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Group of Jewish students from Montreal, Canada, return to their roots in Essaouira, Morocco

A group of 50 Jewish students from Montreal, Canada, visited in early January 2023, the Jewish museum “Bayt Dakira” (House of Memory), located in the heart of the medina of the city of Essaouira, Morocco.

This was in the presence of André Azoulay, Senior Advisor to His Majesty the King, Mohammed VI.

In a statement, Azoulay said that the city of Essaouira has experienced during the month of December affluence, never recorded before, with a peak at the weekend of the end of the year 2022 and early 2023.

This visit, organized by the OLAMI association, coincided with the New Year 2023.

It was an opportunity for the young Canadian students to reconnect with their Moroccan origins and return to their roots, where their parents and grandparents lived in harmony.

The young students seized the opportunity to express their pride and satisfaction in visiting their home country, Morocco, as well as their happiness in meeting the main advisor to the King.

They also praised the late Kings Mohammed V and Hassan II, who had campaigned for the protection of Moroccan Jews and had given them a privileged place in the Kingdom.

The Jewish students from Montreal were accompanied by Rabbi Michael Aruch and Abidov Aruch, who in turn congratulated Morocco and the city of Essaouira for the warm welcome given to the Jewish Diaspora in Morocco.

Rabbi Michael Aruch said, “the young people came to Morocco to discover the heritage of their parents and grandparents”.

He thanked the country for opening its arms and promised to return in 2024 with a group of 1,000 young students from around the world.

For these students, this visit and the ceremony organized on the occasion constituted a return to their sources, an unforgettable moment which restores to them the history of their ancestors who lived in Morocco.

The history of the Jews in Morocco is very old and was nourished by various waves of refugees as a result of the vicissitudes and persecutions to the Jews have suffered throughout history.

The Jewish presence in Morocco is attested from the 2nd century BC. especially in Volubilis during the Roman times and remained there until the 7th century AD, reinforced by the arrival of Jewish migrants from Spain who fled the Visigothic persecutions following the 7th century.

With the arrival of Islam, the Jewish population came under Muslim rule and obtained the status of dhimmis.

The Jewish population known as Tochavim of Morocco knew demographic and political variations until being reinforced again by the arrival of Jewish migrants from the Iberian Peninsula forced to leave the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal during the Reconquista.

Bayt Dakira or the House of Memory, a Jewish museum located in the Jewish quarter “Mellah” of Essaouira’s old medina in Morocco, is a spiritual and patrimonial space for the preservation and enhancement of the Judeo-Moroccan memory, unique of its kind in the southern Mediterranean and the land of Islam.

This historical, cultural and spiritual space is home to the “Slat Attia” Synagogue, the “Bayt Dakira” house of memory and history and the Haim and Celia Zafrani International Research Center on the history of relations between Judaism and Islam.

“Bayt Dakira” is a place of memory that tells through objects, texts, photos and films the exceptional saga of Judaism in the city of Essaouira and its heritage.

Essaouira is idyll of Jewish Muslim coexistence. This city, Morocco’s “little idyll of Jewish-Muslim coexistence”, sets an example for other Middle-Eastern countries in terms of tolerance and understanding.

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