New York – The vast majority of people in the Christian and Muslim world know little, or nothing at all, about the history of the Jewish communities in the Muslim world. The only thing most Jews know about this fourteen-hundred-year history, is that Jews in North Africa and the Middle East were not persecuted as much in Muslim countries as they were in European Christian countries.
It would be a major mistake to judge from the Palestinian-Israeli political conflict in the 20th century that Jewish-Muslim relations have usually been poor. The opposite is true. Prior to the rise of secular political nationalism in the last half of the 19th century, and the rise of politicized religion within Judaism and Islam in the last half century; Jewish-Muslim relations were usually characterized by neighborliness and amity. Yes amity; as witnessed by the North African Jewish celebration of Mimouna (pronounced Meemouna) shows.
The North African Jewish festival of Mimouna, a 24-hour food centered celebration, begins right after the week of Passover ends. For many centuries Moroccan Jewish homes were emptied of leavened bread and flour during the week of Passover. At the end of the week of Passover, Jews could eat leavened bread and pastry again, but they had no ordinary flour at all in their homes to bake with.
Ashdod resident Shaul Ben-Simhon, who immigrated to Israel in 1948 at age 18, said that in Morocco the holiday brought Jews and Muslims together each year. “Our home was open to everyone, including Arabs,” he said. Ben-Simhon recalled the tradition of Arab neighbors bringing flour to his home, so his mother and grandmother could make baked goods.