Several members of the Jewish community in Essaouira and elsewhere celebrated the winter festival of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) on Sunday at the Slat Attia Synagogue in the City of Trade Winds. In an atmosphere marked by spirituality and communion, Moroccans of Jewish faith, mostly from Essaouira, performed prayers and lit the eighth Menorah (candle), thus celebrating the end of this eight-day festival. The celebration was held in the presence of the Adviser to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI and founding president of the Essaouira-Mogador Association, André Azoulay, Ahmed Ghayet, president of the Association Marocains Pluriels, and other personalities of the Muslim and Christian faiths, including members of associations, foreign residents and guests of Essaouira.
In a special statement, Mr. Azoulay welcomed this very strong and emotional moment that has been celebrated in Essaouira. “Today, we are celebrating the last evening of Hanukkah (the festival of lights), the last candle we light. This feast, beyond the Jews, is everyone’s feast. It is the feast of all modernity, of hopes, of light: the light of life,” he said. And to continue that it is also the feast of resistance and the feast of resilience. And since we are here in a space of Memory, “Bayt Al Dakira”, resilience takes on its full meaning here, for Jews, but it is a universal resilience as it is for modernity.
For Mr. Azoulay, “this festival is as universal as the lights that simply shine on everyone’s doorstep”. “I am both proud and touched because this Jewish holiday is organized on the initiative of young Muslim compatriots. This gesture is quite important,” he insisted. “This feast of Hanukkah is very symbolic, very rich and embodies both the spirit and the culture of Essaouira, since not only have we been educated in this spiritual school, but we are very happy that the rebirth of this spirit is taking place in this convergence, this closeness, this intimacy, and this solidarity between Islam and Judaism.” he concluded.
For his part, the president of the Moga’Jeunes Association, Othmane Mazzine, welcomed the organization of this religious festival in Essaouira, recalling that a similar initiative to celebrate Christmas with Christians, through a sharing of the “Buche d’Al Maheba (love)”, took place on December 25 at the Church of “Our Lady” of the Assumption in the City of Trade Winds. And to conclude that in Morocco in general, and in Essaouira in particular, these values of coexistence, openness, mutual respect and living together are not invented: they constitute the DNA and spirit of this blessed land that has embodied and carried them for centuries.
At the end of this feast, the audience was invited to a reception according to Jewish ritual, before explanations were given on Bayt Dakira, which is in the process of being finalized, with a triple purpose: spiritual, with the Slat Attia Synagogue, then a “History and Memory” space, and finally, scientific research through the Abraham Zagouri Research Center on Moroccan Hebrew law, and the Haïm Zefrani Research Center on the relations between Islam and Judaism.