A wedding and a religious ceremony held last month was all it took for the novel coronavirus to claim the lives of 12 people in Morocco – all of the members of Morocco's small Jewish community - accounting for 10 percent of the kingdom's total deaths due to the dreaded virus.
According to reports, the 12 members had attended a wedding in the coastal city of Adagir in early March, just days before the country had announced a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. They attended the wedding "along with guests from abroad," according to the community leader Serge Berdugo.
Tragedy strikes Morocco's Jewish community
The members then attended a religious ceremony in Casablanca a few days after the wedding. "A few days later, they met again to celebrate the festival of Purim in Casablanca, and it was a tragedy," Berdugo said. The kingdom has reported 1,888 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 126 deaths as of April 15.
Among the 12 who died were 83-year-old rabbi, and three relatives of Amir Peretz, the head of Israel's Labour Party. The Israeli politician confirmed the deaths on his Facebook account and wrote that the pandemic prevented him from visiting Morocco to attend the funerals of the members. Meanwhile, several dozen people who had been infected by COVID-19 were now "on the road to recovery," Berdugo, who heads the Council of the Jewish Community of Morocco.
The North African country of 36 million people, comprises of a small Jewish community which numbers between 2,500 to 3,000 who are extremely reassured by the attitude, competence and compassion of the Moroccan medical services. "We are very proud to be Moroccans," Berdugo added.
The Jews in Morocco, although small in number, but still make up for the biggest Jewish community in North Africa. Before the 1940's the Jewish community in Morocco was almost as big as a quarter of a million, or around one-tenth of the country's population, but after the formation of Israel in 1948 many headed there.
Israeli Jews allowed to visit Morocco
The Government of the Kingdom of Morocco has often highlighted the country's tradition of tolerance and worked to rehabilitate Jewish cemeteries and synagogues on the country. Although, Morocco does not share any official relations with Israel, like most other Arab states, the kingdom allows Israeli Jews to visit the land of their ancestors or mark religious festivals.
Coronavirus among the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel
Meanwhile, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community or the Haredi Jews in Israel have been among the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic due to their non-compliance with the state's shelter-at-home and social distancing orders. Despite accounting to just 10 percent of Israel's population, the ultra-Orthodox Jews reportedly male up around half of the country's coronavirus cases, largely due to their defying of lockdowns.
The community tends to be suspicious of the Israeli governments rules and believes in community living and group prayers and gatherings, cultural aspects which have helped coronavirus spread like wildfire through the community.
"They live in sets of large families and are very close-knit communities and this kind of communal lifestyle where families get together frequently lead to a lot of human interaction that can lead to a lot of infection," Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said in an interview with the Telegraph.
Israel has reported more than 12,000 cases of coronavirus infection and 123 deaths and has reportedly deployed the army to enforce rules on social-distancing and sealed down several Haredi neighborhoods including Bnei Brak near capital Tel Aviv which reported the over 36 percent of the total coronavirus case in Israel.