Attijariwafa bank Foundation closed the year 2020 with a conference that is part of the series “Exchange for better understanding”, under the theme “Rediscovery of the Judeo-Moroccan culture”.
This historical, cultural and artistic journey was marked by the participation of an elite composed of the singer Françoise Atlan, specialized in the interpretation of ancient Arab-Andalusian traditional music, Joseph Yossi Chetrit, professor emeritus of the University of Haifa and researcher specializing in the study of Jewish languages and Jewish culture in North Africa, and Ahmed Harrouz, painter, researcher and coordinator of the association Essaouira Mogador.
Under the moderation of journalist and columnist Abdellah Tourabi, Professor Chetrit recalled the historical facts that demonstrate that Islamic and Jewish cultures have not been separated since the sixth century. He affirmed that “the Jews of Spain oppressed by the Visigoths made continuous journeys back and forth between the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco in search of refuge. Afterwards, Andalusia was conquered by the Muslims in 711, with the active help of the Jews of Spain, so that they could enjoy the protection of the Muslims. Later, the precursors of the Golden Age arrived in Spain, mostly from the Jewish cultural center of Fez”. This cultural and intellectual mix, in addition to freedom of worship, ceased between 1140 and 1269 during the Almohad period. However, it was re-established during the reign of the Merinids.
The meeting also clarified that coexistence (the ability of different human groups to live together harmoniously) originated from the complementary roles between communities on the socio-economic level. “While Muslims worked in agriculture, fishing and handicrafts, Jews traditionally tended to be involved in commercial activities, jewelry making and foreign language teaching”.
On the artistic level, Atlan said there are many similarities between Judeo-Andalusian and Arab-Andalusian music, which have given rise over time to talented musicians from both communities. “These encounters are, each time, important moments of pleasure during the Festival of Atlantic Andalusia in Essaouira, of which I was artistic director. I became aware of this coexistence when I sang this heritage for the first time, and I discovered the similarities with what I used to hear in the synagogues when I was a child. Later, my meeting with Mohamed Briouel during the Festival of Sacred Music in Fez, allowed me to discover the richness of this common heritage”.
For a decade, we have witnessed the willingness of a generation of young people to deepen their knowledge of this part of Moroccan culture.
To conclude, Ahmed Harrouz recalled the “Bayt Addakira” project, of its founder André Azoulay, president of the Essaouira-Mogador association, being a historical, cultural and spiritual space to preserve the Judeo-Moroccan memory. “This space is a unique place in the south of the Mediterranean; it is a museum and a center for historical, cultural and spiritual research. It bears witness to the Judeo-Muslim history of Essaouira, and to the exceptional destiny of the Jews of Mogador in the world, in addition to the richness of their relations with the Muslim populations”.