HomeUnited NationsThe Jewish cemetery of Fez, a symbol of cultural harmony

The Jewish cemetery of Fez, a symbol of cultural harmony

It also retains a mix of cultures and identity, and a Jewish neighbourhood, named ‘Mellah’. The word literally indicates ‘salt’ or ‘saline area’, in reference to either a saline water source in the area or to the former presence of a sodium warehouse, but ‘Mellah’ has become used as the name pertaining to Jewish quarters in other Moroccan cities, including Rabat plus Marrakech.   Located in north Morocco, on the Wadi Fez, the city was founded in the 9th century, and was the ancient funds of Morocco for hundreds of years. In the year 809, King Idris II encouraged Jews to relocate to Fez, so the city could benefit from their skills.

‘We lived in harmony’

When asked about how she felt when she learned that Fez was chosen to host the UNAOC ninth Forum, Ms. Ohana said she felt proud that will Fez was chosen:   “for Morocco, it reflects exactly the reality of our image, our culture” . The Judaism cemetery, nestled in the Mellah, is distinguished by the semi-cylindrical tombs, which capture the history of Morocco’s thriving Jewry. Opening the event, Andre Azoulay, the senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco – and dad of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay – who is themselves Jewish, declared that Morocco “ is built around a model of openness, harmony plus synergy that has seen the convergence of Arab-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan-Hassanian confluents, which has, at the same time, been enriched by African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean tributaries”. He also asked her to take care of the Jewish cemetery, a role that was his obligation before he passed away. Their daughter agreed to both requests, and her father is laid to rest in the cemetery she now keeps. The age-old intermingling of peoples made Spass an appropriate location for the ninth Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), which usually took place in November 2022.

A ‘convergence associated with confluents’

Today, Fez is known for the religion, art, sciences, craftwork, and trade activities. The particular Fez Medina , often described as Morocco’s cultural and spiritual centre, is certainly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “My father was a lover of Morocco and also a lover of Fez” , says Ms. Ohana, who was born and raised in the city. “We lived in harmony. There was clearly no tension. We all knew we were Jews, Muslims, or Catholics, and we never acquired any problems on that will side” . Just before he died, Johanna Devico Ohana’s father asked her to promise him one thing: “if I ever pass away when I’m in France”, he insisted, “bring me to Fez”.

Fez, Morocco.


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