THE JEWS OF MOROCCO UNDER THE MARINIDES By David Corcos

THE JEWS OF MOROCCO UNDER THE MARINIDES By David Corcos, Jerusalem

Introduction

In the last years of his reign, cAbd al-Haq ben Abu Sa'id, who was king of Morocco from 824 (1421) until 869 (1465), had a Jewish Vizir, Harun ben Batas. In a revolt which broke out in Fez, instigated by the religious party, a party of fanatic ascetics, both the Sultan and his Vizir were assassinated. Abd al-Haq was the last sovereign ruler of the Beni-Merin, Marinides, as European historians term them, who occupied the throne of Morocco without interruption for about two centuries. The murder of Abd al-Haq and of Harun brought in its train a massacre of the Jews not only in the capital but also in other towns of Morocco. This was one of the few pogroms in which the Jews of the Maghrib suffered. It was however the most significant, taking place at the end of a dynasty under whose rule Jews had been unus­ually favored, in striking contrast to the policy of the pre­ceding fanatic Almohads. The downfall of the dynasty, as was to be expected, was particularly harmful to urban Jewry in Morocco. The important event which led to the catastrophe is itself symbolic of the nature of the ties which existed between Berbers and Jews. Yet the rare studies and even rarer full works, often of a relative value, which are concerned with the past history of the Jews in Morocco, give to the period of the Marinides only a passing notice. We do not pretend to fill in this gap. We merely seek to call the attention of Jewish scholars and historians of Judaism to a geographical area to a period which for most people, it must be admitted, is like virgin soil in a terra incognita.

Many of the facts referred to in this study are doubtless well known. Yet in order to demonstrate their full signifi­cance they ought, we feel, to be set into their true context. Some information still lies buried in the numerous texts of Arab, Jewish and Christian writers and even then it appear in such isolated scraps that perhaps specialists have not found it of great interest. If we now wish to link the events to, one another and bring out their full significance, they must be explained within the history of Morocco itself and, above all, established in their exact sequence. We should, however, stress that the limitation of an article is not sufficient for a true or complete picture of the position of the Jews under the rule of the Marinide dynasty. In spite of our desire to enter into all aspects, we, must be content to clarify in particular the political and social picture. Even this cannot be exhaustively studied as, according to our method, the chronology of events must be followed to the end of the dynasty, which exterminated the Jews in a bloodbath by its royal representative and his loyal subjects. Our study, however, concludes with the death of ABU-YAKUB.

The rise and establishment of the Marinide dynasty cover a period of sixty years, from about 1250 until 1307. It is during this period that the Jews, having survived the Almohad storm, reappear, by apparently inexplicable routes, first in the far West of the Maghrib, where they later formed unusually active communities. In order to shed light on the period and explain this strange event, we must not only look farther back into the past but also take note of Moroccan history after the end of the Marinide era. Indeed, here more than ever it is true to say that the present explains the past and vice versa. Many aspects of the way of life which the Marinides introduced into Morocco persist to-day, particularly in regard to the attitude of the Moslem governments towards Jews. Here, too, the Marinide period has much to offer that is interesting and instructive.

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