It has been nearly a year since I last posted. Something about traveling seems to inspire me to keep a blog journal of sorts. This Moroccan trip is no exception.
Besides that, it is now the 27th day of the Omer period, and I had promised myself last year that I would keep a blog of my Omer “journey” from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot. I guess that starting at day 27 of 49 is better than none at all, but I wish I had done so earlier.
According to the count, this is the week of Endurance (netzach in Hebrew) and today is the day of Bonding (yesod) within that week.
Today has been both — a test of my endurance as well as the beginning of the “group bonding” experience. Though not all pictured below, we are a group of about 10 Reform rabbis, some with spouses, some solo, one with his brother.
In any case, after about two hours of sleep on the plane last night (which made for the Endurance part of today), we hit the ground running when we landed at about 7:30 this morning . We began at the mosque of Hassan II (Hassan II was the last king of Morocco and the father of the current king, Mohammed VI). Completed in 1993, this is the third largest mosque in the world (after Mecca and Medina), has the world’s tallest minaret, and is the only one that allows non-Moslems to enter it. It is truly breathtaking and my photos won’t do it justice, so I’m adding only a couple.
This is an outside view. It was so misty from the ocean (the mosque is right next to the Atlantic Ocean), the minaret was shrouded in fog. Inside, there was magnificent artistry of all kinds from tiling to woodworking. There was a purposeful intention in the design to draw on both cathedral-like elements (in the grandeur and high ceiling of the inner sanctum) as well as of the synagogue with a women’s balcony.
Downstairs were all of these fountains for pre-prayer ablutions, as well as a chamam bath. Our guide got a terrific shot of us on the other side with a reflection in the pool.
From the mosque, we visited the Museum of the Jews of Morocco (the only Jewish museum in the Arab world), Beit El synagogue, and several sites funded by the JDC (Joint Distributions Committee), including the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants clinic which serves the medical needs of the indigent and elderly Jews of the community. Unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to visit the Maimonides school, a Jewish school that teaches both Jews and Muslims. French is the main language, Hebrew the secondary language, and Arabic the third. It seems a great model of co-existence.
The Moroccan Jewish community is very proud, very tight-knit, and very loyal to Morocco. Even those who emigrate come back regularly to visit. Of the many books I read about Morocco leading up to this trip, both memoir and fiction written by non-Jews, Jews always figured into the story-line somehow, which indicated to me how integrated the Jews have been into Moroccan society.
This perception was reinforced by a statement that King Mohammed V (the current king’s grandfather) is known to have made: “There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only Moroccan subjects” when the Vichy government of France wanted to impose anti-Jewish laws on Morocco’s Jews.
Additionally, the current constitution of Morocco, written in 2011, while affirming Morocco as a Muslim country, also honors the pluralistic nature of the cultures that have influenced it, specifically mentioning African, Andalou, Hebrew, and Mediterranean.
There are the counter-narratives, as well, of course. Distrust of the Jews reared its ugly head after the creation of the state of Israel. And I’m sure when we are in Fez we will hear more about a massacre of Jews that took place there in 1912. I may leave Morocco less sure of the health of the relationship of Jew and Muslim in Morocco than I have begun with.
I look forward to keeping in touch with my journey and with you through this blog.
Blessings on this 27th day of the Omer.