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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jewish Life in 19th Century Morocco -- one aspect

For a quaint glimpse of how Jews were traditionally treated in Muslim society, look at 19th century Morocco. Here is an account by a contemporary French traveler there. Bear in mind that this was many years before France occupied Morocco. In 1883-84, the Muslims there were free to do what they wanted with the Jews, what came naturally.
Consider Morocco in 1883-1884:

"Every Jew in the Bled es-Elba belongs in his person and property to his lord, his sid. If his family has been established in the area for a long time, he came down to him [his lord] as an inheritance, as part of his property, according to the rules of Muslim law or the imaziren customs. If he himself came to settle in the place where he is [now] living, he had to make himself someone's Jew as soon as he arrived. Once the Jew has paid homage to him, he is tied forever --he and his posterity-- to the one he has chosen... The Jew lives the most wretched, most unhappy life, he cannot earn a penny without it being torn away from him. His children are taken away from him. In the end, he himself is taken to the marketplace; he is put up for auction and he is sold, as things are done in certain places in the Sahara, but not everywhere. On the other hand, he may be looted and his house destroyed, and he be driven away with his family. One sees villages where a whole quarter is deserted; the astonished passerby learns that there was a mellah [Jewish ghetto] and that one day all the sids by common accord attacked their Jews and drove them out. Nothing in the world protects the Jew from his lord. He is at his mercy. If he wants to be away, he needs authorization. He is not refused this since the Jew's trips are necessary for his commercial activities. But he will not take his wife and children with him for any reason. His family must remain behind close to the sid as hostages for his return..."

This account has been translated from the French.
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Schumpeter's sociological view of Arab imperialism will continue. There are only two or three instalments left.


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