Jewish Heritage Expeditions
EXPLORING YOUR JEWISH ROOTS
EXPLORING YOUR JEWISH ROOTS
The first Jews migrated to Morocco after the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and settled among the Berbers. They were later met by a second wave of migration from the Iberian peninsula in the period immediately preceding and following the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal. This second immigration wave deeply modified Moroccan Jewry, causing them to largely embrace the Andalusian Sephardic liturgy, giving the Moroccan Jews a mostly Sephardic identity.
Following the establishment of the State of Israel, between 1961 and 1964 most Moroccan Jews emigrated to Israel.
Until the 1950s the majority of Morocco's Jews were still living in Morocco. In accordance with the norms of Islamic legal system, Jewish Moroccans had separate legal courts pertaining to "personal law" under which communities (Muslim sharia, Christian Canon law and Jewish halacha law abiding) were allowed to rule themselves under their own system.
As a protectorate of France, parts of Morocco were heavily influenced by French culture, while the same is true of the portions of the country that belonged to Spain. Traditionally, the Jews were classified as being French-Moroccan or Spanish-Moroccan depending on where in Morocco they lived, and remnants of these classifications can be felt today. These differences are reflected in language, foods, last names and even liturgy. Even before the arrival of Sephardi Jews to Morocco, Moroccan Jews performed and developed the traditions of the Andalusian classical music and introduced it into their liturgical music.
A famous Moroccan-Jewish tradition is the ‘Henna ceremony’, which usually takes place within the week before a special occasion, such as a wedding or Bar and Bat Mitzvah. During pre-wedding Henna ceremonies, the Matriarch of the family smudges henna in the palm of the bride and groom to symbolically bestow the new couple with good health, fertility, wisdom, and security. Henna is believed in Moroccan tradition to protect the couple from demons. Another well known Jewish tradition is the Mimouna, celebrated by many Moroccan Jews on the night following the last day of Passover. It has spread to be an almost national holiday in Israel.
At its peak in the 1940s, Morocco's Jewish population exceeded 250,000, but after Israel's independence in 1948, the next several decades saw waves of Jewish emigration to Israel, France and Canada. By the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the majority of Morocco's Jewish population had emigrated. Today, a small community of around 2,000 Jews live in Morocco. However, most of the Moroccan Jewish Heritage sites remain intact and can be visited. Welcome to the magic world of ancient Moroccan Judaism!
Sunday - Casablanca
Monday - Casablanca
Tuesday - Volubilis, Fes
Wednesday - Fes
Thursday - Meknes, Rabat
Friday - Marrakech
The program on Shabbat is appropriate for participants with any level of Shabbat observance. Please contact us with any questions.
Sunday - Ourika Valley, Marrakech
Monday - Marrakech, Casablanca
The above itinerary is an sample program. If you are interested in a custom made Jewish heritage tour to Morocco for your community, family or other group we can design a special itinerary for you. Contact us for more information.