Throughout much of my life, I have been engaged in attempts to improve Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. But a recent trip to Morocco, where Jews and Muslims lived in harmony for centuries, filled me with hope for my country. Life after the conflict: Act One.
The Jewish cemetery in Fes, Morocco, has remained intact thanks to the government’s upkeep. (Ron Gerlitz)
Yes we can. We can imagine good relations between Jews and Arabs here, in the State of Israel, and generally in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the main insight with which I returned from a very meaningful trip together with members of the Shaharit “120″ program, a multicultural group working towards a new social partnership in Israel.
Until 1964, the year the aliya from Morocco ended, there was a large, powerful, organized Jewish community in the country. Some of its members were also very wealthy. That was the same in Europe until the destruction of its Jewry. But unlike the European civilization, which abused and humiliated its Jews throughout its history, and in the end murdered millions of them and spewed out the rest, here Jews and non-Jews lived together amicably for 2,000 years.
What can we learn from that about the possibility of having similarly cordial relations also in Israel, in our little piece of land torn by strife? It’s hard to answer that question unequivocally. We are embroiled in a violent conflict in a small piece of land that both our nations call home, while many elements on both sides don’t even recognize the other side’s claim.
But in Morocco I was able, time and again, to imagine good relations between Jews and Arabs. When I walked around mellahs in the various cities, in the well kept and safeguarded Jewish cemeteries, in the active synagogues, when I saw us shedding our fear and walking around the heart of a Muslim city even at night, I was able to imagine Morocco of the olden days and how it could be the same here in Israel. Given the dreary situation, it may seem like a pipe dream, but the first step towards a better future is wanting to get there.
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