Jewish Organizations Respond to Morocco Earthquake

Following Friday’s devastating earthquake in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Jewish Federations, together with our partners, are responding. News reports indicate that approximately 3,000 people have been confirmed dead and that number continues to climb as rescue and retrieval efforts reach remote villages in the mountainous region. Thousands more were injured, many of them critically, and survivors are confronting the psychological trauma caused by the event. More than 25 aftershocks have already been reported, leading survivors to sleep on the streets and in open areas rather than return to potentially dangerous buildings. 

As always, Jewish Federations are ready to assist when disaster strikes and share these updates from our partners on the ground.

The Jewish community in Morocco has now received government permission to work with JDC and provide assistance to those affected. JDC’s immediate response will focus on three areas:

  • Distributing food, water, diapers, hygiene kits, clothes and blankets throughout the affected area.
  • Providing urgent medical equipment for damaged health facilities and clinics. This includes heart-monitors, defibrillators, syringes, oximeters, ventilators.
  • Meeting the emergency needs of members of Marrakesh's 120-strong Jewish community. JDC is working with and through the Jewish community to provide critically needed support for those impacted by the earthquake. 

For more on JDC’s ongoing activities in the country, see this update

The Jewish Agency for Israel: 
The Jewish Agency has had a continuous and discrete presence in Morocco since before the creation of the State of Israel. With the signing of the Abraham Accords and warming relations with Israel, the Agency has taken a more open and active role in the country. Jewish Agency educators in Casablanca and local staff in Marrakech run varied educational activities, enhance Jewish identity, and connect Moroccan Jewish youth to their peers in Europe. The Global Security Fund is another vehicle by which the Jewish Agency works to strengthen this community.

The Jewish Agency is coordinating activities with the head of the Jewish community and has made clear to local leaders that it remains committed to the full recovery of the community. It is currently: 

  • Assisting members of the community whose houses were damaged, including providing financial assistance and an offer to visit Israel. 
  • Providing financial support for volunteers within the community who are working in the field (removing rubble, distributing relief items, protecting sacred items). 
  • Distributing food to Muslim youth who have been evacuated to Casablanca. 
  • Monitoring and evaluating the situation at the al-Azama Synagogue in the historic Mellah neighborhood (which was damaged but not destroyed). 

Other Israeli and Jewish NGOs 
The Society for International Development-Israel (SID-Israel) and OLAM report that the following Jewish and Israeli relief organizations have also mobilized and sent teams to Morocco: IsraAID, NATAN, SmartAID, Cadena, and United Hatzalah. Additionally, Chabad, which has been active in Morocco since 1950, reports that their emissaries are assessing Jewish communal needs. 

The Impact on the Jewish Community 
Morocco was home to a large historic Jewish population of more than 250,000 prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Nearly one million Israelis are of Moroccan descent. Today, the country's Jewish population numbers between 1,500-2,000, living mostly in major cities, including approximately 120 in Marrakech. The Jerusalem Post reported that two historic synagogues in the old city of Marrakech were damaged by the quake. Haaretz reported significant damage in the historic Jewish quarter or "Mellah" in Marrakech, a major tourist attraction in the city and still home to a small number of Jewish families. 

Here are some additional updates: 

  • Morocco's King Mohammed VI declared three days' national mourning, beginning Sunday, as teams continue to search the rubble and families bury their dead. 
  • After initially deferred offers of aid from foreign governments, Morocco invited teams from the United Kingdom, Spain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates to enter the country and thanked them for their efforts. Tunisia also reported that it had dispatched a delegation of rescuers. Algeria, which has tense relations with its neighbor, opened its airspace, closed for the past two years, to allow passage of humanitarian flights to and from Morocco. A UN team in Morocco is coordinating with government authorities and providing information on aid offers from international partners. •
  • The government has so far deferred additional assistance from the United States, Israel, France, Turkey, and Taiwan. 
  • It has become clear that the recovery will be intensive and expensive. According to Hossam Elsharkawi, the Middle East and North Africa Director for The International Federation of the Red Cross, “We are looking at many months if not several years of response.” 

This is the second time this year that a major earthquake has hit this region. In February, a massive earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. Jewish Federations raised $1.3 million with more than $1 million allocated to support JDC’s relief efforts in Turkey and other funds used for humanitarian assistance in Syria. 

The tragedy in Morocco has caused many Israelis to consider earthquake preparedness at home. Every time a major earthquake hits the region, media outlets remind the public that reports, published by the State Comptroller in 2001, 2004, 2011 and 2023, and several academic studies have forecast catastrophic loss of life and property in the event of an earthquake in Israel. Despite some efforts, experts agree that Israel, which is located on a major fault line, is sorely underprepared for a similar disaster to what is taking place now in Morocco. 

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