Traditional Festival of North African Jews Draws Smaller Crowds Than Usual

The Mimouna, a traditional secular festival of North African Jews held on the last day of Passover, drew smaller crowds than expected to the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds yesterday, due in part to inclement weather. As a political barometer, it offered a mixed forecast.

Deputy Premier David Levy, who was born in Morocco, was easily the most popular politician at the Mimouna where he was greeted with shouts of “David, King of Israel.” President Chaim Herzog, whose office is non-political, and Premier Yitzhak Shamir, received warm welcomes, too.

But for Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, boos from the crowd drowned out a fair measure of applause. Nevertheless, the response to Peres was less hostile than in the months before the 1981 elections when he was regularly jeered by Sephardic audiences.

As requested by the organizers of the Mimouna, a group called Beyahad (Together), there were no political speeches. The public figures limited themselves to one or two minute greetings and mingled with the crowds. Beyahad insisted that the festival, a special occasion for Moroccan Jews, be made an “all-Israel ” event and ruled out electioneering.

Apart from the weather, the relatively small turnout was attributed to the locale. The Mimouna was held for the first time in Tel Aviv to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the city’s founding, rather than in Jerusalem.

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