No Danger to the Jewish Cemeteries in Tangiers

Published: June 5th 2010
in News » World

Hospital Benchimol, Tangiers

The demolition of a Jewish hospital in Tangiers, Morocco, in early April has caused a stir among members of Moroccan Jewish communities around the world.


As reported on Shalom Life on April 20, the Toronto Moroccan Jewish community was concerned that following the destruction of the Benchimol Hospital in Tangiers, further action might be taken by the Moroccan authorities against other Jewish institutions, such as the Jewish cemeteries.


In a letter to Shalom Life Abraham Azancot, President of the Tangiers Jewish community, explained the situation in Morocco. He clarified that there are two cemeteries in the region, one on Route de Rabat and one on Rue Portugal. The Route de Rabat cemetery, said Azancot, “was never abandoned, was never polluted by snakes and was never invaded by shrubs.  It has consistently been on the communal agenda and was the subject of significant renovations between 2007 and 2009.” He added that the renovations were initiated in 2007 by the local community.


In regards to the older cemetery on Rue Portugal, Azancot assured that its sanctity was not under threat at any time and that “its sanctity has consistently been respected by the local government that is actually providing the community with resources to assist in its current grooming.”


Azancot also addressed the claims made by members of the Toronto community that as president of the Tangiers community he is hardly ever in Tangiers, and explained that he has voluntarily held the position of president for over 40 years, adding that he leaves the country for two months a year to visit his relatives and that during this time period, either the vice president or secretary general assumes the presidency.


In regards to the demolition of the Benchimol Hospital, two formal communications, one dated April 22 and the other April 26, were issued by the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco. The April 22 letter explains that the hospital had ceased its activities in the early 1970s and had since become a home for the needy and the elderly. Since a home for the elderly (known as the “Asilo”) already exists nearby, the expenses due to maintenance and assistance to the residents became unbearable.


The letter continues to explain that the committee was faced with the choice of which of the institutions should be retained. The “Asilo” was chosen simply because it was newer, renovated, and furnished with the most modern equipment, while the older hospital building would have required extensive repair work. The “Asilo” was subsequently renamed to include the Benchimol name in order to perpetuate the name of the founder of the hospital.


As for the hospital, the letter explains that after several studies and inquiries between 2004 and 2006, the committee decided to request a permit to build a small office building on the site, a permit which was constantly delayed until the committee decided to explore other avenues. Finally it was decided to request authorization from the Interior Ministry to sell the property and use the money to acquire a similar building. This request was denied by the ministry and the committee was offered the opportunity to rent the property to City Hall who would then transform the property into a garden; however this proposal was rejected by the committee.


Related articles: (moroccan jews, tangiers, benchimol hospital, cemetery)

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