For the first time in sixty years, members of the Moroccan Jewish community celebrated the Hiloula of the Tsadikim, the pilgrimage to the tombs of saints and famous rabbis, in the cemetery of Meknes. The event brought together Jews from France, Belgium, Canada and Israel.

Rehabilitation of cemeteries

The Great Hiloula of Meknes, initiated by the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco, comes after the rehabilitation of the Jewish cemetery in the city erected in 1682 but fallen into disrepair. This restoration is part of a rehabilitation program of more than 160 Jewish cemeteries in Morocco wanted by King Mohammed VI in 2010. Taking advantage of this celebration, members of the Jewish community proceeded to the inauguration of the Museum of the Mellah (Jewish quarter).

The Secretary General of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco, Serge Berdugo, expressed “his great emotion” to attend this Hiloula, the first for sixty years in Meknes. “Words fail me to describe how I feel. My long-awaited return to my hometown after years of absence is wonderful”confides to AFP André Derhy, an 86-year-old Franco-Moroccan, while walking the streets of Meknes.

Preserving a plural memory

Gilles Berdugo, an Israeli of Moroccan origin born in Meknes, took advantage of the pilgrimage to return for the first time to Morocco, which he left in 1970 at the age of eleven. “I returned to my neighborhood with my eyes closed. All my memories resurfaced, it’s as if I had never left this country”testifies to AFP this inspector of Israeli National Education.

For her children, who are visiting Morocco for the first time, the experience is “intense”. “We grew up with the stories of our father and it is as if we have finally found here a missing piece of a (family) puzzle”, smiled his 30-year-old son Avishai. Very moved, Gilles Berdugo salutes from Morocco “an exceptional job of preserving its plural memory”. A rare step in the Arab world, which deserves to be underlined.

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