Moroccan Jews in Israel – Page 2

Moshavim (Cooperative Agricultural Settlements)

Avivim 6836.jpg
Avivim Moshad, on the Lebanese Border, Reestablished by Moroccan Jews in 1963, by Own work – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Israeli authorities directed 40% of ma’abarot inhabitants, including Moroccans, into moshavim (cooperative agricultural settlements). These settlements, sponsored by the Jewish Agency, were cooperatives in which each family cultivates its own farm and owns its household and farm equipment privately. On the other hand, the land is nationally owned. The cooperative helps during family emergencies and takes care of agricultural marketing, inputs, services, public buildings, education and entertainment. The Jewish Agency also lent funds to construct houses, invest in agriculture and buy animals. Israeli political parties provided additional support to specific moshavim. By 1986, about 156,700 Israelis lived and worked on 448 moshavim.

The moshav members were paid for work until their agriculture began producing. Many women participated in agricultural activities. Others were forced to work at home by their male family members. Living in a moshav allowed Moroccan Jews to maintain their traditional values, while at the same time taking advantage of modern economic opportunities. Sometimes, divisions among families that moved together to the moshav from rural villages in Morocco worsened.  Typically, Moroccan moshav members married other residents of their moshav or former residents of their Moroccan village.

In the 1950’s to 1970’s, many Moroccans complained that the Histadrut, the Israeli labor federation, abused its role of buying and selling from the moshavim, setting its own monopolistic prices. They felt bitter, disappointed and angry about the poor government support they received. Some of them even felt they were tricked into becoming moshav members. Many Moroccans believed that they were being discriminated against by Ashkenazi officials, who refused to believe that they had been successful craftspeople and shop owners in Morocco. Others recognized that they could succeed if they worked hard. Some moshav members prospered due to their ability to work in the cities and towns.

The Israeli Black Panthers

Reuven Abergel, one of the Moroccan-Israeli founders of the Black Panthers, by Nizzan Cohen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Israeli authorities sent some new Moroccan immigrants to poor urban neighborhoods. In addition, those who had difficulty making a life for themselves in development towns and moshavim migrated to these neighborhoods. Inhabitants of urban slums faced poor housing, unemployment, criminality, and poor health, education and social services.

In 1971, in the urban slum of Musrara, a Jerusalem neighborhood populated by Moroccans, ten second generation Moroccan-Israelis expressed their anger over ethnic discrimination and poor social services by founding the Black Panther Movement. The Panthers were the first Mizrahi group to organize rallies and demonstrations to fight poverty, income and wealth inequality, prejudice and discrimination. In May 1971, they organized a demonstration of at least 5,000 people who fought with police for hours, leading to police brutality and dozens of arrests.

Allied with the Israeli left, the Panthers moved into electoral politics in the early 1970’s, with little success. Nevertheless, the Panther activists raised public consciousness on mistreatment of Mizrahim, which became a political issue in the 1970s and 1980s. Increasing awareness of discrimination against Mizrahim under the Labor Government led to the electoral success of the right-wing Likud Party as well as the establishment of many organizations defending Mizrahi rights.

Moroccan-Israelis’ Links with Morocco

Many analysts expect the number of Moroccan-Israeli tourists to Morocco to grow from over 50,000 to over 200,000 following the Moroccan King’s agreement to recognize Israel diplomatically in December 2020. Diplomatic recognition will include reopening the liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv that operated from 1994-2000.

The governments of Israel and Morocco have developed many links following mass emigration of Moroccan Jews to Israel. In addition to sharing intelligence and cooperating militarily, the two countries have collaborated on investment, scientific research, cultural preservation and efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Moroccans believe King Mohammed VI will play a stronger role in supporting Palestinian rights as the Chair of the Islamic Conference Organization Jerusalem Committee.

Since Morocco’s independence in 1956, its kings have invited Moroccan Jewish emigrants to return to Morocco. From 1953-56, about 3,000 Moroccan-Israelis were so bitter about their treatment in Israel that they left the country and restarted their lives in Morocco. Since then, very few of them have continued this path. Al Jazeera English’s documentary, “Return to Morocco,” interviews some of them and explores this issue.