Jews among Berbers: a Moroccan Exhibition

Culture | December 4, 2015, Friday // 13:38|  views

A photo exhibition titled Jews among Berbers was officially opened at the Bulgarian Academy of Science in Sofia on Thursday.

Dozens of images, short of making up an entire picture of everyday life of Moroccan Jews, show little known scenes dated back to the 1940s and 1950, when Jewish populations larger than now coexisted peacefully with Arab and Berber Muslims.

The events is part of the Morocco Days in Bulgaria organized by the country's Embassy to Sofia and due between November 30 and December 13, with cultural programs in both Sofia and Bulgaria's biggest city Plovdiv.

„What gave me the idea of this exhibition is the fact that both Bulgaria and Morocco saved the Jews during World War II. But what convinced me about the relevance of this event is the resurgence of the speech of hatred on the basis notably on manipulation of history and instrumentalization of religion,” Morocco's Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. Latifa Akharbach, noted in her speech addressing guests attending the inauguration. These included Bulgaria's last King an former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Education Minister Todor Tanev, the Bulgarian Academy of Science's head Stefan Vodenicharov, Bulgarian lawmakers, and ambassadors of other countries.

Taken by Elias Harrus (himself a Moroccan Jew) in the rural areas of the Atlas Mountains and and at the doors the Sahara, the photographs bear testimony to a mode of coexistence and similarities among Morocco's Jews and Muslims: having lived together for centuries, the two groups share numerous customs, and elements such as clothing and cuisine bear much resemblance. Morocco's Jewish population, on the other hand, used Hebrew characters in writing but its language was either Arabic or Berber.

"Diversity is not about numbers, counts or quotas. Diversity is all about culture and values."

Pictures that can be seen now at the Bulgarian Academy of Science have already been shown in Casablanca, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and several other big cities.    

"The new Moroccan constitution considers Judaism as part of national identity. This is one of the most significant achievements of democracy, along with the recognition of the Berber language as official language of the Kingdom alongside Arabic," Mrs Akharbach told the guests.

"Every minority is entitled to its memory, and every majority has the obligation to preserve its memory".

Morocco is working not only on theory to preserve this memory, being the only Arab country with a museum dedicated to Judaism and Jewish patrimony located in Casablanca, its biggest city and economic heart.

It is Morocco, on the other hand, where a Museum of Judaism should be. Despite being commonly perceived as an “Arab country”, it has never even thought of concealing that the first people to inhabit its lands were Berbers and Jews: well before Arabs did.

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Tags: Latifa Akharbach, Morocco Days in Bulgaria, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Stefan Vodenicharov, Todor Tanev, morocco, Bulgaria, Jews, Arabs, Berbers, Berber


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