Moroccan king vows to rebuild all Jewish synagoguesBy Mason White 1:51 PM February 15, 2013
|Restored synagogue in Morocco|
By: David Ross
The Islamist king of Morocco has vowed to rebuild all the Jewish synagogues in his country at a synagogue rededication event held this week, according to press reports in Morocco.
King Mohammed praised the spiritual wealth and diversity of Morocco, at a ceremony this week to mark the end of the restoration of a 17th century synagogue in the city of Fez.
The ceremony was held in the Medina, the Old City of Fez, a UNESCO world heritage site, before more than 200 people including the country’s Islamist prime minister and German parliament speaker, Norbert Lammert.
Germany part-financed the $215,000 project.
“The two-year restoration of the Slat Alfassiyine synagogue shows the spiritual wealth and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco and its heritage,” Mohammed said in a message read by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.
“The secular traditions of Moroccan civilization drew their essence from the fact that Moroccans are deeply ingrained with the values of coexistence, tolerance and harmony between the different components of the nation,” the king said.
The new constitution adopted in 2011 against the background of the Arab Spring, recognized the Jewish heritage as part of Morocco’s national identity, he said, calling for the renovation of all Jewish place of worships in the country.
Among other speakers was Serge Berdugo, a Jewish former Moroccan minister.
Morocco historically had a vibrant Jewish population and 1,200 notable Jewish leaders are buried in cemeteries across the North African country, which was home to a community of almost 250,000 in the first half of the 20th century.
The Jews of Morocco are now estimated to number less than 3,000.
In 1900, Fez, then the imperial capital, had 10,000 Jews out of a population of 100,000 and 20 synagogues, according to Simon Levy, a specialist on Judaism in Morocco. The city lies 200 kilometers or 125 miles east of Rabat.