Jewish Cementery of Marrakech

jewish cementery in Marrakech

Jewish Cementery of Marrakech

The Jewish cementery of Marrakech

Jews expelled from Spain in 1558 formed a colony in Marrakech reigning Moulay Abdalla (1558): the neighborhood called “Mellah” (trans: salt).

The Jewish neighborhood was built isolated from the rest of the Muslim population, their destination Sultan Palace annex territory and surrounded by a wall from which we can still see a part.

“It has the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco, located adjacent to the mellah (Jewish quarter), within the medina (old city) of Marrakech and simply is called the Jewish Cemetery. Present Marrakech population is over 700,000 with a current Jewish population of about 220-250 adults and older children, plus some young children.

A local Arab family lives in a small house within the cemetery and provides ongoing maintenance of the grounds and graves–including clearing brush, whitewashing the tombstones, restoring damaged stones, and guarding the entryway. Two brothers, aged about 30 or 35, who belong to this Arab family, provided all the data for this survey, primarily in French. Their father maintained the cemetery before them. The length of time this family has cared for the site is unknown. The family is paid by the local Jewish community, at a rate of 200 dirhams per month (about $20 U.S.) for all services. The two brothers were friendly, open, and pleased to provide information. They seemed to care about the cemetery and its preservation. There were some language difficulties during the two-hour cemetery tour and interview because the brothers speak very little English, and the interviewer speaks limited French. Only information that was clearly understood is included in this write-up. The Jewish community in Marrakech was originally known as Hevra Kadisha. Individual Jews have lived in what is now Marrakech since the time of the Phoenicians, and a Jewish community has existed since at least the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The Jewish population before WWII was more than 40,000, but the vast majority has moved to Israel. The original jewish cemetery on this site, several centuries old, is now below ground-level, completely covered, and hidden by a second “generation” (level) of graves. The current cemetery, at ground level, dates back about 200 to 300 years. Though the cemetery is still in use, it is extremely full and has only one small area remaining for future burials. There are no divisions for Orthodox or other branches Judaism, but only for Jewish burials. The cemetery is geographically near the former and current synagogues within the mellah. (Another synagogue exists in the new part of Marrakech.) Although not considered a public landmark, the cemetery is a destination for some tourists.”

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