Israeli, Moroccan researchers excavate synagogue in Atlas Mountains

i24NEWS

2 min read
The sun sets behind Askaoun, a small village near the town of Taliouine in Morocco's Middle Atlas Mountains, November 4, 2019.
AP Photo/Mosa'ab ElshamyThe sun sets behind Askaoun, a small village near the town of Taliouine in Morocco's Middle Atlas Mountains, November 4, 2019.

'We found more than one thousand pages of religious texts'

A team of Israeli, Moroccan, and French researchers recently excavated a ruined synagogue in the Atlas Mountains to rescue ancient artifacts that highlight the daily lives of Saharan Jews.

David Goeury, a geographer at Sorbonne University in Paris and a member of the research team, portrayed to i24NEWS what they found and why such artifacts are so important in understanding Jewish history. 

“We found more than one thousand pages of religious texts,” Goeury said.

“You have a lot of historic Saharan Jewish communities in Morocco. They were settled since more than 2,000 years ago in this area. [The findings] will give us more information on the daily life of the Jewish community."

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Goeury noted that looters ravaged the synagogue, destroying parts of it and stealing religious books, prompting Israeli and Moroccan universities to quickly collaborate and rescue the remaining artifacts. 

He added that it was the first time a collaborative excavation was done by Israeli and Moroccan establishments. 

“What we want to study is the daily life of the Jewish communities among Muslim communities, and how they were able to organize very important trade routes and networks from West Africa to North Africa, even to Asia,” Goeury explained. 

In order to document all the connections between the Saharan area and African ports, the researcher said that the team must now translate the synagogue’s ancient archives so as to “understand deeper what was going on in Agar and in other synagogues in the area.”