The normalization of Israel-Morocco ties has opened new opportunities for social and cultural exchange between both societies.
One of the most fascinating things that stands out recently is the level of interest and desire that the Moroccan Muslims are showing in learning Hebrew.
“We are receiving many inquiries about Hebrew courses from private individuals who want to know the language, simply because Moroccans love languages and are known as speakers of many languages,” says Einat Levi, political and economic adviser in the Israel consulate in the capital Rabat.
This issue is also accompanied by a significant visual factor: the Hebrew language is seen more and more in the alleyways of the markets and the old cities – this time not because of an initiative on the part of the king or the government, but by the residents and business owners who are excited about the return of Israeli tourism to Morocco, against the background of the renewal of relations between the countries.
In Malach, a neighborhood of the port city of Essaouira, one of two areas that the city’s Jews lived in the past and in which there was full Jewish life, today the sign for the pharmacy is also displayed in Hebrew.
Levi: “The Hebrew sign is a symbol of cultural renewal, evidence of the close connection between culture and tourism, and more than that – it has traces of belonging.”
Today between 1,500 and 2,000 Jews live in Morocco – around 1,200 in Casablanca, 120 in Marrakesh, 60 in Fez, and dozens more in Meknes and Agadir.
Sources in the community talk about “increasing interest from Israelis who want to move permanently to Morocco for business reasons, as well as pensioners who are interested in moving to the country because of the cost of living.”
The fairly optimistic tourism forecasts about hundreds of thousands of Israeli tourists visiting Morocco annually, as well as the expectation of Moroccan tourists visiting Israel, are already being translated into practical action: Rahat is planning Hebrew courses for local tour guides, and in parallel is opening a new track for a master’s degree at the International Institute of Tourism in Tangier, which will combine Hebrew studies with classes about Jewish heritage sites in Morocco and about Israeli and Jewish tourists.
Another interesting development that took place this year is the marking in Israel – for the first time – of the annual Throne Day for King Mohammed VI, which took place in July. Yokneam, Netanya, Dimona and other cities marked the event officially, making it another opportunity to celebrate the renewal of official ties.
“There is a clear and strong official connection, and this makes open and public Israeli activities in Israeli easier, in new areas as well. It allows many Israelis of Moroccan origin to feel more complete, also thanks to the fact that Morocco has become part of the Israeli agenda: it’s no longer just a national culture, it’s part of the state’s political and diplomatic activity. We need to get used to this and to learn about these new spaces, and to create real connections there” said Levi.