Israeli family in Morocco to memorialize 1960 quake victims is caught in deadly tremor

Jacqueline Bouskila Twizer and her 10 siblings planned to visit Agadir where 10 relatives died; says ‘symbolism’ of also getting caught up in massive earthquake gives her ‘chills’

Rubble in aftermath of the earthquake that struck the port city of Agadir, Morocco, March 1, 1960 (AP Photo)
Rubble in aftermath of the earthquake that struck the port city of Agadir, Morocco, March 1, 1960 (AP Photo)

An Israeli family that traveled to Morocco on a heritage trip to memorialize 10 close relatives killed there in an earthquake in 1960 found themselves reliving the tragic past when they were themselves caught in the deadly tremor on Friday that killed over 2,000 people.

“I can’t explain to myself how something like this happens,” Jacqueline Bouskila Twizer from Rishon Lezion told the Ynet outlet on Saturday.

“There is symbolism and something mystical here. What is this? Simply unbelievable. It doesn’t just give me chills, but heart palpitations. I’m still moved by everything that’s happening here,” she said.

None of the family members were hurt in Friday’s quake.

Bouskila Twizer said that on 29 February, 1960, ten members of her family — three uncles and seven young cousins — were killed in an earthquake that hit the city of Agadir, Morocco.

Over 12,000 people perished and 25,000 people were injured.

Only the three uncles and two of the children were later identified, and the remains of the rest were buried in a mass grave.

One cousin survived the disaster at the time and Bouskila Twizer, along with her five brothers and five sisters, intended to meet with them in Agadir where the family had planned a Sunday memorial service at the graves of those who were identified.

The 6.8 magnitude quake on Friday that devastated areas across Morocco, including in Marrakesh, means the family can no longer make the trip to Agadir.

“I wasn’t so anxious about the incident yesterday but remembering our family tragedy is hard,” Bouskila Twizer said.

A man looks on as residents navigate through the rubble in the earthquake-damaged old city of Marrakesh, Morocco on September 9, 2023. (FADEL SENNA/AFP)

She said the siblings were staying at a Club Med resort in Marrakesh, where an evening program had just finished when the earthquake hit.

“Suddenly we hear a loud noise,” Bouskila Twizer said. “I thought it was a Club Med stunt – sometimes they do pyrotechnics. And suddenly I saw people running. I pulled all my brothers [together], we left the indoor building and came to the pool area.

“We were there from 11 p.m., waiting for instructions, and we were only allowed to return to our rooms at 4 a.m.,” she said.” Thank God it passed safely, but unfortunately all the roads are blocked and we will not be able to get to the graves in Agadir now.”

“Do I need to be here with all my brothers and sisters and go through the experience that unfortunately caused the entire family to perish 63 years ago?” she pondered.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday night that it had accounted for all 479 Israeli citizens that it knew of in Morocco, and that there were no reports of any casualties among them.

A Foreign Ministry delegation was set to fly to Morocco on Sunday to assist the local embassy in Rabat in bringing Israeli nationals back home.

Israel has also offered to send its military disaster rescue units to help with efforts to survivors who may still be trapped under the rubble. The units have been made ready to travel but so far the Rabat government has not responded to the offer.

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