As the congregants of Lazama leave the Old City, they each kiss an ancient archway while walking underneath.
Under this arch it is said that Rabbi Mordechai Ben Attar, one of the founders of the Mellah Jewish quarter, raised a wall of flame to protect the community from marauding tribesmen.
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For both Ifrach and Suissa, Morocco is an exceptionally safe place to be a Jew.
Sam Ben Chetrit, chairman of the World Federation of Moroccan Jews, concurs.
Nevertheless, there are still enough men to form a minyan every Shabbat, who meet in the 15th-century Lazama tucked down an alleyway near Marrakesh’s famous Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s central square and market.
The congregation, which consists of mostly older men in their 60s and 70s, is a mixture of Jews who grew up in Morocco, three Moroccan Jews who returned to their native country and tourists.“I was born in Morocco and I will die in Morocco,” Suissa says, as we wind through the alleyways of Marrakesh’s Old City after a Shabbat prayer.“Here I feel truly at home,” he says in Hebrew before seamlessly switching to Arabic to chat with a spice vendor.
MARRAKESH – The Lazama Synagogue in Marrakesh, Morocco, has high ceilings with ornate lighting and rugs lining the floor.
On hot summer days the windows are open and birds stream in from the adjacent blue and white courtyard, while congregants keep cool with handheld fans made of thatch palm. He is a 60-year-old Moroccan Jew who grew up in Israel, but returned to live in Morocco in 2004.
Prior to Israel’s establishment, Morocco’s Jewish community numbered about 250,000.
Now the community stands at some 3,000 with the vast majority living in Casablanca.
They are both being detained at Blackrock Garda Station under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.