'Everyone is only thinking how to survive'

Three members of Morocco Jewish community die of COVID-19

Casablanca community mourns businessmen Ari Peretz and Michel Tourgeman, infected at wedding, as well as Peretz’s mother, Simone

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

At least three members of the Jewish community in Morocco have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, Casablanca residents told Hebrew-language media on Monday.

The Casablanca community was mourning businessman and philanthropist Ari Peretz, 52; his mother Simone Peretz, 75; and businessman Michel Tourgeman, 62, according to Channel 12 news.

All three were said to have had preexisting health issues.

Morocco has imposed a public health state of emergency in a bid to forestall the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 516 people, of whom 29 have died, according to official figures.

However, relatively few tests have been conducted in the nation of some 35 million people.

Of the 2,000-strong Jewish community, 16 have been confirmed to be infected and are hospitalized, according to the Israeli report.

A pharmacist wears a mask next to a door covered in plastic to avoid contamination in Casablanca, Morocco, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Ari Peretz and Tourgeman reportedly attended a large wedding some three weeks ago in the city of Agadir. It is estimated that they were infected there by some of the hundreds of French nationals who flew to the country to attend the event.

“It was a magnificent wedding, with many attendants, and people unknowingly contracted the coronavirus,” said a participant, who wasn’t identified by name. “We fear the numbers are much higher because not everyone here has undergone tests.”

The pair were buried Friday at the Casablanca Jewish cemetery. One of the attendants said their families wanted to bury them in Israel, but that it wasn’t possible. “After the crisis is over they will be buried in Israel,” he said.

Simone Peretz died on Monday.

“Their death is a great loss for the Jewish community in Morocco,” said a community member. “They are people who contributed significantly to the community.

“What is happening here is scary. People aren’t leaving their homes,” he added.

Another unidentified community member said he was only leaving the house to buy food for his elderly parents.

“Everyone’s under lockdown, afraid to die,” he said. “We are a small community and having to look after ourselves. We had planned to celebrate the [Passover] Seder in Israel with the family, but everyone is only thinking how to survive.”

The Channel 12 report said a Jewish millionaire had said he would fund coronavirus tests for the community members, without elaborating.

AFP contributed to this report.

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