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Hearing the cantor sing the prayer for IDF soldiers… in Morocco

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RABAT, Morocco — It is not every day that you hear the prayer for the well-being of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in an Arab country, especially not when there are IDF soldiers in uniform standing alongside you.

But so it was on Thursday when Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Talmud Torah synagogue in Rabat, a once larger community that is now down to double-digits, unable to regularly put together the 10-man quorum needed to hold Orthodox prayers.

As it happens, two of the three IDF soldiers in uniform had Moroccan roots, as did a Knesset member who was part of the delegation, Shas’s Ya’akov Margi, who was born in Rabat, and so were a number of other people on the trip, including some journalists.

“When I heard him singing the psalm, it was the same tune as the piyutim from my grandfather’s synagogue in Beersheba,” the Walla news outlet’s Amir Bohbot said during the flight back to Israel, referring to a traditional form of liturgical poetry that is popular among Mizrahi Jews. “That got to me, but it was when he sang the prayer for the well-being of IDF soldiers, that’s when I broke and started tearing up,” he said, recalling his Moroccan grandfather saying the prayer in Israel in the 1980s.

Unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the other two countries that Israel normalized ties with last years as part of the so-called Abraham Accords, many Israelis are from Morocco, with anywhere between 250,000 to nearly a million having roots there, depending on how you count. And that’s not trivial.

Even before normalization, there was a bustling industry of “roots tours” of Morocco by Moroccan Israelis, going to visit their families’ hometowns and communities. This is expected to increase now, with a direct flight between the two countries and a clear edict from King Mohammed VI to Moroccans to accept Israel and Israelis.

That warm embrace was on full display during Gantz’s visit, with all his meetings — save for the........

© The Times of Israel

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