In the early 20th century, nearly a quarter of a million Jews lived among Muslims in Morocco’s towns and villages, making common cause in commerce and culture. Over the course of the past century, nearly all of them have left. Now there are an estimated 4,000 Jews in Morocco. So few that most younger Moroccans have never met one.
Aomar Boum, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, did meet Jews growing up in Morocco—that is, once he moved from his small village in the Anti-Atlas mountains to the city of Marrakesh for school. He went back to his birth country to find out what Moroccans—four generations of them—think of their former neighbors and acquaintances, particularly in light of current tensions between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. The result of his investigation is Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco.
Boum joins Vox Tablet’s Sara Ivry to discuss how he became interested in Moroccan perceptions of Jews, how myths about blood libel and world domination distort the thinking of the country’s youth, and what can be gained by trying to understand the truth.