The bodies of seven Moroccan-Jewish victims of the COVID-19 pandemic were flown to Israel last week after being interred in a Casablanca Jewish cemetery more than a year ago.
The transfer was arranged by ZAKA, an Israeli volunteer rescue and recovery organisation which focuses on ensuring Jewish burial rites for victims of terror and natural disasters, as well as the Casablanca Chevra Kadisha, a local Jewish burial society.
Among the dead was Rabbi Sholom Eidelman, one of the first emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who lived in Morocco for more than 60 years. A second funeral held 18 months after his death drew many of his students in Israel, including former Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who was born and spent much of his childhood in Casablanca.
Eidelman and the others whose bodies were brought to Israel all died during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic when the virus ripped through the Moroccan Jewish community.
During the first month of the pandemic, Jews represented more than 10% of Morocco’s known COVID-19 deaths, despite making up less than 1% of the country. The virus was believed to have first spread through the community after a Purim party and Jewish wedding in March 2020.
In the community of approximately 2,000 Jews, the string of deaths was devastating and cast a pall on the normally festive holiday of Mimouna, which is celebrated by Moroccan Jews at the end of Passover.
At the time, Morocco had no official diplomatic relations with Israel, making coordination between the two countries over the burial of Moroccan Jews in Israel an impossibility. Many Israelis vacationing in the North African country even found themselves stranded when Morocco closed its borders and Israeli planes were forbidden from entering to bring them home.
In December 2020, Morocco and Israel normalised relations in exchange for U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed region of Western Sahara.
As part of the arrangement, Morocco opened its borders to Israeli flights. The first Tel Aviv-Marrakech route was flown last July; last week, as Israel’s entry requirements loosened, its passengers included the pandemic victims’ bodies and those accompanying them.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.