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Resilience and Unity: Jewish and Muslim Communities Come Together Amidst Adversity in Akrich

September 14, 2023

By Aloys Trinker and Bernhard Fritz

High Atlas Foundation Interns | Austrian Service Abroad

Earthquake damage in Akrich. | September 14, 2023

Today, we embarked on a journey to Akrich, a cluster of villages nestled just 30 minutes from Marrakech. This region had recently been struck by a devastating earthquake, leaving a profound impact on its communities. Accompanying us were three representatives from the Moroccan Jewish Community who are part of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The earthquake had left a trail of destruction, collapsing houses and compelling the local populace to fashion makeshift tents for shelter. Despite the harsh circumstances, the warmth and sincerity with which the communities received us was truly heartwarming.

As we ventured deeper into the villages, we were shown the remnants of their once intact homes. Witnessing the shattered structures and rooms, we could not help but share in the palpable grief and sorrow that hung in the air. One poignant moment came when an elderly woman, tears in her eyes, led us to her completely demolished house. Her anguish was heart-wrenching.

Many homes have been severely damaged. | September 14, 2023

In a beautiful display of hospitality, we were graciously invited by the local community to share a moment of respite. Many of them had gathered in a tent erected by the roadside, a humble space where they came together despite their dire circumstances. Here, they extended to us the invitation to partake in tea and Msemen, a delightful Moroccan bread. It was a testament to the indomitable spirit of these people, who, despite facing adversity, radiated warmth and kindness. The group conversation was about family, upbringing, identity, gender, sources of joy, foods of the world we wish to eat, and new birth.

A member of the Jewish Community / JDC accompanying us remarked, "Morocco is a truly unique country when compared to other nations that once had significant Jewish populations. While there are now only a few thousand Jews in Morocco, the Jewish culture here is not only acknowledged but also deeply respected and diligently preserved by the Muslim communities."

Our dialogue with communities moved from appreciating our shared past to the present focus: meeting overwhelming needs. The people need and want tents at Akrich and in every direction of the High Atlas region, and we are mobilizing to provide these materials. This past Monday, the third day following the catastrophic quake, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) sent several tons of food supplies to the Akrich area. Overall, HAF has distributed 166 tons of food and supplies to 4,257 families located in 50 municipalities.

Later in the day, we paid a visit to the community tree nursery supported by the HAF, a place with a remarkable history. This nursery sits on the grounds belonging to the Jewish Community of Marrakech, near the tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen, a sacred site that is lovingly tended to by the local farmers. In a poignant tribute to this Jewish cemetery, a prayer room has been established, serving as a testament to the lasting harmony between the Jewish and Muslim communities in this region.

Akrich, Morocco is not just a place on the map; it is a testament to the resilience of Moroccan communities coming together in the face of adversity. It showcases the enduring spirit of unity and mutual respect between the Jewish and Muslim people in this remarkable corner of the world.

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