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Safi, narration of a Jewish memory

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In fact, there is little written about the birth of Safi because we know little about its origins Comptoir Phénicien – If we must believe the geographer Ptolémée – probably attended later by the Romans, it appears in Arabic texts under the name of Asfi, from the 11th century, it is then a small harbor of local interest.

Safi Hadirat al Mouhit or City of the surrounding sea, according to the expression of Ibn Khaldoun, Safi assured, as port of the capital Marrakech of the Almohad empire in the XII century, direct relations with Andalusia and presented itself in the form of a highly urbanized space, including important fortifications and a large central mosque, which were attached many institutions.

Made up of two urban entities, the city is enriched, in the fourteenth century, by a madrassah, built by Aboul Hassan Al Marini, a hospital and many other institutions, a qaysaria, a mohtasseb, as and when Safi stands out as a major trading place that trades with Genoa, Seville, Marseille, etc. At the end of the XV century, Portuguese pressure intensified, and resulted in the occupation of the city that will last 32 years from 1509 until its resumption by the Saadians, in 1541. Safi was then the main fortified Portuguese place for control of the maritime region, extending to Marrakech.

At the economic level, Safi is characterized by the presence of OCP, the world leader in phosphate processing, which has implanted on approximately 1500 hectares, several industrial units specialized in the production of acids, fertilizers and animal feeds. Poultry. Other industries have settled: the processing of fertilizers, the production of cement, the valorization of gypsum and barite, in addition to the dozens of SMEs and SMIs which revolve around the industrial givers installed on the territory, c is a new industrial city that is emerging and which will include an international phosphate hub, with a minimum investment of 30 billion DH, the thermal power plant, the new port, a logistics zone and an industrial zone. In addition to fishing and pottery characterizes Safi see his ceramic museum that keeps the most beautiful history of Safi, the most beautiful beaches of the Atlantic that can practice on their beautiful waves all kinds of water sports such as surfing.
The Hebrew origin of the name of the city.

 

Historians have always recognized the antiquity of the origin of Safi and the mysteries surrounding it, however, we are faced with a curious historical fact is the derivation of his name from a Hebrew word (Armand Antona and Ahmed Bouchaib l in their studies on the Abbda region in parallel, we also recognize the presence of another interpretation that comes from Amazigh origin but this is not our center of study in this article
The Hebrew version states that safi is derived from the word assif which can be detailed as follows:
ASSAFA means: gather
The name ASSAFI means: assembly, council ….
Simon Levy reported in his book “Safi-History Jewish Community of Safi Province” that this designation refers to the assembly of the Jewish community in Safi, Timoule abdelkader goes far saying that the city has long been “a city and Islamization took a long time to come into existence, this brings us to a glimpse of the history of the Jews in Safi


Before shedding light on this story it is essential to emphasize in bold that the Jews of safi lived without being refugees in a district of mellah compared to other Moroccan cities like Marrakech and Essaouira it began in December 1496, when King Manuel I (1495-1521) ordered the expulsion of all the Jews who lived in Portugal, The real cause of this fact would have been a Spanish requirement when the Portuguese king claimed to marry Princess Isabel, and thus be able to access to the Spanish Crown. It fits into a broader context of tracking
Towards political unity, with the end of the process of Christian “reconquest” in the Iberian Peninsula, and the consolidation of two modern states: Spain and Portugal. It also meant religious unity at the time.

The same king who expelled them from the metropolis, grants them letters recognizing the legal existence of their social and religious status, thus allowing the existence of judiarias (Jewish neighborhoods), while these had “disappeared” in Portugal (Safi, 1512, Azemmour, 1514)
The Safiots Jews were of pure Amazigh stock because of their Amazigh names such as: Amzallag, Melloul, Wizman, … a further part of the Safi Jews indicate that they had come from distant regions as tafilalet’s aflou, the third part bore Iberian names. of Spanish or Portuguese origin as families: Cabeza, Cadida, ….
Among these families, he family BEN Zmirou who left the mellah of Fez because of certain circumstances like his overpopulation and his suffocation towards Safi knowing that Safi at this time was one of the most flourishing attic of the region with an active and open port international transactions ben zmirou probably originated in a dynasty of physicians and tax farmers who had lived in Seville between the thirteenth and fifteenth century.

Abraham the head of the family philosopher doctor having great knowledge in Judaism and Islamic law as well as his good command of the Portuguese and Arabic Spanish language he was very respected by the Safiote population with his family he rendered a great service to the Portuguese colonization By playing mediators and negotiators of excellence what leads the Portuguese king e gives them good benefits like:
1. The exclusivity of producing and selling large quantities of woolen fabrics
2. The tax and customs harvest in Safi
3. A considerable religious place of the Jewish rabbi in Safi
An intelligence and a wealth of heart with considerable skills can only lead to power and peace between Jews and Portuguese Saadians inside Safi at that time but above all a high place in holiness with the construction of a shrine recognized as a place of pilgrimage and blessing for all religions in Safi shrine ben zmirou that continue to gather thousands of Jews of the world to revive their memory.
The Jewish population of Safi is the largest between 1942 and 1953, with 5,000 people. Strongly organized around institutions like the DEJJ, the Nautical Club, the Israelite Scouts and the Zionist youth movements.

More than a resurrected Phoenix, the presence of the Jews at Safi, took shape in the memory and history of the city, became an avatar corresponding to times and places of remarkable difference.

* PhD-researcher
LIMPACT Research Laboratory: Languages, Identities, Media, Heritage, Culture and Tourism
Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences Marrakech

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