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5,000 Jews Gather in Morocco for Pilgrimage

About 5,000 Jews gather to pray for peace at sanctuaries and gravesites in Morocco.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/14/2012, 6:44 AM

Morocco
Morocco
Flash 90

About 5,000 Jews have gathered in recent days to pray for peace at sanctuaries and gravesites in Morocco, according to an AFP report on Sunday.

The North African nation has for centuries had a vibrant Jewish population and some 1,200 of the faith's pious ancestors are buried in cemeteries in the country.

Perhaps the most famous of these burial grounds is that of Amran Ben Diwan, a venerated rabbi who was interred 250 years ago in the mountains of Ouazzane, about 200 kilometers north of the capital Rabat.

Ben Diwan's tomb, nestled in a Jewish cemetery among acres of olive trees, was placed under police guard and only people who had been authorized by Morocco's Jewish community were allowed access.

The report noted that the pilgrimage to the tomb will finish Saturday, following five days of prayers and celebration, with pilgrims hurling candles into a large fire by Ben Diwan's tomb.

Before Israel was founded in 1948 there were about 300,000 Jews in Morocco. By 1971, the Jewish population was down to 35,000 and at present, fewer than 7,000 Jews are believed to remain, mostly divided between Rabat and Casablanca.

Morocco, like other countries in the region, was swept with pro-democracy protests at the beginning of the Arab Spring but the protests lost momentum. King Mohammed VI, who remains popular in Morocco, announced last year that his country will revise its constitution for the first time in 15 years.

In the country’s elections last November, an Islamist party became the largest party in the Moroccan parliament.

One of the parties in the country chose, for the second time, a Jewish woman to head its national women’s list for the elections.

Maguy Kakon, a real-estate consultant, was born in Casablanca to Moroccan Jewish parents. Also known as a writer who describes the lives of the Jews in Morocco, she previously ran in the 2007 elections and managed to generate 30,000 votes.