravan to Timbuktu and back in the best possible ways. They spoke a number of languages: Arabic, Tamazight, Hassani, Wolof and Mandinké and thus they were able to navigate the Sahar in the best ways possible. In the evenings, they would help set up the camp, provide wood for fire and sometimes even cook for the forty or so members of the caravan and after that retire to pray and sleep. Sometimes they will even act as doctors to the merchants. In the morning they were the first up to ready the people for departure while the air was cool. In Timbuktu, no transaction is done without their assent and guidance.’’

According to Larbi al-Adlouni the practice of Tazettat (78) was initiated by the Ait Yussi tribe in the 16th century to all merchants and traderswho traversed their territory. This money was used to pay local Imâms and entertain Koranic schools. It was considered as a right of passage tax. Those willing to pay the tax fully and on the spot would fly a piece of the local rug on a stick. They are met halfway by the tribe muhtasib (accountant) who would deliver them a receipt on payment of the dues. This practice was later adopted by other Amazigh/Berber tribes, and Arab and African tribes, mostly on the trans-Saharan routes.

The word tazzetat/zttata is an Arabic word adapted from Tamazight and it means getting through a difficult situation or terrain with the help of a guide, unlike what Geertz believes and says. (70) The caravans  that undertook trans-Saharan trade (80) had to pay toll fees throughout their trajectory to establish amân (security and secure passage) for their merchandize and merchants. In this business the azettat was what Geertz calls the rkeb Jew and his trade was financed by the gles Jew who was a banker sitting in a tiny shop. 

The Jewish guide azettat started his journey from Sefrou with merchants and their camels laden with all kind of goods and salt as the caravan goes through different tribal territories would pick up more merchants and more goods. Sefrou Jewish guides, over the centuries, were known for their integrity, their trustworthiness, their diplomatic styles and their Knowledge of the terrain. At the beginning of each tribal territory they will fly on a long stick, the aztta (tribal emblem represented by motifs found in local rugs)of the tribe which means that they will pay the passage tithe in return for tribal amân (pledge of security and peace). This practise will be repeated on the way back. This passage tax will allow the caravan to be protected in the tribal territory from banditry and any other danger and provide the travelers with water and necessary provisions in return of a payment.

According to Larbi al-Adlouni of Sefrou, in the early 30s of the last century, there was, at the time of the caravan trade, a street in the Medina that was named Zankat an-Niyya רחובכוונות טובות(the street of good intentions) occupied mainly by Jewish gold and silver smiths who doubled as bankers. Their job was to sell and buy gold and silver for Muslims. The benefits from this business was used to finance trans-Saharan trade and grant Berber pastoralists and Sefrou Arab people loans to pay back with a small interest known as talec (ascending rate).

The street of the bankers was called Zankat an-Niyya because Jewish financiers of Sefrou trusted Berber and Arab customers with their good intentions profession. They made them swear on the Qur’an to pay back the money on a fixed date unless there is a major problem and in that case, the loan is renegotiated and the interest upped. This practise kept the bazaar economy of Sefrou live and kicking. 

Apparently these small bankers בַּנְקַאיrole as financiers of tran-Saharan trade literally disappeared with the end of such trade through Tafilalet when Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah (1721-1790) decided to build the city of Mogador in 1764 and make its port the Moroccan gate on Europe and Africa. The city attracted big Moroccan Jewish business families and European Jewish families that became known as the ‘’Merchants of the Sultan’’ tujjâr as-Sultân  (82) that conducted trade with Europe but also with Africa through Agadir.

Sefrou, the capital of Jewish scholarship in Morocco

Over the centuries, Sefrou was the home of prominent Talmudists, Rabbis, Kabbalists, grammarians, poets, singers, philosophers, astronomers, historians, politicians, dayanes, paytans, and mathematicians such as Rabbi Raphael Moshe El Baz, Rabbi David Obadia, Zohra al-Fassiya, and David Assouline. It had a rich religious life over many centuries Thus it gained a reputation as a home of scholars, Rabbis, politicians and entertainers leading many to describe it as the ‘’Little Jerusalem’’ or ‘’Little Jerusalem of Morocco’’. (83)

The rabbi and dayan (judge) who served the Jewish community after World War II was Rabbi David Obadia, whose father had been the community rabbi until his death in the late 1940s. There was also a beit din בית דין(Jewish court). Two batei midrash בית מדרש(house of learning) that had collections of old and important books written by scholars of Sefrou, including the manuscript of the book Kisse Melakhim, a general history of Morocco and Moroccan Jews. (84)

Jewish education for children and adults was important to the Jewish community of Sefrou. Thus, Sefrou had a yeshiva  ישיבה (center of study of Talmud and Torah) and Torah study groups like Elijahu Hanavi and Simeon bar Yochai for adults. Young children frequented thechederחדר(Jewish religious elementary school).

Em Habanim, a school of Talmud Torah, was founded in 1917 with donations from mothers. In 1956, it had 12 classes, with 14 teachers and 650 students. The program included Hebrew, prayers, Jewish law, the Bible and the Talmud.

Older boys graduating from Talmud Torah studied at the Beit David yeshiva, which had about 40 students. In addition, the Lubavich Chasidim of New York established a Beit Rivka school for girls, which had 50 students. A branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle was attended by 482 girls and 231 boys. In 1956, a plan was drawn up to establish a vocational school for girls under the aegis of the ORT, financed by the Joint Distribution Committee. However, this school was never built, because by this time most of the Jews of Sefrou had moved to the new State of Israel.

Annex I :

In 1960 the officials of the Alliance Israelite Universelle of Paris sent an invitation to the Rabbi of Sefrou David Obadia to invite him to come and speak at the Centennial Congress of the Alliance convening in Paris, June 21-24, 1960, he could not make it but he sent a long essay on the work of the Alliance.


Paris, April 26, 1960


‘’Dear Mr. Rabbi

In 1960 the Alliance celebrates the Centenary of its foundation.

I would be particularly pleased if you could participate personally in the Congress of the Centenary of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which will take place in Paris from June 21 to 24, 1960, at the Palais de l’UNESCO; the debates will focus on questions concerning education, the defense of human rights and the spirit of tolerance.

As soon as you do us the honor of informing us of your participation, our staff will be sure to send you a detailed program of the proceedings.

I also enclose a brief note on the main events that have marked the 100-year history of the Alliance.

I look forward to meeting you at the Centennial Congress of the Alliance. Please accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.


Jewish Community President

SEFROU (Morocco)

כ״ח בסיון תש״ך – (24.6.1960-21)

נאום שנשלח לצרפת לרגל חגיגות המאה לייסוד חברת ״כל ישראל חברים״. הופיע בספר:


 Proceedings of the Centennial Congress of the IUA.

בעמוד 182 והלאה Paris, 1961 Debate

Jules Braunschwig: -Mr. President, ladies.

Gentlemen, we had, my friend David Amar and I, a scruple of conscience.

Amar received from the Obadia Rabbi of Sefrou in Morocco, a very esteemed, very brilliant, very intelligent and very devoted rabbi, a letter from which I would like to read you very large excerpts and which is, to a certain extent, in opposition to everything we have heard here…

‘’We are all gathered here to commemorate the Centenary of the Alliance, and we will not measure the praise against the magnificent, grandiose work that has been accomplished for a hundred years. I know that all the speakers who have succeeded or will succeed one another on this rostrum have said or will say all the merits of the I.A.U. I have come from Morocco, a country that has certainly benefited the most from the I.A.U.’s work, and I will not spare my praise.

However, it is a cry of alarm that I have come to raise here. The future of 200,000 of our brothers is at stake; my nights are tormented and my days worried.

How can I not be anxious, knowing that the spiritual future of my Moroccan co-religionists is most precarious? Here is a population that has been brought out of the darkness of ignorance by the Alliance and abandoned in the middle of a crossroads, from which several paths lead but none of which is clearly indicated. Yes, the A.I.U. has emancipated us as Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt, but it has abandoned us in the middle of the desert. And we are waiting for the Sinai revelation which has not yet come.

If this was the goal of the Alliance, it has been fully achieved and all that remains is for it to withdraw with all the satisfaction of a successful mission.

The A.I.U. has educated the masses, emancipated them and formed elites. For generations it has spread French culture and we are deeply grateful for this. And today, the celebration of this centenary is for us an occasion of unmixed joy.

And yet, if the A.I.U. were to limit its ambition to training only educated men, it would be denying itself – by the same token – because any lay organization could have done what it has done and done it well too.

Through a century of history the echo of the Appeal of the founders of the A.I.U. of June 1860 rings in my ears. It begins: “Israelites, though scattered over all the points of the earth and mixed with the nations, you remain attached at heart to the ancient religion of your fathers…”.

The signatories of the 1860 appeal refer to the attachment to the ancient religion of Israel – There is no doubt that in their minds, the raison d’être of the Alliance was precisely to emancipate the Ishadites politically, legally and materially, but not to bring them to assimilate, that is to say to deny themselves as Israelites.

Let us recognize that the work undertaken was of colossal dimensions and that moreover, the populations which were to enjoy the benefits of emancipation were in a state of terrifying social claustration. To emancipate them was to fight against the modes of life and thought which maintained them in a state of inferiority. And the risk was great to see them in the same gesture rejecting the container, the more or less superstitious practices, but also the content, the interior life, the religion.

Isn’t this how it happened? Not only did the A.I.U. fail to keep the Israelites of Morocco attached to the ancient religion of their fathers, but where they had remained bound to their religion by a set of customs perpetuated through the ages, the A.I.U. came to unbind them without showing them the true face of their religion.

The result is here – a population probably saved from misery, disease, ignorance but spiritually lost. The responsibility of the A.I.U. to Moroccan Jewry is frightening. It has greatly contributed to creating a void in the inner life of our co-religionists – and tomorrow it will perhaps bear before history the responsibility of having helped to assimilate, to destroy, the most numerous community of the countries of Islam.

I regret to say that a great majority of the elite formed by the A.I.U. is alien to the spirit of the Torah, which it has denied in thought often, in deed almost always. I know that this was not the intention of the I.U.A., but unfortunately the facts are there. The process has been simple; the sacred has been desecrated and under the pretext of fighting against customs, respect for religion has been destroyed in people’s minds.

A few examples will illustrate this process better than a long speech — The Teachers of the I.A.U. forced students to uncover their heads in class, which is a way of scorning their religious practices. Some have even replaced the Hebrew names of their students with Christian names, which is yet another way of scorning Jewish history — Are they ashamed to let them bear the glorious names of their ancestors? In class, we talk to the students about Christmas, but we forget to tell them about Hanukkah – Another form of contempt for religious practices.

Religious education occupies only a minimal place in the curricula and is seen as second-class education; thus, the results acquired in religious instruction are not taken into account for passing classes.

You can easily imagine what such behavior leaves in the mind of the child — On the one hand it destroys the little Judaism that the child possesses from his family environment, and on the other hand it does not offer him in compensation, an exalting religion. Here we are in the middle of the desert, as I was saying earlier. It all happened for the I.A.U. as if a deliberate choice was made in the face of the immensity of the task — Let us first form good citizens,

we will think later of forming good Jews — this choice could have been made at a given moment, out of opportunism, but it is time to return to the true sources of Judaism.

At the end of this first century of the existence of the A.I.U., the work of emancipation can be considered a success, but there remains for this 2nd century which is beginning an even more exalting work, bringing the Israelites back to the ancient religion of their fathers — I am convinced that the Alliance is in a position to offer our children more than it gave to past generations — I have no doubt that it can dispense in its schools an original education and in which secular culture and religious education are intimately linked. The I.A.U. must in the next hundred years give itself as a program — to form good Jews aware of the originality of the spiritual message of Sinai, heirs of a universal religion but also putting into practice the commandments transmitted to them from father to son.

I am aware that my falsetto voice has come here to disturb the harmony of the concert of praise which rises from everywhere to glorify the work of the IAU, and that this is neither the place nor the time to say the hard truths. But I also know that the bitterness of raw truth is basically sweeter than the sweets of flattery.

I will end by formulating a wish for the future of the I.A.U. In a hundred years, when our descendants meet to celebrate the 2nd Centenary of the IAU, the work will deserve the praise that God gave to Abraham. He omitted to praise him for all his qualities, his hospitality, his devotion to his neighbor •— He said to him: — “ki yedativ limaans asher yetzavé eth banav véeth beto aharav veshamro derekh hasheni — ” “Because I loved him because commands his sons and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord.”’’

Annex II:



Geneva, 9th June, 1964


Re:- Rabbi David. OBADIA, Grand Rabbi of Sefrou

Ra’b’bi David Obadia, Grand Rabbi of Sefrou, has recently settled in Israel and decided to open a Yeshiva for students from Morocco. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Rabbi Obadia in the field of Jewish education during the last 12 years.

Those who know Jewish life in Morocco will probably agree with me that he is one of the most able Rabbis from North Africa. He has always seen his task as much larger than the official functions of a Moroccan Rabbi. He started girls general and vocational schools in Sefrou at a time when the religious education of girls was neglected in Morocco. He. organized and directed the Em Habanim elementary school which was the best of its kind in Morocco. He set up a Yeshiva which he maintained practically with his own efforts. He’is known in Morocco and outside for his visiton, his depth of thought, his dynamism and organizing abilities, not to mention his Jewish scholarship.

There is no doubt in my mind that Rabbi Obadia cdn make a very important contribution to Jewish life in Israel, especially on behalf of neglected Sephardi youth. His-back­ground and his ability will undoubtedly make him a leader of Sephardi Judaism in Israel. His efforts on behalf of Jewish education deserve fullhearted support. Any investment made through Rabbi Obadia in Jewish education will certainly bear permanent beneficial results for the Jewish people as a whole.

Stanley Abramovitch-Director

Department of Education’’

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu


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  12.  Joannes Leo Africanus (born al-Hasan Muhammad al-WazzanArabic: الحسن محمد الوزان; c. 1494 – c. 1554) was an Andalusian diplomat and author who is best known for his 1526 book Cosmographia et geographia de Affrica, later published by Giovanni Battista Ramusio as Descrittione dell’Africa (Description of Africa) in 1550, centered on the geography of the Maghreb and Nile Valley. The book was regarded among his scholarly peers in Europe as the most authoritative treatise on the subject until the modern exploration of Africa. For this work, Leo became a household name among European geographers. He converted from Islam to Christianity and changed his name to Johannes Leo de Medicis (يوحنا الأسد). Cf.
  13.  Rawḍ al-Qirṭās (Arabic: روض القرطاس) is a text written in Arabic in the early fourteenth century by ‘Alī ibn ʻAbd Allāh Ibn Abī Zarʻ al-Fāsī. short for Kitāb al-ānīs al-muṭrib bi-rawḍ al-qirṭās fī ākhbār mulūk al-maghrab wa tārīkh madīnah Fās (الأنيس المطرب بروض القرطاس في أخبار ملوك المغرب وتاريخ مدينة فاس). It contains many details about Morocco, the Iberian Peninsula, and Algeria. It consists of four parts from Idris I in 788 to the Marinid dynasty in 1326 : The Idrissid kings, The Almoravids, The Almohads, and The Marinids.
  14.  Zaim, Fouad. ‘’Aux pieds du Moyen-Atlas, SEFROU, la magnifique’’, LODJ, November 5, 2021.
  15.  Stillman, N.A. & Saddiq. ‘’Marabout in Morocco’’, in Deshen, S. & Zenner, W.P. (eds). Jews among Muslims. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966.
  16.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Jewish-Muslim Conviviality in Morocco’’, Eurasia Review, December 29, 2022.
  17.  Zohar, Zion. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry: From the Golden Age of Spain to Modern Times. New York City: New York University Press, 2005.
  18.  Périgny, Maurice, Comte De, (1877-1935). Au Maroc ; Fes, La Capitale Du Nord. Paris : Pierre Roger et Cie, éditeurs, 1917.
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  21.  De Périgny, Maurice.  Au Maroc : Fès, la capitale du Nord. Op. cit., chapitre XIII : Sefrou, pp. 225-238.
  22.  Hary, Benjamin & Norman A. Stillman. ‘’The Language and Culture of the Jews of Sefrou, Morocco: An Ethnolinguistic Study’’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 111 (3):608, 1991.
  23.  The Kaddish (Hebrew: קדיש qaddish, “sanctification”) is one of the central pieces of the Jewish liturgy. It is a Jewish prayer in Aramaic recited at the end of each part of the service. The theme of this prayer is the glorification and sanctification of the divine name, in reference to one of Ezekiel’s eschatological visions. There are several versions of this prayer in the liturgy, the best known being that of the mourners, although the Kaddish makes no reference to the dead or their resurrection.
  24.  Koehler, R.-P.Henry. ‘’La grotte dite « du Juif » à Sefrou (Maroc)’’, Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, 51-9-10, Année 1954, pp. 414-418.
  25.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’The Shared Beliefs of Muslims and Jews in Morocco’’, Eurasia Review, July 5, 2022.
  26.  Shirk (Arabic: شِرْك action of associating, hence associationism), is a word that, in Islam, refers to associating other gods or powers or deities with Allah, the one God, thus granting them the worship that is due only to Allah alone. This word is usually rendered in French as “idolatry”, “polytheism” or “associationism”.
  27.  Doutté, Edmond (1867-1926) . Magie et religion dans l’Afrique du Nord. Alger : A. Jourdan, 1909. Paris : Hachette Livre, 2017.
  28.  Westermarck, Edward. Ritual and Belief in Morocco, 2 vol. London: Routledge (Reprint), 2014.
  29.  Rabbi Amram Ben Diwan was born in Jerusalem. He later moved to Hebron. In 5523 (1743), he was chosen by the Rabbis of Hebron as an emissary to Morocco with the mission of collecting money for the Yechivot of the Holy Land. He chose to settle in Wazan, Morocco. There he founded a Talmud-thora, and a Yeshiva where many disciples came to quench their thirst for study by drinking from the source of his words.
  30.  Colette. Notes marocaines. Lausanne : Mermod, 1958.
  31. Stillman, Norman A. The Language and Culture of the Jews of Sefrou, Morocco: An Ethnolinguistic Study. Journal of Semitic Studies Monograph, no. 11. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1988.
  32.  Wagenhofer, Sophie. ‘’Contested Narratives: Contemporary Debates on Mohammed V and the Moroccan Jews under the Vichy Regime’’, in Memory and Forgetting among Jews from the Arab-Muslim Countries. Contested Narratives of a Shared Past, ed. Emanuela Trevisan and Piera Rossetto, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of the Fondazione CDEC, n. 04, November 2012.
  33.  Assaraf, Robert. Mohammed V et les Juifs du Maroc à l’époque de Vichy. Paris : Plon, 1997.
  34.  ‘’Rabbis of Morocco-15th Century to 20th Century’’, Sephardic Studies,
  35.  Hassine-Mamane, Lysette. Le Piyyut de Rabbi David Hassine. Traduction et annotation de quelques poèmes. Paris : Maisonneuve & Larose, 2000.
  36.  Abitbol, Shaoul Yéhoshouah. Avéné Shésh (Vol 2). Jerusalem, 1934.
  37.  ELBAZ, North African family noted for its rabbis. The Elbaz family originally lived in Azzaouia, *Morocco, from which it was expelled in 1668 by King Moulai Rashid along with 1,300 other families. They then settled in Fez and in Sefrou. Members of the family included MOSES BEN MAIMON *ALBAZ OF TARRODANT, author of Heikhal Kodesh, a kabbalistic commentary to the prayer book (Amsterdam, 1653), SAMUEL BEN ISAAC, author of Toledot Adam, a brief history up to the burning of the books in Italy (Venice, 1585), JACOB, author of Toledot Ya’akov, sermons (Venice, 1609), and SAMUEL BEN ISAAC (1698–1749), talmudist and codifier, who was head of the bet din of Fez. He was a friend of Ḥayyim b. Moses Attar, who would make no legal decision without his consent. Samuel is the author of Va-Yomer Shemu’el, talmudic novel-lae (Casablanca, 1929); his other works are still in manuscript. Many of his decisions were published in Jacob Ibn Ẓur’s Mishpat u-Ẓedakah be-Ya’akov (Alexandria, pt. 1, 1894; pt. 2, 1903). Some of his piyyutim are in manuscript at the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem (no. 2072). JUDAH (1770–1847) was a codifier who headed the bet din of Sefrou. Many of his decisions were published in Avnei Shayish (2 pts., Jerusalem, 1930–34), and in his son’s ḥayyei Amram. He was one of the major fundraisers for the kolelim in Ereẓ Israel. His son AMRAM (1799–1857), codifier, judge, and poet, wrote Ḥayyei Amram (Meknes, 1949). Another son, SAMUEL (1790–1844), left behind a manuscript work on Rashi, Ḥanokh la-Na’ar. RAPHAEL MOSES ((1823–1896), Samuel’s son, was a talmudic scholar, kabbalist, poet, and scientist. He wrote many works, including Halakhah le-Moshe, responsa (Jerusalem, 1901); Shir Ḥadash, poems (Jerusalem, 1935); and Eden mi-Kedem (Fez, 1940). Still in manuscript are many of his writings, including Kisse ha-Melakhim, a history of ancient kings and of the Jews.
  39.  Authors of piyyut are known as paytanim (singular: paytan). Piyyut is Jewish liturgical poetry, in Hebrew or occasionally Aramaic. The earliest authors of piyyut did not sign their names in acrostics, nor do manuscripts preserve their names. The earliest paytan whose name is known is Yosé ben Yosé, usually dated to fifth-century Palestine; he did not sign his name in his work, but copyists of manuscripts preserved it along with his work. Starting in the sixth century, paytanim began to sign their work. (
  40.  סרוסי, אדווין. “שינוי והמשכיות בשירת הבקשות של יהודי מארוקו: תמורות במשמעות הסימבולית של מנהג מוסיקאלי מסורתי.” Pe’amim: Studies in Oriental Jewry / פעמים: רבעון לחקר קהילות ישראל במזרח, no. 19, 1984, pp. 113–29. JSTOR,
  41.  The qasîda (Arabic: قصيدة) or qaside (Persian: قصیده), is a poetic form originating in pre-Islamic Arabia. It is typically a non-strophic, monometer and monorime ode, with a minimum length of 7 lines but usually varying between 50 and 100 lines. The qasîda became part of Persian literature, where it is mainly a laudatory lyric poem addressed to the prince. Theorized in the ninth century, it forms a closed corpus, whose authenticity is in doubt.
  42.  Laskier, Michael Menachem (Author, Editor), Reeva Spector Simon (Editor), Sara Reguer (Editor). The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times. New York City: Columbia University Press, 2003.
  43.  Rauschenbach, Sina & Jonathan Schorsch (eds.). The Sephardic Atlantic: Colonial Histories and Postcolonial Perspectives. New York City: Springer International Publishing AG. 2019.
  44.  Raphael Berdugo was the Rabbi of Meknes during the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. A renowned Dayan (judge) and respected scholar, Rabbi Berdugo was born in the former imperial city in 1747 to a rabbinical family. His grandfather Moshe Berdugo, father Mordekhay and brother Yequtiel were all rabbis, according to Issachar Ben-Ami in his book «Saint Veneration Among the Jews in Morocco» (Wayne State University Press, 1998). The Meknes Rabbi is also the grandfather of Rabbi Yehushua Berduga, «who was a judge in the religious court», the same book recalled. By the age of 15, Berdugo’s father died and he had to continue his studies «in dire poverty», reported Hyomi, a platform that pays tribute to the Rabbi. «Raphael Berdugo never forgot his life of poverty and when he reached adulthood he stood up for the Jewish poor. He often spoke in their praise in his commentaries on the Torah as well as when ruling public amendments», the same source recalled. (
  45.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Jewish Music and Singing in Morocco’’, Eurasia Review, September 1, 2022.
  46.  El Malhoun (or melhoun or malhûn, in Arabic: الملحون) is an Arabic word that groups together all popular poetry written in Maghrebi Arabic, whether nomadic or urban. It refers to the state of the Arabic language used to express certain forms of dialectal poetry in the Maghreb, as well as this poetry itself.
  47.  Shalev, Ben. “Ha-Sipur Ha-Amiti Meahorei Agadat Zohra El Fassia [The True Story behind the Legend of Zohra El Fassia]”, Haaretz, November 17, 2016.
  48.  Bitton, Erez. “Zohra Al-Fasiya’s Song”, in Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing, translated by Ammiel Alcalay, 267–68. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1996.
  49.  Seroussi, Edwin. “Music”, in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, edited by Norman A. Stillman, pp. 498–519. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2010.
  50.  Glasser, Jonathan. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Vol. 153. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016.
  51.  Silver, Christopher. “Listening to the Past: Music as a Source for the Study of North African Jews”, Hespéris-Tamuda, LI (2), 2016, pp. 243-255.
  52.  Glasser, Jonathan. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Op. cit.
  53.  Elkayam, Neta. Abiadi: A Tribute to the Legendary Zohra Al Fassia. Multimedia performance, 2016.
  54.  Assaraf, Robert. Mohammed V et les Juifs du Maroc à l’époque de Vichy. Op. cit.
  55.  Bantman, Béatrice & Nicolas Santolaria. ‘’Sefrou, Jérusalem du Maroc. Arte, 20h45, documentaire’’, Libération, Octobre 15, 1997.
  56.  “Entre paradis perdu et terre promise” Auteurs: David Assouline (Metteur en scène), Luc Decaster (Metteur en scène) et Mehdi Lallaoui (Directeur de production) Résumé: L’histoire de l’immigration vers Israël des derniers Juifs de Sefrou au Maroc Vidéo, français et 1997 Éditeur: Mémoires Vives Production [prod.], Paris et 1997.
  57.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘Emigration of Jews of Morocco to Israel in 20th Century’’, Eurasia Review, March 5, 2018.
  58.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’Moroccan Jews in Israel: Discrimination in The New Homeland’’, Eurasia Review, August 30, 2021.
  59.  David Assouline was born in 1959 in Sefrou (Morocco), naturalized French in 1973, and is a French senator of the Socialist Party, elected on September 26, 2004, and re-elected on September 25, 2011.
  60.  Tsur, Yaron. “L’’’exode de Fès’’ : Sur les origines de l’émigration sioniste du Maroc”. Abécassis, Frédéric, et al.. La bienvenue et l’adieu | 2 : Migrants juifs et musulmans au Maghreb (XVe-XXe siècle). Casablanca : Centre Jacques-Berque, 2012, pp. 9-19.
  61.  Personal communication from the Sefrou scholar and teacher Abbas Chkoundi (1912-1987).
  62.  Bazin, René. “CHARLES DE FOUCAULD: EXPLORATEUR DU MAROC, ERMITE AU SAHARA: II.” Revue Des Deux Mondes (1829-1971), vol. 63, no. 1, 1921, pp. 94–131. JSTOR,
  63.  In the regions of Morocco where the Makhzen did not assume the security of the road, the traveler had to resort to a paid local protection provided either by armed men belonging to the territory of the crossed tribe, or an escort linked to powers with a religious basis (Wâlî, Zaouia, Sharîf). This document presents the phenomenon of “ztata” presented in Foucauld’s work, “La Reconnaissance”, as a means of protection between tribes, aiming to ensure the security of the roads. The Ztata is the assumption of responsibility for the safety of the traveler by a local force. Thus, it is presented as a tribal custom that expresses a configuration of paradoxical features of the relationship between tribes, cities and state. It is also a phenomenon of daily life that is part of the security crisis in traditional Moroccan society. Thus, the security of the roads would be a fundamental indicator of the dichotomy: makhzen zone and Sîba zone, and the Ztata is a component of the Sîba situation.
  64.  Levy, Simon. « Les parlers arabes des juifs du Maroc », Langage et société, vol. 143, no. 1, 2013, pp. 41-51. 
  65. Ibid
  66.  Geertz, Clifford; Hildred Geertz & Lawrence Rosen. Meaning and order in Moroccan society. Three essays in cultural analysis, with a photographic essay by Paul Hyman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  67.  Ibid., p. 64.
  68.  Ibid., p. 65.
  69. Ibid.
  70.  Ibid., p. 171.
  71.  Ibid., p. 171-2.
  72.  Ibid., p. 165. 
  73.  Boum, A. ‘’Rural Moroccan Jews and the Colonial Postcard’’, Hesperis Tamuda, LV (2), 2020, pp.461-488. 
  74.  Moulai Hadj, Mourad. ‘’Le Souk de Sefrou : une contribution de Geertz dans la réévaluation de la culture’’, Algerian Scientific Journal Pattern.
  75. Ibid.
  76.  Kenton, Will. ‘’Unfair Trade Practice: Definition, Deceptive Methods and Examples’’, Investopedia, November 27, 2020.
  77.  Personal communication received on May 15, 1985 in Sefrou.
  78.  Geertz, Clifford; Hildred Geertz & Lawrence Rosen. Meaning and order in Moroccan society. Three essays in cultural analysis, with a photographic essay by Paul Hyman. Op. cit., pp. 137-138.
  79.  Ibid., p. 137.
  80.  Bigon, L. & Langenthal, E. ‘’Tracing Trade and Settlement Infrastructures in the Judaic Material Culture of Tafilalt, Southeastern Morocco’’, Heritage, 5(4), 2022, pp. 3785-3818.
  81.  Renton, Constance. ‘’Morocco to Timbuktu: BBC Series Explores Africa’s Historical Trade Routes’’, Morocco World News, May 14, 2017.
  82.  Kenbib, Mohammed. “Les notabilités juives marocaines au xixe siècle”, in Hénia, Abdelhamid (ed.), Être notable au Maghreb : Dynamique des configurations notabiliaires. Tunis : Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain, 2006, pp. 238-247.
  83.  Stillman, Norman A. ‘’The Sefrou Remenant’’, Jewish Social Studies, Vol 35, No. ¾, Jul-Oct 1973, pp. 256-8.
  84.  Chtatou, Mohamed. ‘’ Sefrou: Moroccan City of Religious Symbiosis Between Islam and Judaism’’, Eurasia Review, March 28, 2020.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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