Israeli President Isaac Herzog has thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his country’s provision of a “safe haven” for Jews during the Holocaust, in a missive seen by AFP on Tuesday.
The letter – commemorating two years since Morocco normalized ties with Israel – was the first time an Israeli state official paid tribute to the Holocaust-era actions of Morocco’s monarch in that moment, according to the presidency.
Herzog expressed Israel’s gratitude to the king “and to the people of Morocco who, for generations, have acted to protect the security, well-being and cultural heritage of the kingdom’s Jewish community.”
Herzog mentioned the Jews who settled in Morocco after their expulsion from Spain in the late 15th century, before noting the protection of the North African country’s Jews during the Second World War.
“When millions of Jews faced the horrors of the Holocaust in the 20th century, King Mohammed V provided a safe haven for his Jewish subjects,” Herzog said in the letter, dated Dec. 22.
“Moroccan Jews remember with pride and affection the memory of your grandfather, His Majesty King Mohammed V, who is remembered as the protector and guardian of the Jews in his kingdom,” Herzog added.
Mohammad V is famous for his refusal to implement anti-Jewish laws prescribed by the pro-German Vichy French government during World War II.
Herzog praised the current king’s measures to support his country’s Jewish community, noting the decision to include Holocaust education in Morocco’s schools.
Deepen the commitment
Such a move would not only deepen “your people’s commitment to tolerance and understanding, but would send a powerful message about these essential values to countries from the Atlantic to the Gulf,” Herzog wrote.
The presidency said the letter was coordinated with Israel’s foreign ministry and the state’s Yad Vashem Holocaust center.
Rabat severed relations with Israel in 2000 after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.
But in December 2020, the two countries formalized ties, following similar agreements earlier this year between Israel and the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Before that, Israel had reached peace treaties with neighbors Egypt and Jordan, in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
The Jewish community in Morocco dates back to antiquity and grew in the 15th century with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
By the 1940s their numbers had grown to 250,000, representing 10 percent of the country’s population, but mass emigration followed the founding of Israel in 1948.
The kingdom’s Jewish community is now estimated to number around 3,000, the largest in North Africa.
Approximately 700,000 Israelis claim Moroccan descent and maintain strong ties to their country of origin.
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