- Posted May 16, 2014 by
Morocco The Kingdom of Heaven
While I was attending the MJC peace conference in Sarajevo back in early July 2013, the revolution fire was dominating me from the inside out. My Egyptian pride was very loud to an irritating point for some people that I don’t blame because they couldn’t see the Egypt in me and the victorious feeling for ouster of Mohamed Morsi that fueled my heart and soul back at the time.
Only a few people could see beyond that in me knowing that this was a good thing I was going through and that it would fade by time. They saw the real me and we became close friends, who I am so proud to have.
Among these few good friends was my very dear friend Sarah Benomar from Morocco who was representing the Mimouna Foundation as the president of the Mimouna Club in Al Akhawayn University. We had amazing and fun times in Sarajevo during the conference and we kept in touch after that through Facebook and Skype.
Sarah realized my sincerity and saw my potentials within my activism in the interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims along with my efforts in building peace bridges. She introduced me to the Mimouna Foundation and vouched for me, she put her career and reputation on the line for me so I could join Mimouna`s events. I will never forget this risk she took for me and I took an oath to not disappoint my friend in any way. She is a true friend who I cherish and respect. One day InshaAllah in the very near future she will be a very successful leader with countless accomplishments and achievements. Her dedication and commitment has no limitations.
Mimouna is an organization of Moroccan Muslim students that preserves and promotes the unique heritage of Morocco’s ancient Jewish community. It was founded in 2007. Mimouna has organized several groundbreaking events, including a Holocaust conference that was covered by the New York Times. Having expanded to university campuses across Morocco, the student leaders are preparing an unprecedented educational initiative called “Moroccan Jewish Caravan.” The project engages both Muslim and Jewish students along with the general public in celebrating Judeo-Moroccan culture via a series of events: a campus tour, multimedia exhibitions at major civic institutions, cooking workshops, musical performances, and a book distribution campaign for school children. In my eyes, these activities will bridge and cultivate generational and religious divides, foster mutual understanding, and cultivate compassionate peacemakers who will do much more in the future as leaders in all aspects of Moroccan society, bringing more harmony and coexistence that will lead Morocco to rise up more and more in the region.
Then the Mimouna foundation invited me for their 4th Annual “Moroccan Jewish Caravan,” which is part of a campaign dedicated to raising awareness among Moroccan youth about the country's Jewish history and culture. So, without hesitation I instantly accepted the invitation and couldn’t wait to see the amazing team of very well-educated and open minded young peace makers. This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Simon Levy, the founder and later Secretary-General of the Moroccan Judaism Foundation, as well as the Founding Director of the Jewish Museum in Casablanca. He was one of Morocco’s "foremost authority on Moroccan Jewish culture," and anybody who knew him or is familiar with his life work will agree that Simon Levy`s work will continue to guide the future generations, academia, and researchers all over the world. One of his famous quotes was “Moroccan Jewry is the most important in the world, culturally. Every Moroccan rabbi was a scholar and recorded the history of his community, which has preserved our knowledge of these communities. Morocco is the only place in the world where Jews lived continuously, with at least some rights, for over 2,000 years.”
The Caravan started in Ifrane on February 24, 2014, and then it continued on to Fez on the second day, with the closing ceremony in Casablanca. Each day of the Caravan featured multiple events, including artistic and archival exhibitions, concerts, gala dinners, film screenings, food workshops, tours of Jewish historical sites, and discussion panels on topics ranging from “Maimonides in Fez” to “Moroccan Jews in Muslim Memories: The path to understanding and peace.”. Then InshaAllah in June, the Caravan will resume its tour in Marrakech, Rabat, and Essaouirra.
Personally, the second day for me was very close to my heart and I will never forget it. We visited the home city of Mr. Simon Levy - Fez, which included several Jewish historical sites such as a Cemetery and a Synagogue, and an orphanage and a museum. I had the chance to give my respects at the Jewish cemetery of Fez by lighting a candle and praying for those who died. because as I will always believe, your pain is our pain and your losses are ours too. We all have one God and the same hearts. This is what accepting the other really is and what coexistence really means, especially in Morocco, which is with no doubt the kingdom of heaven.
Then we spent a few hours at the Salat Al Fassyine Jewish Synagogue listening to speeches from the honored guests, scholars and community leaders when I had the unexpected and sudden idea to ask for permission to have the microphone at the end to say something. I didn’t prepare anything or think about what I should say as an Egyptian Muslim in a Jewish synagogue in Morocco. But in all honesty all I did was let my heart do the talking. This was my most unforgettable personal moment in my life. It made me so happy and proud of myself to address a very respectful crowd that shared my views and appreciated what I was saying with a kind smiles on their faces.
Then came the 3rd day in Casablanca which was the most memorable day of all, when I was introduced by the Moroccan Jewish politician Madame Maguy Kakonto to Mr. André Azoulay, who is the advisor to the King of Morocco Mohammed VI. Mr. Azouly also serves as the Executive President of one of the most important Euro-Mediterranean foundations and think-tanks dedicated to the dialogue and reconcilliation between Islam and Judaism. Mr. Azouly has made it his life challenge to fight for a fully-sovereign Palestinian state, living side-by-side with Israel under a two-state solution. He first met with Mahmoud Abbas in 1974.
Mr. Azoulay's life work and his greatness really touched me especially when I saw the kindness in his eyes and felt how humble he is with everyone around him. He was very kind to invite me to meet in his office at the royal cabinet inside the king`s palace after the Caravan event ended. He is indeed a role model of greatness, filled with kindness and a rich, experienced life that wants nothing but to give all he can to anyone who needs help or guidance.
Many Moroccan government officials attended the event, such as Moulay Ismail Alaoui the former minister of education and former head of the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) of Morocco; Rachid Benmokhtar the Moroccan Minister of Education; and Mohamed Amine Sbihi the Moroccan Minister of Culture.
The kingdom of Morocco gave me the opportunity to see for the first time a real tangible peace among the different types of the society with mutual respect and harmony. While I was on my way to visit Mr. Azoulay at his office I saw young protestors demonstrating in front of the parliament in a very peaceful and very civilized manner. What amazed me was that the police were only there to guard and protect the protestors not to shoot tear gas or rubber bullets at them. These peaceful protestors even had organizers to let the cars pass by so their protest didn’t cause any traffic jams.
Morocco is with no Doubt the Kingdom of HEAVEN.