Following the devastating earthquake that slammed Morocco late Friday, killing at least 2,100 people and leaving some of the country’s poorest regions in ruins, Jews and Jewish landmarks appear to have been mostly spared.
Also appearing to continue mostly unabated is the export of etrogs, a local citrus fruit utilized ceremonially in the forthcoming festival of Sukkot.
As a vast humanitarian effort takes shape in the hours following the earthquake, the largest in the region in more than a century, Israeli rescue teams are on the scene, and the government has pledged more aid to Morocco.
Staff has been sent to start an aid effort by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which has been active in Morocco since 1947.
A preliminary team of four people with crisis management experience left early on Sunday, according to Dov Maisel, vice president of operations at the emergency help group Israel Hatzalah.
He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “They are describing terrible sites of destruction,” and that his group would base its final mission’s size and breadth on what the team sees. Is it going to be more medical? rescue and search? Psycho-trauma?
This is the assessment that they are now conducting.
Following the normalization of Israel’s relations with Morocco in 2020, a period of increased Jewish travel coincided with the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that was located in the Atlas Mountains close to Marrakesh. Israel claimed to have confirmed the safety of all 479 Israelis who were in the nation at the time of the earthquake.
The earthquake occurred on the night of a significant pilgrimage set to coincide with the anniversary of the passing of a Moroccan rabbi and as the nation’s etrog farms were finishing up their harvests of etrogs leading up to the fall harvest festival of Sukkot, which this year begins on September 29.
In preparation for the festival, Morocco annually grows etrogs in the hundreds of thousands.