The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1
In Search of Jewish Farmers: Jews, Agriculture, and the Land in Rural Morocco · 147

the community of Oulad Mansour on the northern flanks of the central
High Atlas Mountains, one of the few places in Morocco where most of
the Jewish community cultivated the soil.^12 Nahum Slouschz, the first
scholar to write extensively about the history of North African Jews, ob-
served Oulad Mansour in 1913:

The most striking feature about this picturesque village is the fact
that the majority of its Jewish population follow agricultural pur-
suits. Of its twenty-five families, fifteen or sixteen live by cultivat-
ing the soil. The strip of land that they cultivate and which extends
about a hundred and fifty hectares along the river bank, belongs to
Arab proprietors of Zemran, to whom the Jews are forced to pay
an annual tribute. They raise wheat, barley, and fruit, above all figs
and dates.”^13

Jews were engaged in agriculture in some of the other villages of the gen-
eral area of the western High Atlas, such as Ait Rehalt (fifteen kilometers
to the southeast of Oulad Mansour), Ait Saadelli, and Ait Hakim in the
Ghoujama, and several villages in Ait Bou Oulli.^14 Slouschz found that in
the two mellahs of Tougana, several families cultivated the soil.^15
In most cases, however, Jews were not farmers, and with much greater
frequency, when acquiring land, cattle, or flocks, they employed Mus-
lim sharecroppers (khammas or “fifth(s),” meaning they received a fifth
of the production) or entered into partnership with Muslims in which
the Jew owned the livestock and the Muslim looked after the animals,
not unlike the Jews of the Muslim Mediterranean world in the Middle
Ages.^16 Thus Jewish landowners were higher in the social hierarchy than
the mainly black khammas.^17 Often Jews owned small plots of land where
the women cultivated some vegetables and where fruit grew, such as
figs, apples, pomegranates, and grapes. In the communities of K’tawa
and M’hamid in the southern Draa valley, Jews owned land and palm
trees before the arrival of the French, usually in association with the
Berbers.^18 In the High Atlas region of Sidi Rahal, Jews owned consider-
able land before the Protectorate, although Muslims worked the land.^19
In other locations, such as in the Ghoujama of the High Atlas, Jews did
not own land or raise animals; instead, they entered into associations
with Muslims. Thus a form of interdependency developed: Jews who
were dependent on the Muslims for agricultural and livestock products
financed the Muslims’ needs.^20 Evidence from Ifrane (sometime written

Free download pdf