With thanks: Leon
A screenshot from the TV programme
On 3 February 2021 the Moroccan TV channel MED1tv broadcast a ‘culturathon‘ – a two-hour long programme vaunting Moroccan-Jewish culture. The programmefeatured performers, a Judaica collector, a film-maker and academics, all speaking of their memories, nostalgia and affection for Morocco. It ended with the Moroccan national anthem being played in Israel.
The programme was clearly aimed at an external audience. It began with the glamorous French-speaking presenter quoting from the 2011 Constitution, which recognised Jews and Berbers as integral components of Moroccan ‘pluralism’. Kamal Hachkar, a French-Moroccan with Berber roots, took part. He had made a documentary about Israeli Jews homesick for their mutual home town of Tinghir in the Berber Atlas, and a sequel following an Israeli singer, Neta Elkayam, who has returned to live in Morocco.
Interspersed with blessings for the welfare of King Mohamed VI, the programme bore the unmistakable stamp of royal adviser Andre Azoulay, who for years has been pushing Jewish heritage into the Moroccan mainstream. A 19th century synagogue in Essaouira has been converted into Beit Dakira, a House of Memory, opened by the King in 2020 to great fanfare.
Now that Azoulay has fulfilled his foreign policy objective of US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the Abraham Accords (one interviewee called them the US-Morocco accords’) what is he trying to achieve next? The programme ended with a call to the young generation of Jews, now mostly settled in Israel, to return to Morocco.
But the native Jewish population of Morocco dwindles year by year, and is now being put at 1,500 as the younger generation leaves to enhance their job and marriage prospects. There is a limit to how much new life a returning singer or two might inject into a dying community. For all the talk of a rich and ancient heritage, all Morocco really can do is to erect monuments to a community of ghosts.