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In possible first, Moroccan officials attend Hanukkah ceremony in Casablanca

800 Jews mark holiday with local administrators in a ‘strong message of peace and tolerance’ for small Jewish community

Rabbi Levi Banon greets Moroccan official Said Ahmidouch and his wife at a Hannukah celebration in Casablanca, Morocco, December 22, 2019. (Courtesy/Chabad.org)
Rabbi Levi Banon greets Moroccan official Said Ahmidouch and his wife at a Hannukah celebration in Casablanca, Morocco, December 22, 2019. (Courtesy/Chabad.org)

Moroccan government officials on Sunday attended a Hanukkah celebration in Casablanca, which a Jewish group hailed as a first in the Muslim country.

Over 800 Jewish community members marked the holiday with Said Ahmidouch, the wali, or local governor, of the Casablanca-Settat region, and Rachid Afirat, governor of the Casablanca-Anfa prefecture, both of whom are appointees of King Mohammed VI.

The event at a Casablanca hotel was featured widely in Arabic media in the country, Chabad said, hailing it as a historic first for the community.

“This sends a strong message of peace and tolerance,” said Rabbi Levi Banon, director of the Jeunesse Chabad of Morocco, which organized the event alongside the Council of Jewish Communities of Morrocco and Casablanca’s David Hamelech Synagogue.

“Morocco, under the leadership and inspiration of King Mohammed VI, has been a true example for the world of what coexistence between all peoples looks like,” Banon said.

Moroccan Jews mark Hannukah in Casablanca, December 22, 2019. (Courtesy/Chabad.org)

Some 3,000 Jews live in Morocco, a fraction of the number from before the 1948 creation of Israel, but still the largest community in the Arab world.

Israel and Morocco do not have diplomatic ties. In 2017, King Mohammed VI canceled participation in a West African summit to avoid meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, Morocco has unofficially welcomed Israeli investors and tourists in recent years.

Netanyahu had reportedly hoped to join US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his visit to Morocco earlier this month, but King Mohammed VI vetoed the idea.

Despite hopes from Israeli officials, US officials said that Pompeo did not discuss normalizing ties with Israel with Moroccan officials during his visit.

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