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.


Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
  • The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council
  • Al-Hajraf: Current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen represents direct threat to the security of region

LONDON: Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region and a matter of concern, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Saturday.
Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and its support for militias, must also be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and they should not be limited to reviving the nuclear deal, GCC Secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf said at a virtual Gulf Research Meeting.
Representatives of Iran and the five world powers still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been meeting in the Austrian capital since April, with US envoys participating indirectly. An agreement has yet to be reached.
Al-Hajraf added that the current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen represents a clear and direct threat to the security and stability of the Middle East.
The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council, as is strengthening the leading position of GCC countries in the region and the world.
He said Saudi Arabia holding the G20 presidency in 2020, the UAE hosting Expo 2020 from October, and Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are examples of this effort.
Al-Hajraf added that the national visions and development plans in GCC countries are creating the appropriate momentum to focus on the future and exploit opportunities.


Lebanese man dies in accident waiting in gas station queue

Lebanese man dies in accident waiting in gas station queue
Mahmoud Delbani, 27, the latest victim to die of a tragic accident while waiting at a gas station in the lines that have become known as ‘the queues of humiliation and shame’ for long hours that drivers spend waiting. (Facebook/Mahmoud Delbani)
Updated 24 July 2021

Lebanese man dies in accident waiting in gas station queue

Lebanese man dies in accident waiting in gas station queue
  • Fuel shortages have resulted in queues kilometers long outside petrol stations leading to unprecedented congestions, horrific accidents
  • Local media reported the 27-year-old man had been looking forward to catching up with his friends after filling his car with fuel

BEIRUT: A man killed in a queue at a gas station on Saturday was the latest victim of the unprecedented crisis in Lebanon.
Mahmoud Delbani, a 27-year-old Lebanese citizen, was waiting to fill his car with gasoline at 2.30am when an inattentive truck driver crashed into several vehicles lined up at the Coral Petrol Station on the Beirut-South Lebanon highway, an Internal Security Forces traffic officer told Arab News.
Three people were also injured in the accident.
For more than two months the deteriorating economic crisis has caused enormous fuel shortages in Lebanon, with queues kilometers long outside gas stations leading to unprecedented congestion on roads and horrific accidents.
The lines at stations have become known as ‘the queues of humiliation and shame’ due to the long hours that drivers spend waiting to fill their cars.
Local media reported that the 27-year-old man had been looking forward to catching up with his friends after filling his car with fuel.
Hussein, a friend of Delbani from Tyre, in southern Lebanon, said: “He left us too early. What a tragically unexpected and humiliating end to such a loveable and smiley character. I cannot accept what happened! Why did he have to leave that way?”
Tarek, another friend of Delbani, mourned him on Facebook, writing “RIP Mahmoud you will be missed … too early dear but our destiny in Lebanon … innocent people die and stupid politicians have a long life...”
The traffic police have reported a number of recent accidents in petrol queues.
Petrol stations have been running low on subsidized petrol for months, but shortages worsened in June and July as people’s fears of rationing and shortages intensified, leading to a large number of petrol station closures.
A number of fights, heated arguments and shootings have taken place and a petrol station owner was shot dead by an angry customer in north Lebanon.

 


Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19
Updated 24 July 2021

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19
  • Jordanian children can be given Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary

BEIRUT: Jordan will start vaccinating children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19 from Sunday, the state news agency said on Saturday.
Children can be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary, the agency quoted the health ministry as saying.
The decision comes as Jordan lifted most restrictions at the start of July, reopening gyms, pools and night clubs at hotels after cases dropped from a peak in March when several thousands of new cases were recorded daily.
Total active cases reached 7,489 on Friday with 331 new cases and four deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic, Jordan has recorded a total of 763,437 cases and 9,933 deaths.
Several other countries in the region are vaccinating children, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


Jordanian political committee member steps down after Eid Al-Adha comments

A member of Jordan’s Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, Wafa Al-Kharda, has stepped down after public pressure. (Supplied)
A member of Jordan’s Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, Wafa Al-Kharda, has stepped down after public pressure. (Supplied)
Updated 24 July 2021

Jordanian political committee member steps down after Eid Al-Adha comments

A member of Jordan’s Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, Wafa Al-Kharda, has stepped down after public pressure. (Supplied)
  • Al-Khadra, professor of English at the American University of Madaba, submitted her resignation on Friday from the committee
  • She criticized what she described as the “unjustified slaughter of sheep” during Eid Al-Adha

AMMAN: A member of Jordan’s Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, Wafa Al-Kharda, has stepped down under public pressure following statements on Eid Al-Adha sacrifices that were deemed anti-Islamic.

Al-Khadra, professor of English at the American University of Madaba, submitted her resignation on Friday from the committee, which was formed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II on June 10 to overhaul the kingdom’s political system.

In a comment posted on her Facebook account, Al-Khadra criticized what she described as the “unjustified slaughter of sheep” during Eid Al-Adha, claiming the annual ritual has nothing to do with Islam.

In her comment, which she later deleted, Al-Khadra wrote: "Sheep butchering and serving it as Udhiyah (sacrifice) is unjustified and has nothing to do with Islam … the ritual is inhumane and lacks mercy.”

She also claimed that the practice went against modern concepts of environmental and ecosystem balance.  

Al-Khadra’s comments prompted unhappiness from the public, with many people taking to social media to demand her resignation from the committee.

The Ifta Department issued a statement, denouncing Al-Khadra’s remarks on Eid Al-Adha sacrifice but without mentioning her name.

The department’s Secretary-General Ahmed Hassanat said: “The purpose for the creation of animals and all creatures is the service of man." 

A group of retired army generals, calling themselves the Brothers in Arms Assembly, called for Al-Khadra’s dismissal from the committee, arguing that her remarks betrayed “hatred of the country’s religious constants.”

Al-Khadra issued a statement on Thursday in which she said that her remarks were taken out of context and that she did not mean what had been “misunderstood.”

She also said that she respects the Udhiyah ritual as an integral part of Islam.

The head of the committee, Samir Rifai, called on all members to adhere to the code of ethics they signed up to, and not to engage themselves in controversial matters.

In a letter sent to all members, Rifai, a former prime minister, also called for respect for the religious establishment and norms in Jordan.

Committee spokesperson Muhannad Mubeidin told government-owned Al-Mamlakah TV that Rifai referred Al-Khadra’s resignation to King Abdullah, who accepted it.  

On June 26, another member of the committee, Oraib Rentawi, also resigned following outrage at a statement he made on the 1968 Battle of Al-Karama between Jordan and Israel.

In an opinion piece in Ad-Dustour newspaper, Rentawi claimed that the conflict was between the Palestinian resistance, under the leadership of the late leader Yasser Arafat, and Israel.

Jordan celebrates the Battle of Al-Karama on March 21 as the first Arab victory against Israel by the Jordanian Armed Forces under the leadership of late King Hussein.

Rentawi’s remarks were received with public anger, especially from ex-army personnel who fought in the battle.


Sudan closes border crossing with Ethiopia after disappearance of commander: reports 

Sudan closes border crossing with Ethiopia after disappearance of commander: reports 
Updated 24 July 2021

Sudan closes border crossing with Ethiopia after disappearance of commander: reports 

Sudan closes border crossing with Ethiopia after disappearance of commander: reports 

DUBAI: Sudan closed its border with Ethiopia on Saturday following the “disappearance” of a commander who was in the area pursuing Ethiopian militias off, local media Sudan Tribune reported. 

Captain Bahaa El-Din Youssef was pursuing Ethiopian militias who “kidnapped three Sudanese children from within the border” on Friday, the report said. 

According to the report, the children were aged between 10 and 15 years old and were taken to an unknown location. 

Clashes erupted late last year between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces over Al-Fashqa, an area of fertile land settled by Ethiopian farmers that Sudan says lies on the Sudanese side of a border demarcated at the start of the 20th century.