Representatives of Morocco’s Jewish community have reaffirmed their “unflinching attachment to Moroccanness,” celebrating the country’s history of peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Jewish Moroccans.
Rabat – The public show of allegiance to a complex national and cultural heritage took place at a cultural event in Marrakech on Thursday.
Under the theme “Moroccan Judaism: Toward Shared Moroccanness,” panelists and participants convened to celebrate films and other cultural works that shed light on “beautiful historical stories of shared heritage and togetherness” between Morocco’s Muslim and Jewish communities.
Zhor Rehihil, a curator at the Moroccan Judaism Museum, the body that organized the event in Marrakech, said that Thursday’s meeting between artists and participants—mostly a young audience—was an opportunity to cultivate seeds of Moroccanness in young Moroccan Jews.
She said that the country’s history is full of “beautiful shared memories” that need to be taught to younger generations to ensure a harmonious and shared future.
According to the Rehihil, the museum has been engaged on the cultural front of the struggle to integrate minorities’ history in official Moroccan accounts. The objective is to instill in young Moroccans from the two communities the skills to appreciate their country’s complex and rich heritage.
Thursday’s event, she said, was a culmination “of all the efforts that the Moroccan Judaism Museum has been making for twenty years” to celebrate religious and cultural diversity in Morocco. The museum’s work has been “profound and unremitting,” she explained.
Referring to the number of successful cultural events and discussion panels that the museum has organized since 1997—both in France and in Morocco— Rehihil said that acknowledging diverse cultural heritages is necessary for a changing Moroccan society. What it all boils down to, she elaborated, is that “we, Jews and Muslim Moroccans, have worked together because we share the feeling of Moroccanness.”
In a 2013 documentary film, “Tinghir-Jerusalem,” Moroccan-Jewish director Kamal Hachkar explored the complexities of Moroccan Jewry. The film received wide critical acclaim for offering a reconciliatory reading of cultural complexity in a world where “binarisms and inward-looking attitudes are on the rise.”
The Moroccan Judaism Museum played a key role in the realization of the documentary, the museum’s curator said. Art works like “Tinghir-Jerusalem,” she explained, are part of a growing trend in Moroccan cultural circles. “It is part of the awareness-process of our shared cultural heritage.”
Maxime Karoutchi, a Moroccan-Jewish singer and actor, spoke of the “flame of Moroccanness” burning inside him. Karoutchi said he was 14 when he was first introduced to his Moroccan cultural heritage. Since then, he added, he has been “unwaveringly committed to the richness and complexity” of his Moroccan-Jewish heritage.
“Peaceful coexistence is a basic truth and nothing can isolate us from our Muslim neighbors,” Karoutchi said. But Karoutchi was not preaching a detached artistic attitude that offers a dreamy and simplified version of the complexities of daily life. His lifestyle and his public statements reflect his belief in an open and diversity-integrating Morocco.
In a 2015 interview that went viral, the singer celebrated the double heritage of his upbringing. However, he hammered in the interview: “I am first and foremost a Moroccan.”
The artist regretted, however, that nothing substantial has been done in terms of policies to formally integrate the Jewish heritage in Morocco’s official historical archives.
Perhaps alluding to the recently rumored royal instruction to teach Jewish history in Moroccan schools, the singer said that including Jewish-Muslim shared heritage in Moroccan school textbooks would be a significant step toward normalizing and spreading the lived reality of the two community’s peaceful cohabitation and common history.
Discussions during the event shed light on the often neglected “beautiful history” of Berber Jews, as the Maghreb’s Jewish communities are often called.
Also speaking at the Marrakech event, Kamal Hachkar, the acclaimed director of the “Tinghir-Jerusalem” documentary film, mentioned the critical importance of “building cultural bridges.” For him, celebrating diversity is only possible through cultural bridges and dialogues that point out memories and heritage that members of a society have in common.
Of his documentary, Hachkar said: “The film was not a historical account, but it intended to understand how it is that one survives attachment to one’s native land.” The film originally set out to “interrogate what, for my generation, has remained of our native culture.”
Did he learn anything new from directing the documentary? “I’ve learned that language, primarily Darija and Amazigh [Berber], constitutes the unflinching link between us and our culture of origin,” Hachkar said.