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

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In Search of Jewish Farmers: Jews, Agriculture, and the Land in Rural Morocco · 153

European farms. After World War II, a second agricultural school was
opened in Meknes.^38
Elias Harrus, the director of the École Professionnelle Agricole in Mar-
rakesh after World War II, was particularly fascinated by the exceptional
case of Oulad Mansour and visited the community frequently, periodi-
cally bringing his students from Marrakesh to the “Jewish agricultural
village.”^39 He observed that its inhabitants took pride in the distinctive
agricultural nature of their community, a continued source of their iden-
tity decades later after they were settled in various parts of Israel. Har-
rus observed the heartiness and pride of both the men and women (a
perception, it should be noted, that they maintained about themselves
once in Israel). He reported how one woman “didn’t hesitate to argue

... in the middle of the field, with Arabs who were not respecting her
cattle. This is a far cry from the self-effacing and fearful silhouette of the
Jewish woman of Demnat, who is happy when she isn’t the recipient of
insults or stones.”^40 While still in Morocco, the Jews of Oulad Mansur re-
counted their speed as workers during the harvest, even their daring and
strength, and while exhibiting very close ties and good relations with the
Muslim population, they also recounted stories that showed that they did
not fear the “Arabs.” This identity of a daring community was perhaps
even amplified after settling in Israel—the ability of this strong commu-
nity to defend itself—yet at the same time, the good ties with Muslims in
Morocco are remembered in contrast to the current conflict with Arabs.^41
Harrus saw the special case of Oulad Mansour as a symbol for the
future. Recognizing that Morocco was an agricultural country, he saw in
Jewish farmers the prospect for the “future of our children.” Unsurpris-
ingly, this modernist agricultural venture did not lead to a major “return
to the land” by Morocco’s Jewish youth, nor to a transformation of the
livelihoods of the Jewish rural sector in modern Morocco. This last Jew-
ish initiative to find and create Jewish farmers came with the major push
toward emigration to Israel on the eve of Moroccan independence. Prior
to the 1950s, a relatively small number of Zionist emissaries were sent
to Morocco.^42 But beginning in 1950, Israeli emissaries from the Jewish
Agency began to actively seek recruits among Moroccan Jews. As the
struggle for Moroccan independence unfolded in the 1950s, anxiety about
the Jewish future in Morocco mounted. In 1955, a year before Moroccan
(and Tunisian) independence, North African Jews represented 87 percent
of the new immigrants to Israel. This mass emigration of Moroccan Jews

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