Every fall, the quaint seaside town of Essaouira, Morocco reclaims its lost Jewish community by staging a lively festival of Andalusian music designed to bring Jews and Muslims together for a weekend of concerts and discourse. Festival guests pack the local stadium to watch Jewish cantors and Quran reciters (known as qāri) who stand side by side. Israelis and Palestinians are also known to attend the interfaith festival.
The festival is the initiative of André Azoulay, a 76-year-old Jewish man from Essaouira and a former counselor to Morocco’s royal family. “Essaouira is what the Middle East once was and might yet be again,” says Mr Azoulay. The Economist states that “No Arab country has gone to the lengths of Morocco to revive its Jewish heritage.” To date, Morocco has restored 110 synagogues, features the only Jewish museum in the Arab world and at the end of the month, is opening a Judeo-Islamic center for interfaith study and education.