'Families are worried': Israelis leave Morocco after devastating earthquake

Independent Israeli rescue missions deploy to aid Morocco as victims await official assistance.

  The United Hatzalah team in operation in Morocco, September 2023 (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
The United Hatzalah team in operation in Morocco, September 2023
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)

More than two days have passed since the powerful earthquake struck the region around the city of Marrakech in Morocco. Even now, rescue efforts by the Israelis who were in the area during the quake continue as victims are moved to safety.

"The truth is, there was great fear," said Aluma from Even Yehuda, one of the leaders of the "Eyalim" association, which was dispatched from Marrakech with logistical assistance from the insurance company "Passportcard" and firm "Magnus International Research" to the safer city of Rabat. "The family back in Israel is under a lot of pressure, and thus I will return to Israel," she added.

This earthquake caught 40 members of this delegation as they were having a Sabbath dinner in the courtyard of the synagogue in the old quarter of Marrakech. Last Sunday night, Hilik Magnus and his team arrived in the safe city of Rabat to ensure that all Israelis who had come to it were in good condition. Afterward, Magnus and his team went back to Marrakech, where they managed rescue operations for "Passportcard" and foreign embassies.

"We finished the Sabbath dinner at the synagogue in the old city of Marrakech," said Eli Habbib, head of the youth and young adults department at the municipality of Acre, who was part of a joint delegation with the "Eyalim" association.

 People deliver aid, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Moulay Brahim, Morocco, September 10, 2023. (credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
People deliver aid, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Moulay Brahim, Morocco, September 10, 2023. (credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

"It's something that shakes you"

"Those who observe the Sabbath wanted to walk, and about six of us wanted to take taxis. We started to drive, and after 20-30 meters, I saw something impossible to describe. Everything suddenly collapsed. At first, it looked like a balcony collapsing, but it didn't stop. It's something that shakes you. In the end, we spent the night on the grass in front of a mosque. I was supposed to return on Thursday, but the mood is close to zero. After something like that, it's clear you want to go back to your safe place."

"I'm returning because the family in Israel is very worried, and the fun is over," said Vered, a Passportcard customer from Tel Aviv who imports products from Morocco and was in Marrakech for business and pleasure last Friday. She returned last night on a flight after advancing her return by about a week.

"I left after the Sabbath dinner at the Jewish family's house in the old quarter, I walked in the streets to catch a taxi, and then a little after 11, it happened," she said. "People were in hysteria, there were screams, and everyone went to the main road to get away from the buildings. Near me, nothing happened to anyone, but I saw an American Jewish couple who arrived from the main square, and in the panic that was created, the woman fell, and the men ran over her. She had torn clothes and was in a condition for evacuation to the hospital. I don't know what happened to them in the end, but it wasn't pleasant."

At this time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has identified all 479 Israeli citizens in Morocco. After organized efforts by the Situation Room staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy's team in Morocco, they have all been located.

Even now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to keep an eye on each of the Israeli citizens in Morocco.\

This is a significant disaster, even for Morocco, a country accustomed to powerful earthquakes. More than two thousand people lost their lives in the disaster, in addition to thousands of injured, with half of them classified as severe. Flags across the country were lowered to half-mast for three days. However, in central cities such as Casablanca and Rabat, many businesses were open even yesterday.

Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca operated as usual without delays or cancellations, and those who wished to leave the country were directed there.

Official Israeli rescue and relief missions were not activated, and the Moroccan authorities are currently dealing with the disaster on their own. Spain, Britain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have announced that they will send aid missions at Morocco's request.

In Israel, independent rescue teams from the Home Front Command, the Ministry of Health, and Magen David Adom, who expressed their willingness to help as needed, did not receive the required official invitation and remained in Israel. Small independent missions such as "Passportcard," "Magnus," and "Rescue Without Borders" arrived in Morocco and are providing assistance in Marrakech, in the mountains, and in remote villages, where, as of yesterday afternoon, no one had yet arrived.