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Two Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Morocco)
The origins of the Jewish community of Morocco are buried in history, but they date back to ancient times, and perhaps to the biblical period. The first Jews in the country migrated there from Israel. Over the centuries their numbers were increased by converts and then by Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. After the Muslim conquest, Morocco’s Jews, as “people of the book,” had dhimmi status , which entailed many restrictions but allowed them to exercise their religion freely. In the mellahs (Jewish quarters) of Morocco’s cities and towns, and in the mountainous rural areas, a distinct Jewish culture developed and thrived, unquestionably traditional and orthodox, yet unique because of the many areas in which it assimilated elements of the local culture and lifestyle, making them its own as it did so. Most of Morocco’s Jews settled in Israel after 1948, and many others went to other countries. Wherever they went, their rich cultural heritage went with them, as exemplified by the Maimuna festival, just after Passover, which is now a major occasion on the Israeli calendar. Haim Zafrani, of the University of Paris, is perhaps the foremost scholar of the culture of Moroccan Jewry and the author of many books and articles on the subject. He is particularly noted for having collected and preserved much or its music and oral poetry. This book is his first major work to appear in English.