Left behind: talit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (prayer ornaments), Errachidia Synagogue
- Ifrane d’Anti-Atlas
According to legend, a band of Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem headed west, eventually arriving at this oasis at the foot of a sloping mountain along the edge of the Sahara desert. Having experienced the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, they are said to have created an independent Jewish realm and built a mini-temple of their own. That legendary building still stands, a testament to the 2,000 year-old Amazigh (Berber) Jewish culture that somehow flourished amidst the raw power of the desert. After the Jewish community left en masse in the 1950s, the synagogue was locked and began to decay — only to be restored in 1999.
In Amzrou, a Saharan town near Algeria where dinosaurs once roamed, even the Hebrew sign marking this synagogue has been lost.
Arazan, a town outside Taroudant, was first rediscovered in the late 1980s. At that time, it was still be looked after by Harim, a local Amazigh (Berber) who kept the building’s key safe for decades. Inside the synagogue was a pile of hay, as well as Hebrew writing and an old ark for holding Torah scrolls.
- Er Rachidia
Originally conceived as a French military post, Er Rachidia grew into a prosperous trading community, which included a number of Jews. Three synagogues served the community’s Jews until the last family left in 2003, after which the last standing synagogue fell into disrepair.
- Ouirlane (Old Synagogue)
The unforgiving desert heat compelled the builders of this old synagogue in the K’sar (fortress) of Gulaine (Ouirlane) to allow precious few openings to the outside world. Worshipers were thus shielded from the elements, particularly the sun, while drawing reading light from two skylights, one above the entrance and the other above the Torah cabinet, which was built into a side wall. The synagogue is now used to store hay. Its nondescript entrance is concealed by the covered, maze-like streets of the mellah (Jewish quarter).