Moroccan schools to teach Jewish history and culture

Moroccan schools to teach Jewish history and culture
This file handout photo provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace on January 15, 2020, shows Morocco's King Mohammed VI (R) during a visit to the "Bayt Dakira" (House of Memory) museum, in the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira. (Moroccan Royal Palace photo via AFP)
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Updated 13 December 2020

Moroccan schools to teach Jewish history and culture

Moroccan schools to teach Jewish history and culture
  • Morocco is the fourth Arab nation since August to announce to normalize relations with Israel
  • The US-brokered deal followed those of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan

RABAT, Morocco: Jewish history and culture in Morocco will soon be part of the school curriculum — a “first” in the region and in the North African country, where Islam is the state religion.
The decision “has the impact of a tsunami,” said Serge Berdugo, secretary-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco.
It “is a first in the Arab world,” he told AFP from Casablanca.
For years, although the kingdom had no official relationship with Israel, thousands of Jews of Moroccan origin visited the land of their ancestors, to celebrate religious holidays or make pilgrimages, including from Israel.
But Morocco this week became the fourth Arab nation since August to announce a US-brokered deal to normalize relations with Israel, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said liaison offices would be reopened in Tel Aviv and Rabat, which Morocco closed in 2000 at the start of the second Palestinian uprising, and full diplomatic relations would be established “as rapidly as possible.”
Morocco confirmed the deal, saying King Mohammed VI had told outgoing US President Donald Trump his country had agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel “with minimal delay.”

Diverse identity
The decision to add Jewish history and culture to lessons was discreetly launched before the diplomatic deal was announced.
Part of an ongoing revamp of Morocco’s school curriculum since 2014, the lessons will be included from next term for children in their final year of primary school, aged 11, the education ministry said.
The move aims to “highlight Morocco’s diverse identity,” according to Fouad Chafiqi, head of academic programs at the ministry.
Morocco’s Jewish community has been present since antiquity and grew over the centuries, particularly with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic kings after 1492.
At the end of the 1940s, Jewish Moroccans numbered about 250,000 — some 10 percent of the population.
Many left after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and the community now numbers around 3,000, still the largest in North Africa.
Jewish presence in Moroccan culture now appears in the primary-level social education curriculum, in a section dedicated to Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah, known as Mohammed III.
The 18th-century Alawite ruler chose the port of Mogador and its fortress, built by Portuguese colonists, to establish the coastal city of Essaouira.
Under his leadership, the diplomatic and commercial center became the only city in the Islamic world counting a majority Jewish population, and at one point had 37 synagogues.
“While there was a Jewish presence in Morocco before the 18th century, the only reliable historical records date back to that time,” Chafiqi said.

'Inoculation against extremism'
Two US-based Jewish associations — the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP) — said they “worked closely with the Kingdom of Morocco and the Moroccan Jewish community” on the “groundbreaking” academic reform.
“Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco’s philo-Semitism, is an inoculation against extremism,” leaders of the two organizations said in a statement published on Twitter last month.
Also in November, Education Minister Said Amzazi and the heads of two Moroccan associations signed a partnership agreement “for the promotion of values of tolerance, diversity and coexistence in schools and universities.”
The accord was symbolically inked at Essaouira’s “House of Memory,” which celebrates the historic coexistence of the city’s Jewish and Muslim communities.
Among those present was Andre Azoulay, a member of the local Jewish community who is also an adviser to King Mohammed VI.
The king, Morocco’s “Commander of the Faithful,” has pushed for a tolerant Islam that ensures freedom of worship for Jews and foreign Christians.
In September 2018, at a UN roundtable, he emphasized the role of education in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.
Morocco “has never erased its Jewish memory,” said Zhor Rehihil, curator of Casablanca’s Moroccan Jewish Museum — the only one of its kind in the region.
History teacher Mohammed Hatimi said introducing Jewish identity into Morocco’s education program would help nurture “future citizens conscious of their diverse heritage.”
The move will also be part of a revision of the secondary school curriculum set for next year, according to Chafiqi from the education ministry.


Israel says will help ensure a ‘new’ Iran deal protects interests

Israel says will help ensure a ‘new’ Iran deal protects interests
Updated 20 min 4 sec ago

Israel says will help ensure a ‘new’ Iran deal protects interests

Israel says will help ensure a ‘new’ Iran deal protects interests
  • Gantz hopes Israeli security would be safeguarded under any renewed nuclear deal
  • Austin was making the first visit to Israel by a senior Biden administration official

TEL AVIV: Israel will work with Washington to ensure any “new agreement” on Iran’s nuclear program will safeguard regional security, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told his US counterpart Lloyd Austin on Sunday.
The comments came as Austin made the first high-level US trip to Israel since talks resumed on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, which the Jewish state fiercely opposed.
Gantz said “we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel.”
Austin, the highest-level envoy from President Joe Biden’s administration yet to visit ally Israel, said Washington would work with Israel “to advance shared security interest and priorities.”
Stressing America’s “iron-clad” bond with Israel, Austin said the US will “continue close consultations to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and to strengthen Israel’s security.”
Austin’s visit came just days after the US said it had offered “very serious” ideas on reviving the hobbled nuclear agreement reached between Tehran and world powers, which was abandoned by former president Donald Trump in 2018.
Israel under hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal, dating back to when it was being negotiated during Barack Obama’s administration.
Netanyahu, whom Austin was due to meet on his visit, applauded when Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed sanctions on Tehran, which responded by stepping back from several of its commitments under the deal.
In the latest breach of its undertakings in the troubled agreement, Tehran announced on Saturday that it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.
President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades — of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6S devices respectively — at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.
An “accident” took place at Natanz on Sunday but caused no casualties or damage, the Fars news agency reported, citing officials.
In an address marking the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu had said on Wednesday that Israel would not be bound to a nuclear deal that would enable the Islamic republic to develop atomic weapons.
“An agreement with Iran that would pave the way to nuclear weapons — weapons that threaten our extinction — would not compel us in any way,” said the veteran premier.
Biden has said he is prepared to return to the agreement, arguing the deal had — until Washington’s withdrawal — been successful in dramatically scaling back Iran’s nuclear activities.
But Washington has demanded Iran returns to compliance while Tehran has insisted on an end to all US restrictions, with each side demanding that the other make the first move.


Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Prince Hamza make first joint appearance since rift

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Prince Hamza make first joint appearance since rift
Updated 11 April 2021

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Prince Hamza make first joint appearance since rift

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Prince Hamza make first joint appearance since rift

CAIRO: Jordan's King Abdullah and his half borther Prince Hamza made a joint appearance on Sunday attending a ceremony marking 100 years of the Hashemite kingdom’s independence. 

The royal palace released a photo with Abdullah II, Prince Hamzah, Crown Prince Hussein and other dignitaries at the grave of King Talal in Amman, Jordan's capital.

This is their first public appearance together since a rare palace feud last week.


Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
Updated 11 April 2021

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
  • That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490
  • 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141

DUBAI: Iran reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, the highest daily toll since early December.
That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141.
“Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours 258 people have died from the virus,” Lari said. State TV said it was the country’s highest daily death toll since Dec. 10.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a televised news conference, warned about more fatalities in the coming week if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols. On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
Businesses, schools, theaters and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.


‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
Updated 11 April 2021

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
  • Behrouz Kamalvandi said there were no injuries nor pollution caused by the incident
  • Iran later called the incident sabotage

TEHRAN: Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers.
State TV quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's civilian nuclear program, announcing the incident.
Kamalvandi said there were no injuries or pollution cause by the incident.
The word state television used in its report attributed to Kamalvandi in Farsi can be used for both “accident” and “incident.” It didn't immediately clarify the report, which ran at the bottom of its screen on its live broadcast. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the civilian arm of its nuclear program, did not immediately issue a formal statement about the incident on its website.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion in July that authorities later described as sabotage. Israel, Iran's regional archenemy, has been suspected of carrying out an attack there, as well as launching other assaults, as world powers now negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over its nuclear deal.
On Saturday, Iran announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant, injecting them with the uranium gas and beginning their rapid spinning. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran's first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1. The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.
Since then-President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all the limits of its uranium stockpile. It now enriches up to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran maintains its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but fears about Tehran having the ability to make a bomb saw world powers reach the deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015.
The deal lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its program and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to keep a close watch on its work.


Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
Updated 11 April 2021

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
  • The country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence
  • Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot

TRIPOLI: Libya's new unity government launched a long-delayed COVID-19 vaccination programme on Saturday after receiving some 160,000 vaccine doses over the past week, with the prime minister receiving his jab on live television.
While Libya is richer than its neighbours due to oil exports, the country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence, and it has struggled to cope during the pandemic.
Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot, without saying which vaccine he had been given. At least 100,000 of the doses that arrived this week were Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Dbeibeh's interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month after emerging through a UN-facilitated process with a mandate to unify the country, improve state services and oversee the run-up to a national election in December.
Dbeibeh's government has framed the delivery of vaccines and the national roll-out as evidence that it is improving the lives of ordinary Libyans after replacing two warring administrations that ruled in the east and west of the country.
"Through the political consultations and the efforts of the prime minister, the vaccine is available," said Health Minister Ali Al-Zanati, who has said previously the government had so far ordered enough doses to inoculate 1.4 million of the country's more than six million people.
Libya's National Centre for Disease Control has said more than 400,000 people have registered for vaccination in more than 400 centres around the country.
Libya has recorded more than 166,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, though UN envoys have said the true figures are likely far higher.
"I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never," said Ali al-Hadi, a shop owner, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.
Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.
"We hope the Health Ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients," said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33.