Not much is known about the Berber-speaking Jews of Morocco, but with the total Jewish population having dwindled to fewer than 5,000, the Berber Jews are vanishing fast.
While distinguishing between the ‘toshavim’, the pre-Islamic communities of the Atlas mountains, and the ‘megorashim’ – Jews fleeing Spain in the 15th century who settled mainly in the towns – foreign travellers and ethnographers in the 19th and 20th century were divided over the Berber Jews’ mysterious origins. Some believed that they descend from the Jews of ancient Israel. Some believed Berber tribes converted to Judaism, like the famous Berber queen, the Kahena. Some even thought that the Jews who settled in Spain were originally North African Berbers.