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      Jewish Hospital in Tangiers Torn Down

      Moroccan Jews fear the local cemetery might be next, after a former Jewish hospital in Morocco was abruptly razed by authorities.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 4/28/2010, 12:08 PM / Last Update: 4/28/2010, 12:17 PM

      Moroccan Jews fear the local cemetery might be next on the chopping block, after a former Jewish hospital in Tangiers, Morocco was abruptly razed by authorities.

      Bulldozers arrived at the Benchimol (Ben-Shimol) Hospital very late Friday night in the midst of the Passover holiday, and by morning the buildings were leveled. “It’s by order of the governor,” the wreckers told the guard, who had no way to stop them. The hospital, which was built in 1889, has been abandoned for about a decade. Though it was known as the Jewish hospital, members of all religions were treated there.

      Dr. Leah Ness, Deputy Minister for Pensioner Affairs, has turned to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to ensure that no further action will be taken against the dwindling Jewish community in Morocco.  The Ministry of Pensioner Affairs oversees the recovery of stolen Jewish property left in Arab countries.

      The two-square kilometer (500 acres) hospital complex was built by Chaim Benchimol, a translator for the French Consulate in Tangiers and a member of the Jewish Community Board. According to various reports, the land is owned by the Benchimol family, while the hospital itself was owned by the Jewish Community.

      “Does this mean that there are no more civil rights in Morocco?” asked one former member of the community. “I hope not. We have heard rumors, which sometimes materialize, that the authorities are now eyeing the old Jewish cemetery [which is close to the city’s port], in which are buried many rabbis, holy people, and our relatives.”

      The Jewish community in Tangiers is considered one of the oldest in the world, dating back to shortly after the destruction of the First Temple nearly 2,500 years ago. Today, only several dozen Jews remain, together with several Jewish institutions such as the Shaar Refael and other synagogues, the cemetery, a community center, and educational institutions.

      Elad Benari reported on Shalomlife.com that members of the Moroccan Jewish community in Canada and around the world have begun to send e-mails to the president of the Tangiers Jewish community, asking him to either take steps to prevent further actions against Jewish institutions there or step down.

      Of the approximately 250,000 Jews in Morocco in 1948, fewer than 7,000 remain, mostly in Casablanca.