'There are no words:' Israelis in Morocco share their stories

Some Israelis in the disaster area spoke with the Jerusalem Post's sister paper, Maariv, and described the disaster and the efforts by local authorities to deal with it.  

 A general view of damage in the historic city of Marrakech, following a powerful earthquake in Morocco, September 9, 2023. (photo credit: REUTERS/Abdelhak Balhaki)
A general view of damage in the historic city of Marrakech, following a powerful earthquake in Morocco, September 9, 2023.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abdelhak Balhaki)

“The entire hotel shook, the floor moved, the walls cracked, and the doors of the closets in the rooms opened and slammed shut forcefully,” recalled Ofra from Dimona, one of several Israelis who are currently in Morocco and commented on the deadly earthquake that struck Friday night.

As the earthquake struck, Ofra was having Shabbat dinner with kosher food and songs.

“I believe we had divine protection,” said Ofra, whose testimony was shared with The Jerusalem Post’s sister paper, Maariv. “Ambulances are bringing in injured people in large numbers. Just 600 meters from our hotel, buildings collapsed, including a mosque.

“After such a disaster, it’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring. We need to appreciate every moment in life. The phones haven’t stopped ringing; everyone in Israel, including family, friends, and colleagues, is expressing their concern and support. There are no words for the overwhelming solidarity we are receiving from our homeland.”

Yosef, an Israeli living in the country, recounted “we didn’t sleep last night; there was an earthquake. At first, we didn’t understand what was happening. Then suddenly, we heard sounds of running and crying, and we realized that people were fleeing. That’s when we understood that it was getting worse.”

“The houses shook, and there was a sensation of instability, like a drunken person swaying. The lights went out, buildings collapsed, and people died. It’s a major disaster. The shock is great; my children are scared, especially my youngest daughter in kindergarten.”

He elaborated on the harrowing experience: “Many people are afraid, and there is a sense of uncertainty. This is truly a sign from heaven for us. It’s frightening; people are connecting it to tradition and culture.”

Assistance for earthquake victims

Nechama Guinness, the CEO of the Eilim student organization, described the dramatic moments: “Towards the end of the Friday night meal, like everyone else, we experienced the earthquake that hit with its full force. We were located inside the synagogue in the old part of the city, in an inner courtyard, so we had no physical injuries. However, there was a powerful sense of panic, especially among the neighbors around here, a very strong feeling of alarm.”

She also spoke about their on-site assistance: “We worked to help infants, children, and mothers; everyone moved to the open area in the city center. We were there for several good hours, and by the morning, we arrived at a hotel that opened its doors, allowing dozens of tourists to rest with mattresses and blankets and have breakfast.”

“If there’s something truly moving and exceptional, it’s the warm reception of the Moroccan people here. We are in contact with the Foreign Ministry, and of course, we will be happy to assist in any way with reconstruction and rehabilitation. We are accustomed to being on the front lines,” she added.