Casablanca

Temple Beth El

The mellah of Casablanca is young by Moroccan standards, not much more than a century old. It assaults the senses in the evening, with a sea of women in brightly colored jellabahs carrying and selling fruit and vegetables throughout the cramped, narrow streets.  While Jews no longer live in the mellah, kosher butchers are found in the old market, next to other butchers selling horse meat. The Jewish cemetery in the mellah is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish. Once a year, Casablancans celebrate a hiloula, or pilgrimage festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.

The 2,000 Casablancan Jews live outside the mellah in the European city, where they worship in more than a dozen synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, entertain themselves in community centers, and attend Jewish schools and social service centers. Beth El is the largest synagogue and an important community center, seating 500 persons. Casablanca is also the home of the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world. The Jewish community contributed to the construction of this mosque, which was inaugurated in 1994. Some Jews visit annually the Muslim shrine of Sidi Belyout, Casablanca’s patron saint. Many Jews of Casablanca celebrate the hiloula of the saint Yahia Lakhdar in Ben Ahmed, about an hour south of Casablanca near the town of Settat.