Thousands of Israeli tourists flock to Morocco to celebrate the Moroccan-Jewish Passover, 'Mimouna'

Thousands of Israeli tourists flock to Morocco to celebrate the Moroccan-Jewish Passover, 'Mimouna'
In El-Mellah, the Jewish quarters in Moroccan cities, once the thriving heart of a large Jewish community, around 3,000 Moroccan Jews continue to commemorate Mimouna, a post-Passover Moroccan-Jewish festival.
3 min read
11 April, 2022
"I think, nowadays, Morocco is a safer place to celebrate the festival [of Passover]," said a Moroccan Israeli tourist. [Getty]

Nostalgic memories and escalating tensions in Israel have encouraged thousands of Israeli tourists to spend Passover in Morocco, especially after direct flights between Tel Aviv and Rabat were recently launched.

This month, some 2,000 Israeli tourists are set to arrive in Morocco to celebrate "Mimouna," a traditional Moroccan-Jewish post-Passover celebration.

During Passover, Jewish communities around the world celebrate the story of Exodus which tells the biblical tale of their departure from Egypt. 

For seven to eight days, Jews are prohibited to eat all leaven, whether in bread or other food and can only consume unleavened bread, called matzo.  

The matzo symbolises both the suffering during slavery and the haste with which the community had left Egypt in the story of Exodus. 

While Passover is a common religious celebration among Jewish communities worldwide, Mimouna is a post-Passover festival that was uniquely created by a quarter of a million Jews who once lived in Morocco.

The origins of Mimouna, a tradition dating back to the mid-18th century, remain unknown.

The most common story about its creation says that the Moroccan Jews welcomed their Muslim neighbours to their homes to herald the beginning of Spring and to thank them for keeping their chametz (leaven) during the Passover holiday. 

Muslim neighbours in turn brought the flour, which is forbidden in Jewish homes over Passover, and the Jewish hosts would prepare the treats. Moroccan music and traditional clothes would complement the harmony of the celebration.

"I came to Morocco to celebrate Mimouna in Essaouira (a city near Marrakech). My grandmother, who lived there, told me a lot of stories about the celebrations in the city and I cannot wait to witness that myself," Sarah, a 30-year-old Moroccan-Israeli tourist, said to The New Arab.

Between 1940 and 1960, more than 300,000 Moroccan Jews immigrated to Israel, taking the tradition with them. Numbered today at about one million, Moroccan Jews in Israel continue to celebrate the Mimouna festival.

In El Mellah, the Jewish quarter in Moroccan cities, once the thriving heart of a large Jewish community, around 3,000 Moroccan Jews continue to commemorate the festival until the present day. 

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"I think, nowadays, Morocco is a safer place to celebrate the festival," Sarah added to The New Arab.

Ahead of the Passover, Israel has been rocked by a wave of attacks that have killed 14 people after an increase of aggressive actions by the Israeli security forces and illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip. In turn, Tel Aviv launched an "offensive" on Palestinians, killing several Palestinians and wounding at least ten others. 

Since the formal launch of Moroccan-Israeli normalisation late in 2020, Rabat had actively attempted to revive old customs of the Moroccan-Jewish community as an opportunity to champion coexistence between Jews and Muslims in the North African kingdom.

Even before publicly normalising ties with Tel Aviv, Rabat had always allowed Israeli passport holders to enter the kingdom, particularly because of the large number of Jewish-Moroccans living in Israel.