Morocco elevates diversity, teaches Jewish culture

Published on Apr 27, 2021
(10 Jan 2021) LEAD IN:
Morocco incorporated lessons on the Jewish culture in its school curricula, making it the first Arab country to do so.

Social studies classes in Morocco now include lessons on the culture of the Jewish community in the North African country, a step that took many years in the making.  
The September edition of the social studies book dedicates a few pages to the Hebrew-Moroccan heritage.
The new lessons will be taught to sixth grade students across Moroccan schools.
Morocco is home to North Africa's largest Jewish community with 3,000 Jews, down from a quarter million in the 1940s.
"We lived together as brothers and until now we live as brothers. I have never left Morocco and 95% of my friends are Moroccan Muslims," says Edery Raphaël, a Jewish Moroccan.
The sexagenarian reminisces when he looks on that time, hoping the harmony that once existed in Morocco will come back again.
Raphaël is very happy that school students will be learning about the Jewish culture and the contributions that Jews have made throughout the history of Morocco.
The first page of the new lesson is dedicated to the city of Essaouira, which once hosted 37 synagogues and currently hosts the House of Memory Jewish heritage centre.
Rabat-based high school teacher Mostafa Yassine flips through the book containing the new lessons.
"Students in general will know the real history that has always existed and that dates back ages between the Jews and the Kingdom of Morocco," he says.  
Yassine thinks this step is going to pave the way to introducing the classes across all school grade levels, not just the sixth grade.
This is exactly what the Jewish community in Morocco is hoping for.
They are striving to have these classes taught in "all the grades from primary school to junior high school to high school," says Anas Syari, honorary member and director of communication of the Jewish community of Marrakech.
On Oct. 5, the President of the Jewish community Marrakech and Essaouira Jacky Kadoch wrote a letter to thank the education minister for adding classes on the Jewish culture but asked for additional lessons on Jewish history.
He also asked that these classes are introduced to students of all ages, and his requests have been welcomed by the education ministry.
Adding these lessons in the social studies curricula came before Israel and Morocco agreed to normalize relations last month.
Morocco, a country with centuries of Jewish history, has long been rumored to be ready to establish ties with Israel.
Before Israel's establishment in 1948, Morocco was home to a large Jewish population, many of whose ancestors migrated to North Africa from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews trace their lineage to Morocco, making it one of the country's largest sectors of Israeli society.
A small community of Jews, estimated at several thousand people, continues to live in Morocco.

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