(Official handout via Algemeiner)
King Mohammed VI center visits synagogue at Bayt Dakira Jewish heritage center (Official handout via Algemeiner)

King Mohammed VI received blessings while visiting an ancient Moroccan synagogue that is part of his efforts to revive Jewish heritage in the country.

By United with Israel Staff

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI participated in the inauguration of the refurbished 19th century Bayt Dakira (House of Memory and History) synagogue in Essaouira, Wednesday. He was praised for promoting peace and coexistence, especially in light of growing anti-Semitism worldwide.

André Azoulay, the king’s councilor and President of the Essaouira-Mogador Association, spoke for the Moroccan Jewish community. “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,” he said while addressing the king, Middle East Online (MEO) reported.

“This house is the house of memories and history. It is also the Moroccan compass that the world needs today, a world in search of landmarks, a world that turns its back on those values ​​that are those of our country under the leadership of King HM, the Commander of the Faithful,” added Azoulay.

At the event, Azoulay gave the monarch a Torah and Qu’ran.

Jews have lived in Morocco since antiquity. Its Jewish population grew rapidly from 1492, due to the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. Many famous rabbis hailed from the country and historically its Muslim citizens showed respect for the Jews and their leaders.

King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in 1999 after the death of his father, King Hassan II.

Reviving Jewish Heritage in Morocco

The restored Bayt Dakira space is part of the king’s projects to revive Morocco’s Jewish heritage and enhance the Judeo-Moroccan memory of Essaouira. It includes the Slat Attia synagogue, Bayt Dakira and the Haim and Célia Zafrani International Research Center on the history of relations between Judaism and Islam.

Bayt Dakira houses objects, texts, photos and films of the city’s rich Jewish history, as well as explanations of all rites-of-passage in Jewish life, including, birth, death, bar/bat mitzvah and marriage.

In its heyday, 40 percent of Essaouira’s population was Jewish and there were 37 active synagogues. Today, most of them have fallen into ruin.

Morocco’s Chief Rabbi David Pinto and the Chief Rabbi of Casablanca, Joseph Israel attended the event. Pinto, a native of Essaouira, said King Mohammed VI “is the best king in the world.” Israel noted “the great centuries-old coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Morocco,” reported MEO.

Referring to the “difficult times facing the world today,” 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 [in Morocco].”

“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,” he added.

Cantor Michel Abittan sang traditional Jewish songs and bestowed blessings on the king.

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