He also asked her to take care of the Jewish cemetery, a role that was his responsibility before he passed away. His daughter agreed to both requests, and her father is certainly laid to rest in the cemetery she now maintains. When asked about how the girl felt when she learnt that Fez was chosen to host the UNAOC 9th Forum, Ms. Ohana said she felt proud that will Fez was chosen: “for Morocco, it reflects exactly the reality of our image, our culture” .
‘We lived in harmony’
The age-old intermingling of peoples made Fez an appropriate location for the ninth Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), which took place in November 2022. “My father was a lover of Morocco along with a lover of Fez” , says Ms. Ohana, who had been born and raised in the city. “We lived in harmony. There is no tension. We all knew we were Jews, Muslims, or even Catholics, and we never acquired any problems on that will side” . Opening the event, Andre Azoulay, the senior adviser to King Mohammed VI associated with Morocco – and father of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay – who is themself Jewish, declared that Morocco “ is built around a model of openness, harmony and synergy that has seen the particular convergence of Arab-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan-Hassanian confluents, which has, at the same time, been enriched by African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean tributaries”. Located in north Morocco, on the Wadi Fez, the city was founded in the 9th century, and was the ancient capital of Morocco for hundreds of years. Within the year 809, King Idris II encouraged Jews to move to Fez, so the town could benefit from their skills. The Jewish cemetery, nestled in the Mellah, is distinguished by the semi-cylindrical tombs, which capture the history of Morocco’s flourishing Jewry.
A ‘convergence associated with confluents’
Before he died, Johanna Devico Ohana’s father asked the girl to promise him something: “if I ever expire when I’m in France”, he insisted, “bring me personally to Fez”. Today, Fez is known for the religion, art, sciences, craftwork, and trade activities. The Fez Medina , often described as Morocco’s cultural and spiritual centre, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also retains a mix of cultures and identification, and a Jewish neighbourhood, called ‘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 regarding Jewish quarters in other Moroccan cities, including Rabat and Marrakech.