A view of downtown Casablanca..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
NEW YORK - A member of Morocco's Royal family marked the passing of one the country's great torah sages on Thursday in a letter addressed to the Moroccan Jewish community in New York City.
Written on letterhead from the Moroccan embassy in Washington DC, Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui stated in the letter that she wished “to convey my warmest regards, from my family and the people of Morocco on the occasion of the Hillula of Rabbi Masoud [Abuhatzeira]. The Kingdom remembers the greatness of the Abuhatzeira family and the blessing they brought and continue to bring to country.
“Morocco’s Jewish heritage continues to be part and parcel of our lives and who we are. His Majesty King Mohammed VI,” she continued, “is committed to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers and spares no effort in the preservation of this shared heritage. It is thus a great source of great pride and joy to witness the upholding of Moroccan Jewish traditions beyond our borders.”
“I wish the community continued success and good health and hope to greet you soon in Morocco,” the princess concluded.
A Hillula is an annual ceremony that celebrates the death of a righteous person.
The letter was delivered by Mohamed Benabdeljalil, Consul-General of the Kingdom of Morocco in New York, who attended the festive memorial service in honor of Rabbi Masoud at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Midtown Manhattan.
Princess Lalla, a senior diplomat and former Ambassador to the UK, is the maternal first cousin and the paternal second cousin of King Mohammed VI.
Jeremy Sebbagh, one of the organizers of Thursday’s event, told The Jerusalem Post
that Rabbi Masoud Abuhatzeira was the grandfather of Morocco’s former leading Sephardic rabbi, Israel Abuhatzeira (1889-1984), also known as the Baba Sali, and the great-grandfather of Baruch Abuhatzeira, a Kabbalist rabbi and spiritual adviser who currently resides in Israel.
Both the Baba Sali and Baruch Abuhatzeira were born in the city of Rissani, in the desert region of the Tafilalet in Morocco.
The letter is a significant overture that some see as part of a continued shifting dynamic in attitudes towards the region’s Jewish community that may extend towards warming relations with Israel.
Israel is not officially recognized by Rabat, in line with a wider Arab-League boycott of the country. But, reports of clandestine relations between the two countries have swirled for years, especially among its security services.
Unlike most Arab countries in the region, Israelis can visit Morocco during certain times of the year if they obtain a travel visa.
Rabbi Shimron Bar Yohai will have a Hillula thrown in his honor next week during the celebration of Lag Ba'omer.