Jews hold a special place in the memories and worldview of Muslim Arab and Amazigh Moroccans. Today, the small Jewish population means that few Moroccans have met Jews. However, many Moroccan Muslims have family members, living or dead, who were friends or neighbors of Jews.
Pride in Royal Efforts to Protect Moroccan Jews
As royalists, many Moroccans have been inspired by the efforts of their sultans and kings to protect Jews and treat them as Moroccan subjects and citizens. They speak proudly of the efforts of Sultan Mohammed V to protect Moroccan Jews from the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy French government during World War II. They admire the efforts of King Mohammed VI to preserve Jewish culture and integrate Jewish culture and history into the public school curriculum. In terms of nationality and citizenship, Moroccan Muslims see no difference among Arab, Amazigh and Jewish Moroccans.
Memories of Jews among the Moroccan Diaspora
When examining memories of Moroccan Jews, it is just as important to consider Moroccans living in the diaspora as those living in Morocco. Many Moroccans living outside the country not only have memories of Jews in Morocco but also interact with them outside Morocco. Expatriate Moroccan Muslims look at Moroccan Jews from the prism of the culture of their new countries.
Factors Determining Memories of Moroccan Jews
Many factors, including education, age, geographic, gender, race, ethnic group and class differences, determine memories of Jews. In his 2013 book, “Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco,” Moroccan-born Muslim researcher Aomar Boum laid out a framework for grouping these memories by generation: the great-grandparents, the grandparents and youth.
According to Boum, “In the physical absence of Jews from the majority of Moroccan cities and hinterlands, Moroccans are left with the memories of a Jewish life that once existed. The great-grandparent and grandparent generations continue to discuss nostalgically the richness of Jewish-Muslim life in the past; the younger generation demonstrates narrow and misinformed perspectives of Jews… Members of the older cohorts tend to express feelings of friendship and amicable relations toward Jews. Younger cohorts mostly describe them as evil and threatening to Muslim values and traditions.” (157)
Factors Influencing Young Muslims’ Perceptions
For young Moroccan Muslims in particular, the major factors influencing memories and perceptions of Moroccan Jews are the creation of Israel, the displacement and occupation of Palestinians and the emigration of most Moroccan Jews to Israel, as well as images of Jews on media and social media.
Grandparents Generation’s Memories of Jews as Friends and Neighbors
In 2021, a large percentage of the great-grandparents alive when Boum did his research are no longer with us. Therefore, the grandparents are the only generation that may have lived with Moroccan Jews as friends and neighbors, given that most Jews emigrated more than 50 years ago and less than 2,500 remain in the country. Grandparents constitute the sole generation that remembers when large numbers of Jews lived in Morocco.