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Morocco opens first university campus synagogue in Arab world

Despite having no Jewish students enrolled, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakesh inaugurates house of worship alongside mosque as symbol of tolerance

Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates Elie Abadie attaches a Mezuzah to the Beit El Synagogue at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakech, Morocco. (Screenshot/ YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates Elie Abadie attaches a Mezuzah to the Beit El Synagogue at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakech, Morocco. (Screenshot/ YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A Moroccan university inaugurated the first campus synagogue in the Arab world last week.

The house of worship, named Beit El Synagogue in Hebrew and Beit Allah in Arabic, was opened at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakesh.

The project was jointly spearheaded by the Mimouna Association and the American Sephardi Federation. Both organizations seek to promote and preserve Jewish culture in Morocco and the Middle East.

The North African country, which was not an initial member of the Abraham Accords, joined the peace initiative in December 2020, and has since pushed multiple initiatives promoting its local Jewish population and touting its rich Jewish history.

Elmehdi Boudra, founder and president of Mimouna, told The Media Line that the new synagogue was built alongside a new campus mosque, with the two structures sharing a wall as a symbol of religious unity.

“It’s not a big synagogue, but it can have a minyan [the quorum of 10 required for public Jewish prayer], and the Torah scrolls and all the religious articles were donated by the Jewish communities of Fez and Marrakesh,” he said.

“Moroccan Judaism is really a part of Moroccan society for 2,000 years. Morocco is also a Jewish land and we celebrate the diversity of Morocco traditionally.”

Boudra said that King Mohammed VI restored 167 Jewish cemeteries and 20 synagogues around the country in the past decade, even restoring the country’s various Jewish neighborhoods.

Rabbi Elie Abadie, senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, was in attendance at the inauguration ceremony, which featured both Jews and Muslims gathered to attach the building’s mezuzah, a rolled-up scroll of parchment fixed to the doorpost of Jewish homes and institutions.

“The significance of opening a synagogue at the university in Morocco, especially one that is named after His Majesty the King, is of great import[ance],” Abadie said.

Illustrative: Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco, November 24, 2021. the two countries normalized relations in December 2020. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy/File)

“It gives recognition of the Jewish community and Judaism as part and parcel of the Moroccan population and academic institutions.”

While the university currently has no Jewish students enrolled, recent agreements between the university and Israeli academic institutions mean that Jewish students on the Moroccan campus may soon be a reality.

Following the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Morocco, the countries have continued to develop and strengthen their relationship.

In 2021, Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the kingdom, signing a memorandum of understanding that formalized defense ties between the two countries, and made it easier for Israel to sell arms to the North African kingdom.

In March, senior Israeli military officials wrapped up their first official trip to Morocco, where the sides signed an accord that aimed to have the two militaries collaborate, and in June, Israeli officers and Defense Ministry officials participated in a major military drill in Morocco as observers.

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