The Jews of Morocco

This Google Map shows the once very widespread settlement of Jews in Morocco. Stars of David on the map show synagogues; regular pins show Jewish cemeteries, pilgrimage sites (hiloulot) and former communities from the C19th and up to the exodus during the third quarter of the C20th (which peaked in 1948, 1956 and 1967).

The map shows the main centres of population but does not claim to be complete – there were many more small Jewish communities, especially in the Berber villages in the mountains.

The Jewish population of Morocco was made up of three main components. There were the Toshavim, or indigenous Maghrebi Jews – those who were already present in the country before the arrival of the Gorashim, being the Sephardim who were expelled from Spain in 1492. Finally, the Ashkenazim arrived later and settled in the bigger cities and ports. The Jewry of Morocco was therefore characterised by significant internal cultural differences and traditions, with (for instance) some Sephardic Jews regarding the religious practices of the autochthonous Berber Jews as unorthodox and irregular (containing, as they did, folk and syncretic elements).

In the urban environment, the Jewish quarter of a town was known as the mellah: typically, gated and contained within its own walls, and characterised by very narrow pedestrian alleyways. Sometimes, by extension, the word mellah was used figuratively for the Jewish community of a particular place. Note that the words kasbah and medina have no specifically Jewish connotation; both refer merely to the old quarter of a town, with the former term traditionally implying fortification.

In the rural environment – in the interior and the Berber villages – there was not a mellah per se, but Jews tended to live in separate and discrete quarters of settlements adajacent but apart. In this context, the word ksar signifies a fortified walled village.

Many place names in the interior of Morocco are not distinct and unique, and can be transliterated into the Latin alphabet in different ways. However, it is believed that, where two or more candidates exist for a particular place, the correct one has been plotted on the map (any errors identified may be reported using the Contact form and will be rectified). Some place names are tribal or patronymic, for example those prefaced with aït or ouled (both of which mean “sons of”), while others refer to distinctive geographical features, such as ighil (hill) and oued (wadi). Note that the etymology of place names may be either Arabic or the Tamazight (or Amazigh) of the native Berbers.



Les Juifs du Maroc | יהודי מרוקו