Moroccan premier celebrates restoration of 17th century synagogue


(JTA) — Some 200 people celebrated the restoration of a synagogue in the Moroccan city of Fes.

Wednesday’s ceremony marked the conclusion of a two-year project undertaken by Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco, the website of the magazine Jeune Afrique reported.

Among those attending the rededication ceremony of the Slat Alfassiyine synagogue in Fes was Norbert Lammert, the president of the Bundestag, the German parliament. Germany contributed much of the funding for restoring the building, which dates back to the 17th century.

Representing the king was Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, who said the event was a celebration of “the richness and diversity of the spiritual elements” that make up Morocco. He reportedly pledged to restore all of the kingdom’s synagogues.

Situated in the center of the city in the El Mellah quarter, the synagogue was “the epicenter of Jewish life” in the city, according to Jeune Afrique. The small synagogue now has cream-colored walls with traditional Moroccan decoration.

Spurred on by a succession of pogroms, including in Oujada and Jerada, some 250,000 Moroccan Jews left the North African country between 1948 and 1967. Many settled in Israel. In 1959, Zionism was outlawed in Morocco and defined as a “serious crime.” Morocco ended that official animosity in the late 1980s and has maintained ties with Israel since then. Today, some 3,000 Jews live in Morocco, according to the European Jewish Congress.

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