By Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President, High Atlas Foundation
I had the opportunity, for which I am grateful, to visit together with Mr. David Greene, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, the Jewish and Christian cemeteries in the incredible city of Essaouira. The day prior, we had launched with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) its new program, which HAF is implementing in Morocco, dedicated to cultural heritage preservation and education.
H.E. Mr. André Azoulay; H.E. Ms. Lamia Radi; the mayor of Essaouira, Mr. Tarik Ottmani; and other leaders of national cultural endeavors, including Mr. El Mehdi Boudra and members of Miftah Essaad Foundation, among many others, shared this special moment. This is the beginning of our collaborative effort to gather memories of solidarity and multiculturalism in communities in different parts of the country.
Mr. Greene’s visit with me to centuries-old cemeteries was a reflective moment after such positive events from the day before. We read together heartbreaking epitaphs and reflected on the privileged work of collecting stories of the past and disseminating them today in order to build bonds, especially among young people, toward a sustainable future.
A lasting impression of Essaouira’s Christian cemetery is that it is, in real ways, inseparable from the events of Jewish life in the city, and vice versa, and that the people laid to rest there lived every dimension of what the region experienced through all the different trials and exuberations across time. From there, I so much enjoyed walking and talking with Mr. Greene through the mellah to old Jewish houses of learning and prayer.
On behalf of the High Atlas Foundation, we would like to thank USAID for their trust and partnership; partnering civil organizations—Association Mimouna, Foundation Memories for the Future, Essaouira Mogador Association, Miftah Essaad Foundation, and the Sefrou Association for Multidisciplinary Arts—for their activities of cultural learning and keeping of history; and Maghreb itself for creating and encouraging the public space for all strands of Moroccan diversity to progress forward and be part of the Moroccan experience.