Moroccan king visits Jewish heritage site, promotes coexistence
ESSAOUIRA, Morocco - Moroccan King Mohammed VI visited Wednesday "Bayt Dakira", a spiritual and heritage space that seeks to preserve and enhance the Judeo-Moroccan memory in the old medina of Essaouira as part of the monarch’s ongoing effort to revive the country’s Jewish heritage.
The restored space shelters the "Slat Attia" synagogue, the house of memory and history "Bayt Dakira" and the Haim and Célia Zafrani International Research Centre on the history of the relations between Judaism and Islam.
The king’s councillor and President of the Essaouira-Mogador Association, André Azoulay, expressed Moroccan Jews’ gratitude to the king for his attachment to the cultural heritage of the Moroccan Jewish community and heritage.
“This historic day bears the hallmark of our secular and millennial Morocco which has known how to protect the great diversity which is the central wealth of our country,” said Azoulay in an address to the King.
“This house (Bayt Dakira), which is the house of history and memory, is also the one of this Morocco compass which the world needs today, a world in search of direction, a world that turns its back on all these values that are those of our country under the leadership of HM the King, the commander of the faithful,” said Azoulay.
The Chief Rabbi David Pinto, who was born in Essaouira, said that “if we are here today it’s because of King Mohammed VI. He is the best king in the world.”
The Chief Rabbi of Casablanca, Joseph Israel praised the great centuries-old coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Morocco.
Renowned Moroccan-French-Canadian stand-up comedian and actor Gad Elmaleh said “we see a strong message of cohesion, harmony dialogue and entente” between various communities at a time when it’s difficult on the world.
“I’m very proud as a Moroccan to take part in the inauguration in a synagogue here in Essaouira. The presence of King Mohammed VI is going to be a strong signal not only for the Jewish community but also for the international community for people who are watching us to show them a pulse of peace, dialogue and openness,” said Elmaleh.
Bayt Dakira, which houses the "Slat Attia" synagogue, is a place of memory which depicts both the history and heritage of Judaism in Essaouira through objects, texts, artefacts, embroidery, photos and films.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said Morocco “is sending an important message through the king’s presence in Essaouira.
“This message consolidates Morocco’s rich multiculturalism,” said Audrey Azoulay.
(This article originally appeared in Middle East Online)