|Mohammed VI of Morocco|
'The distinctive features of the Moroccan Identity stem from a deep respect for the revealed religions, including Judaism. Indeed, Moroccan Judaism – with a history of nearly three thousand years – is a key component of our identity along with the other fundamental parts.'
His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco
'The Kingdom of Morocco, a nation defined throughout history by its openness and diversity due to its privileged a geographical position: at the crosswords of East and West, the Arab world, Europe and Africa, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.'
The Hon. Serge Berdugo, Ambassador at Large of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco
By Marisa Mazria-Katz
New York Jewish Guide
The winds off the Atlantic whistled through Casablanca’s ancient outdoor market as I prepared to visit Serge Berdugo, the ambassador-at-large and head of Morocco’s 5,000-strong Jewish community.
I didn’t initially plan on seeing him. I was actually visiting the coastal city to write for the Financial Times about Morocco’s version of Oprah, Nassima el Hor. But my interview with Ms. el Hor was canceled because the month-long Muslim fasting holiday of Ramadan had just ended, and nearly everyone in the city was celebrating the subsequent three-day Eid festival.
Because anything work-related grinded to a halt during Eid, Berdugo, whom I had met on a previous reporting trip, invited me to spend Shabbat with him and his family at his summer home in the ancient city of Marrakech. Before our departure we met in Casablanca’s Jewish community center for lunch. Over plates of hummus and carrots doused in cumin, he talked to me about life as a Jew in Morocco. For his part, Berdugo can trace his family’s arrival to the Spanish inquisition, when both Jews and Muslims from Spain found refuge in nearby Morocco.
This shared migratory experience, Berdugo explained, helped form a tight bond between the two peoples. And, while the majority of Moroccan Jews have left to reside either in Israel, Europe, or North America, Berdugo sees the role of Morocco’s community–the largest of its kind in the Arab world–as one that is emblematic of peaceful coexistence with Muslims. “We are friends here,” said Berdugo. “We live together and we are the same. This is an extremely tolerant society.”
Serge Berdugo on Morocco's History and Tradition:
The Jewish people have been a presence in Africa's Maghreb region for more than 2,000 years. North African Jews and Muslims traveled north and thrived together in southern Europe for more than 700 years. In 1492, when we refused to convert to Christianity, we were expelled – together – from Spain. And together we successfully sought refuge in Morocco, which accepted us into its society and institutions.
Morocco's leaders have always made the well-being of the Jewish people a top priority. During World War II, when the Vichy government of occupied France announced that it had prepared 200,000 yellow stars for the Jews of Morocco, King Mohammed V replied that he would need 50 more for him and his family. He refused to make any distinction between his citizens.
The importance of a nation's leader setting the tone for recognition, respect, and treatment of minority faiths can- not be overstated. Today, King Mohammed VI has declared his religious, historical, and constitutional obligation to protect the rights, liberties, and sacred values of the Jews in Morocco.