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My Trip to Morocco Reaffirmed My Faith in Humanity and Support for Jews

The Lazama Jewish Synagogue in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: David Berkowitz/Flickr.

Save for Israel, Morocco is probably the place where I’ve heard the most Hebrew. This was likely because I traveled there with a Kippah on my head. Whenever I travel, I always have to make the judgment about where I will wear a baseball hat and where I will proudly display my Kippah. For Arab countries, owing to tensions with Israel, I usually opt for the hat, but Morocco’s rich Jewish history served as my impetus for choosing the latter.

Since October 7, antisemitism has spiked globally, and tensions have grown, especially in Muslim countries. Morocco was no different. Rabat, the capital city, was the site of countless anti-Israel rallies, and Moroccan opposition to the State of Israel spiked. My trip to Morocco, however, proved to be different than expected.

While I was surrounded by “Free Palestine” graffiti and shirts in every market stall I passed — and every synagogue was guarded by police — I rarely felt unsafe. Most Moroccans didn’t bother to ask if I was Israeli; rather, they would simply blurt out words in Hebrew and smile. In Marrakesh, locals even were eager to point me towards the Jewish museum and synagogue.

The question, “You are Jewish?” rang out over and over, and I eventually began replying yes. Muhammed, an antique vendor, spoke of antisemitism and how he hurts from seeing it, and how he misses his Jewish visitors. He sold Judaica and Jewish antiques, including a beautiful Menorah that I bought.

Khalid, the Muslim guard of the Marrakesh Jewish cemetery, who spoke fluent Hebrew, gave me a special tour of the cemetery. This care for Jewish people and respect seemed to be the common theme among Moroccan Muslims that I interacted with. Every antique vendor upon seeing my Kippah was eager to showcase their Judaica, and one even went as far as gifting me a free Falus, an old Moroccan coin emblazoned with a Star of David in the front. These Moroccan Muslims appreciated their country’s Jewish heritage, but most of all, were eager to see Jewish tourists.

I had similarly positive interactions with Jews as well. At the Casablanca Chabad house, the rabbi and his congregation welcomed me with open arms. I marveled at Moroccan liturgy and enjoyed an incredible meal put together by the rabbi’s family. Abraham Cohen, one of the last Jews of Fez, cried and prayed upon seeing that I was Jewish, and insisted on making tea for me. We chatted in Hebrew about life in Morocco, and he told me how his entire congregation left for France and Israel, so Jewish tourists were a rare delight. Gavriel, a Jewish barber in Marrakesh was eager to play a Shofar and show me his Judaica collection, covering the walls of his barber shop — alongside Jewish flyers and posters.

Being Jewish in the Diaspora has never been easy, but it’s rarely been as difficult as it is now. We must not, however, forget the importance of a strong Diaspora. The State of Israel and Jews around the world are intrinsically tied in the deepest way possible, and both need to be strong for Jewish life to survive.

Morocco reminded me that our history in the Diaspora is so strong, and that we have partners willing to help maintain our communities, something we now need more than ever. Having been in a shell of fear and uncertainty since October 7, it took a trip to Morocco, a Muslim country, to restore my faith in humanity and remind me of those willing to fight alongside us for a brighter world. With partners like Khalid and Muhammed, and with people like Abraham and Gavriel in mind, we can and will continue despite any hardship, and must live strongly and proudly as a Jewish people, now more than ever.

Despite everything, there are good people in the world — lots of them. If you ever forget that, make your way to Morocco, where the beautiful architecture and delicious food somehow is outdone by the kindness of the people.

The author is a student, writer, and community activist.

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In honour of the Oscars, Treasure Trove revisits a classic Jewish movie

With the Oscars coming up on March 10, Treasure Trove dipped into its Jewish-themed cinema archive to present the promotional material from the Austrian premiere of David and Batsheba. Released in 1951, the movie stars Gregory Peck as King David, with Lithuanian wrestler “Iron Talun” appearing as Goliath.  It tells the story of David’s infatuation […]

The post In honour of the Oscars, Treasure Trove revisits a classic Jewish movie appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Eight Killed in Russian Drone Attack on Odesa, Ukraine Says

Rescuers work at the site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

A Russian drone attack whose multiple victims included an infant and a two-year-old on Saturday could have been avoided if Ukraine was not facing delays to weapons supplies, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Seven Western leaders have signed 10-year security agreements with Ukraine in the last two months as Kyiv fights to plug a big hole in stockpiles with a vital package of U.S. military assistance stuck in Congress and facing months of Republican opposition.

“When lives are lost, and partners are simply playing internal political games or disputes, limiting our defense, it’s impossible to understand,” Zelensky said.

As emergency services posted images of bodies being pulled from the rubble of an apartment block in the southern port city of Odesa, he also used his nightly video address to deliver a strong message to his new army chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, who replaced Valeriy Zaluzhnyi in a shakeup last month.

“The commander-in-chief has carte blanche for personnel changes in the army, in the headquarters, for any changes,” Zelensky said. He said he expected a “detailed report and specific proposals for further changes” from Syrskyi when he returns from the front early in the week.

Rescue workers pulled eight bodies out of the rubble and were still searching for more late in the night. Zelensky said earlier that an Iranian-supplied Shahed drone destroyed 18 apartments in a single apartment block.

Oleh Kiper, the regional governor, said the adults killed included three men aged 35, 40 and 54, and two women aged 31 and 73. Eight people were wounded, including a three-year-old girl.

Zelensky said Russian attacks using Iranian-supplied Shahed drones “make no military sense” and were intended only to kill and intimidate.

“The world knows that terror can be opposed,” he said. “Delaying the supply of weapons to Ukraine, missile defense systems to protect our people, leads, unfortunately, to such losses.”

Zelensky identified the youngest victims of the attack as four-month-old Tymofiy and Mark, aged two.

Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said the infant was found dead alongside his mother and posted a photograph of a rescue worker next to a bloodied blanket, a baby’s arm visible on one side and an adult arm extending out the other.

Smoke poured from rubble strewn across the ground where the drone had ripped a chunk several storeys high out of the building.

“My husband quickly ran out to help people… then I saw people running out and I understood people had died in there,” said Svitlana Tkachenko, who lives in a neighboring building.

Clothes and furniture were scattered in the ruined mass of concrete and steel hanging off the side of the apartment block.

Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service posted photos including of a dead toddler being placed in a body bag by rescuers.

“This is impossible to forget. This is impossible to forgive,” it said in a statement. It said five people, including a child, had been rescued alive.

Several thousand long-range, winged, Shahed drones have been fired at targets inside Ukraine since Moscow’s full-scale invasion two years ago.

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Iran Vote Turnout Hits Historic Low Amid Discontent

An Iranian woman casts her vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, March 1, 2024. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/ File Photo

Turnout for Iran’s parliamentary election, seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s legitimacy, appears to have hit a historic low of around 41%, according to unofficial reports quoted by state media on Saturday.

The election followed anti-government protests in 2022-23 that spiraled into some of Iran’s worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic revolution and coincided with growing frustration over the sanctions-hit country’s economic troubles.

Partial results appeared to show hardliners set to keep their grip on parliament, while high-profile moderates and conservatives stayed away from Friday’s election and reformists called it neither free nor fair as it was mainly a contest between hardliners and low-key conservatives loyal to Islamic revolutionary ideals.

Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s first reformist president, was among critics who did not vote on Friday.

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women’s rights advocate, in a statement shared by her family with Reuters, called the election a “sham.”

State news agency IRNA said unofficial reports put turnout at more than 25 million, or about 41% of eligible voters.

The Hamshahri newspaper called the turnout “a 25-million slap” to calls for an election boycott, in a front-page headline next to a depiction of a ballot paper smacking U.S. President Joe Biden in the face.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Iran’s “enemies” – a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel – of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.

“The Silent Majority” was the front page headline in Ham Mihan, a pro-reform newspaper, which put the turnout at about 40%.

The interior ministry may announce the official turnout later on Saturday. If the turnout figure is confirmed, it would be the lowest since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979.

Iran’s turnout fell to 42.5% in 2020 parliamentary elections from about 62% in 2016.

Over 15,000 candidates ran for the 290-seat parliament on Friday. The poll was twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.

Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi was re-elected to the Assembly of Experts with 82.5% of the vote, the interior ministry announced on Saturday.

Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who was elected president in landslide wins in 2013 and 2017 promising to reduce Iran’s diplomatic isolation, was banned from running, drawing criticism from moderates.

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