Credit: 

David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Backgrounder

The Destruction of Jerusalem’s Moroccan Quarter: From Centuries-Old Maghrebi Community to Western Wall Prayer Plaza

Snapshot

While the Western (al-Buraq) Wall has been a place of Jewish worship for centuries, the large plaza across from the wall was installed in 1967 on the ruins of the centuries-old Haret al-Maghariba, or the Moroccan Quarter in English. This is the story of the quarter, its history, and its destruction in the early hours of Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem.

The Maghreb (meaning “the place where the sun sets” in Arabic) is a region of northwest Africa that lies along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has existed in different forms since the eighth century. Today it comprises five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and sometimes Mauritania. In Arabic, the name for Morocco is also Maghreb.1

Pilgrims from this region first arrived in Jerusalem in the late 10th century.2

In 1187, the Kurdish warrior Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi conquered Jerusalem and ousted the Crusaders. To reward the many Maghrebi and southern Spanish soldiers who fought in his army, Salah al-Din offered them parcels of land around the Western Wall.3

Several years later, in 1193, his son Afdal, who was governor of Damascus (which included Jerusalem at the time), endowed the quarter as a waqf to the Maghrebi community. The designated purpose of this waqf was to provide accommodation for arriving Maghrebis “without distinction of origin,” including pilgrims and those fleeing oppression at home.4 The generous endowment read, “For the benefit of the community of Mughrabi of all description and different occupations, male and female, old and young, the low and the high, to settle in its residences and to benefit from its uses according to their different needs.”5 Documentation from the time establishes that “Maghrebi” was defined as immigrants from western Tunisia, Algiers, and Morocco.6 In practice, this meant that any Maghrebi person who wished to reside in the quarter would be welcomed.7

View of the Moroccan Quarter (center) and the Hayya al-Sharif, today known as the Jewish Quarter, (bottom)

View of the Moroccan Quarter (center) and the Hayya al-Sharif, today known as the Jewish Quarter, (bottom). The Western (al-Buraq) Wall is seen in the center right, underneath the line of pine trees, 1937.

Source: 

Wikimedia

A man stands on a rooftop overlooking the Moroccan Quarter, with the Western (al-Buraq) Wall visible, 1917

A man stands on a rooftop overlooking the Moroccan Quarter, with the Western (al-Buraq) Wall visible (center right), 1917.

Source: 

Wikimedia

By 1300, the Moroccan Quarter was home to a thriving population of multiconfessional Maghrebis, both Jewish and Muslim. And over the course of the next three centuries, several more awqaf (plural of waqf) were established in the quarter by Muslim leaders under the Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties. These endowments included a madrasa specialized in Islamic law, a mosque, and a zawiya, or waqf charitable foundation or retreat or hostel.8 In fact, “a significant part of the awqaf in Jerusalem was dedicated to the Maghrebi community” and helped fund their existence in the city.9

The quarter had become a flourishing intellectual hub and drew scholars and jurists in addition to pilgrims, merchants, and others. It experienced significant growth in the 16th century.10 Awqaf documents shed light on the Maghrebi families who lived in the quarter, including, among others, al-Jaza’iri, al-Telemsani, al-Zawawi, al-Marrakechi, al-Ribati, al-Maknesi, al-Sousi, al-Tunisi, al-Shawi, al-Bakri, al-Dawadi, al-Jilani, al-Okbi, al-Adhari, al-Obeidi, al-Haifawi. This vibrant and diverse community played an integral role in the city’s history and economic, social, spiritual, and cultural life for centuries.11 For example, 20 different judges were Maghrebis.12

This vibrant and diverse community played an integral role in the city’s history and economic, social, spiritual, and cultural life for centuries.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I (also referred to as Suleiman the Magnificent) opened a narrow space between the quarter’s perimeter and the Western Wall in order for Jews to be able to pray there.13 This space, a narrow corridor about 120 square meters in size,14 accommodated roughly 12,000 worshippers per day during the British Mandate period.15

 

A group of Jews stand on a balcony overlooking the Moroccan Quarter and Western (al-Buraq) Wall, Jerusalem, 1920

A group of Jews stand on a balcony overlooking the Moroccan Quarter and Western (al-Buraq) Wall, Jerusalem, ca. 1920.

Credit: 

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [matpc 15160]

View of the Moroccan Quarter and the Western (al-Buraq) Wall, with a passageway cleared by the Ottoman Empire

View of the edge of the Moroccan Quarter (bottom left) and the Western (al-Buraq) Wall (right), including the narrow passageway cleared by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century to create space for Jewish worshippers, 1950

Source: 

Wikimedia

Jewish worshippers in the narrow space between the Moroccan Quarter and the Western (al-Buraq) Wall, 1900

Jewish worshippers in the narrow space between the Moroccan Quarter and the Western (al-Buraq) Wall, ca. 1900

Credit: 

Wikimedia

Jewish worshippers crowded in the narrow space between the Western (al-Buraq) Wall and the edge of the Moroccan Quarter, 1920

Jewish worshippers crowded in the narrow space between the Western (al-Buraq) Wall and the edge of the Moroccan Quarter, 1920, three years after the arrival of British forces in Palestine.

Credit: 

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [matpc 00235]

The Past as Prologue

Due to its proximity to the Western (Wailing) Wall, which was holy to Jews, the fate of the Moroccan Quarter became inextricably tied up with the fate of the wall, specifically the struggle for control over the right to pray there. Since 1852, all aspects of the ownership, administration, and maintenance of the holy places in Jerusalem, as well as the rights and rituals for religious observations therein, had been governed by a set of arrangements called the Status Quo which was decreed by Sultan Abdulmejid I at the time, and subsequently upheld by the Treaty of Paris, signed by the great powers in 1855. The Status Quo thus represented “legal obligations that guaranteed all faiths access to their holy sites and the right to consent to any change, either in procedure or substance.”16 These arrangements derived from centuries of nuanced experience and power struggles over the holy places, largely between different Christian denominations, but were officially expanded to include the Western Wall and Rachel’s Tomb under the mandate.17 A full account of the Status Quo as it was written up in 1929 can be viewed here.

In the first decades of the 20th century, as the Zionist movement took root, tensions began rising over the rights of Jews and Muslims to the wall and the narrow corridor in front of it. Even before that, as early as 1887, Baron de Rothchild proposed to buy the entire quarter and demolish it to replace it with a plaza.18 In May 1918, just months after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, Chaim Weizmann wrote to Balfour describing the quarter as “miserable cottages and derelict buildings” and proposed “the handing over of the Wailing Wall” for which Jews would generously pay.19 In 1919, the Zionists offered 80,000 pounds for the wall, to no avail.20 Subsequent offers followed, but all were rebuffed by the mufti at that time, Kamal al-Husseini.

As early as 1887, Baron de Rothchild proposed to buy the entire quarter and demolish it to replace it with a plaza.

Throughout the 1920s, as the Zionist movement grew, emboldened by the establishment of new bodies locally and abroad, the splitting off and mobilization of the Revisionists led by Jabotinsky in 1922, and the establishment of a “dirty tricks fund” to sow discord among Muslims and Christians and to develop the Haganah, confrontations over the wall erupted routinely over all manner of details whose apparent banality belied their deeper significance.21 One American author and journalist, Vincent Sheean, who was in Jerusalem on assignment at that time, captured the larger significance of these struggles thus:

There were “incidents” from the time I arrived in Palestine until I left, and the whole of the Palestine question (the national home for the Jews, the rights of the Arabs, the position of the British) came to be involved in them, so that the Zionist struggle was concentrated upon the Wailing Wall and the Arab resistance aligned before it. The question was no longer religious: it had become political and national as well.

It would be tedious indeed to recite these Wailing Wall incidents. But when the incidents were compared their tendency was apparent. The struggle, fundamentally, was conceived as being for ownership. The specific question might be whether the Jews could bring chairs and a table to the place or not; whether they could blow the ram’s horn (shofar) there; whether they could put up screens to separate the women from the men; whether the Moslems had a right to walk through the place at hours of Jewish worship; whether an Arab could drive a donkey through or not. Such details covered the basic facts of the situation: the Jewish desire to establish a fixed holy place at the Western Wall, with the rights of a synagogue, and the Moslem fear that they would succeed in doing so and go on to further encroachments on the Temple area.22

In August 1929, these tensions boiled over when around 2,000 Jabotinsky Betar youth23 troops marched to the wall and massed for a (redolent of the annual “Jerusalem Day” march of the present day) flag-waving nationalistic demonstration on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, a date with highly charged religious and historic significance for that particular moment.24 They were there for nationalistic, not religious purposes, raising the national flag and singing the anthem HaTikvah, which at that time was outlawed.25 As Sheean noted in his diary,

Yesterday was the Eve of Tisha ba’Av (the Ninth of Av), which Jews of the Galut [diaspora] call Tishabov. Today is the actual feast itself: commemoration of the destruction of the Temple. The day is particularly associated with the Wailing Wall; and with the new Jewish Agency just formed, all the Wailing Wall propaganda going full tilt, the Arabs in a rare state of anxiety, the situation was ripe for anything. Trouble, trouble, and more trouble. There will be plenty.26

Indeed, the provocative march triggered a counter response the very next day, August 16, which happened to be the Prophet’s Birthday (mawlid), a Muslim holiday. A large crowd of about 1,500 Arab Muslims marched from the Haram al-Sharif through the Moroccan Quarter to the Western Wall and inflicted damage on it.27 In short order, this all spiraled into prolonged and deadly riots throughout the country known as the 1929 Palestine riots, or in Arabic the al-Buraq uprising. These riots, which lasted about a week, led to the deaths of 133 Jews and 116 Arabs28 in Jerusalem, Hebron, and elsewhere in the country.

The upshot of these riots was that the British Government appointed a four-person Commission of Inquiry called the Shaw Commission to investigate the causes of the violence. The Shaw Commission, which had no remit to investigate rights and claims to the wall, released its report on March 31, 1930, and thus also called for an International Commission of Inquiry for the Wailing Wall, which was approved on May 15, 1930. The commission was approved by the League of Nations on condition that its members were not British.29

This second commission, called the Löfgren Commission, was intended “to establish the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the Western or Wailing Wall” and to identify and prevent the causes of the violence in the future.

The commission met with delegations of Muslims and Jews to take the matter under advisement. The Jewish committee, which had representatives from major Jewish groups both local and international, proposed outright to the commission that the Moroccan Quarter be emptied and its residents relocated.30

The Löfgren Commission’s final report, submitted in December 1930, resolved that “to the Moslems belong sole ownership of, and the sole proprietary right to, the Western Wall” as it is an integral part of the Haram al-Sharif, the pavement in the adjacent corridor used for prayer, and the entire Moroccan Quarter.31 The area is holy to Muslims because it lies along the route that the Prophet Muhammad took on the holy Night of Ascension when God transported him, first from Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque (al-isra’), and then to the Heavens (al-mi‘raj), where he spoke with God and received instructions about prayer, and back to bring the instructions to Muslims on earth. For this journey, he was provided with a magical winged steed (al-Buraq). Muslims call the wall al-Buraq Wall because the Prophet stopped to tie al-Buraq to an iron ring in the wall while he went to lead a prayer in the mosque. After that, he remounted al-Buraq and continued on his holy journey.32

The Löfgren Commission’s final report . . . resolved that “to the Moslems belong sole ownership of, and the sole proprietary right to, the Western Wall.”

Its endowment as waqf property made this status inalienable in Islamic law. The commission also ruled that Jews should have the right to pray at the wall at all times undisturbed. However, “it was not permissible to place any article on the pavement ‘that could be considered as indications of ownership.’”33

The findings were integrated into a law in 1931 and subsequently incorporated into the official Status Quo on the holy places by the mandate government as the King’s Order in Council on Palestine (Western or Wailing Wall) 1931.34 Legally speaking, this Status Quo remained in effect at the time of the occupation35 and onward until 1984, when Israel passed the Law of Repeal Obsolete Laws, which repealed the King’s Order in Council on the Western Wall.36

In the Tumult of War

The Moroccan Quarter remained an Islamic waqf and the site of uninterrupted Maghrebi settlement in Jerusalem from its creation in 1193 until June 1967, when Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, Gaza, the Syrian Golan Heights, and Sinai. At that time, the neighborhood had residents who were of Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Palestinian origin, although the majority were of Moroccan origin.37

Sized at 10,000 square meters (40 dunums, or two and a half acres38), the Moroccan Quarter was the fifth largest of the 14 quarters in the Old City.39

Abdallah Schleifer, a Middle East correspondent reporting from Jerusalem in 1967, described the quarter thus:

Bab al-Magharaba had been a pleasant and architecturally distinct quarter of freshly whitewashed roof terraces, gardens, and neat unattached houses built in North African style several hundred years ago to house Moroccan soldiers garrisoning Jerusalem for the Ottomans. There were more than 130 buildings in the Quarter, including two mosques, in an area equivalent to three city blocks.40

 

Even before the Israeli army reached Jerusalem, doubtless deeply aware of the history recounted above, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan ordered the opening of a route to the Western Wall (on the assumption that it would fall to Israeli hands). In his view, history had provided a chance to accomplish what Jews in the country had been agitating for for decades: opening wider access to the wall.

The war commenced on June 5; by the morning of June 7, the Old City was captured. According to Israeli journalist Uzi Benziman, even on that very day, a proposal to demolish the Moroccan Quarter was conveyed to the designated military governor of Jerusalem, Colonel Shlomo Lahat, who agreed with it. As one centrally involved participant, Meron Benvenisti, later explained:

The Moroccan Quarter was the fifth largest of the 14 quarters in the Old City.

After all, there was nothing new in the plan. Ever since the end of the 19th century, several attempts had been made to get rid of the Quarter, but without success. Now the scheme received the approval of the Minister of Defense and was conveyed to Mayor Teddy Kollek, who volunteered to plan and execute it.41

Benvenisti was serving as an assistant to Teddy Kollek and a few weeks later, Kollek appointed him as administrator of the newly occupied “eastern sector” of the city.42

Lahat himself subsequently acknowledged, in an article in the Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha Ir, that

In the power of my authority as Military Governor of Jerusalem, immediately after the city was liberated in 1967, I gave orders that Arab inhabitants be evacuated from the Western Wall area and from the Jewish quarter in the Old City.43

But the destruction of the quarter violated the Status Quo (the law of the land)44 as well as international law. Article 53 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949) states:

Prohibited Destruction: Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or co-operative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

On June 8, former prime minister David Ben-Gurion arrived at the site with Kollek, the mayor of Jewish Jerusalem, and Jacob Yanai, director of the national gardens authority. Kollek explained the latter’s involvement: “The responsibility for executing the plan will be in the hands of the national gardens authority in order to give the matter as far as possible an official mark”45—meaning that the government would be able to distance itself from carrying out a blatantly illegal operation. According to Uzi Benziman:

Ben Gurion burst into tears. He ordered one of the guards to remove the sign on the wall which described it as al-Buraq.

He abruptly turned to Yanai, “Are you not humiliated by the presence of these conveniences [referring to the homes of the Moroccan Quarter] near the wall?”

“We have been here only since yesterday.”

“Even so, this is unbearable,” Ben-Gurion answered. Yanai then turned to Kollek: “The area must be cleared to reveal the wall.”

Kollek replied that he would see to it and consult the army.46

On June 10, Kollek went to the wall with a small group of historians, architects, and archeologists, and the deputy military governor of Jerusalem. Clearly, their collective expertise would have allowed them to be mindful of the significance of the Moroccan Quarter and its legal status. They decided to demolish the whole quarter and, while standing there, signed a “scrap of paper47 with the areas for demolition marked out with two big Xs. They explicitly noted “al-Buraq Mosque” and “the Tomb of the Shaikh” for demolition, showing that they were fully aware of the existence of these two holy sites.48

According to Kollek, then mayor of West Jerusalem, the “practical” consideration behind the decision to raze the quarter was to create a space big enough to accommodate the large number of Jewish worshippers expected to visit the site.49 There was a Jewish holiday, Shavuot, coming up in a few days (June 14), and Kollek and the other officials who made the decision wanted to ensure that the thousands of Jews expected to come worship at the wall at that historic moment had ample space.

But their decision went far beyond that: there was a sense that this was a fleeting moment in which to accomplish, under the turmoil and chaos of war, an objective that had been on the Zionist agenda for decades. This was the only moment to move ahead with such a blatantly illegal act of wanton destruction and dispossession without questions. As Kollek himself wrote in his autobiography:

The day after the Old City fell, it also became clear to me that something had to be done about the small slum houses that crowded close to the Western Wall – the Moghrabi Quarter . . . The only answer was to do away with the slum hovels of the Moghrabi Quarter. I received the go-ahead from Herzog, Narkiss, and Dayan . . . My overpowering feeling was: do it now, it may be impossible to do it later, and it must be done.50

This was the only moment to move ahead with such a blatantly illegal act of wanton destruction and dispossession without questions.

And according to Benziman:

Those in charge knew that there would be questions and reservations the next morning. They therefore decided to complete the operation that night by exposing the Wailing Wall. They realized that their action was motivated neither by security considerations nor by town planning. They were driven that night by some mysterious feeling that they represented the Jewish people, that they were asserting Jewish sovereignty over its most sacred place. Under the influence of such feelings, the fate of 135 Arab families was of no account.51

So on June 10, 1967, just three days after Israel occupied the city, Kollek hastily summoned a group of about 15 private contractors to come to the Western Wall.52 The mayor called on the contractors “to distance any involvement of official bodies in the demolition as much as possible.”53 According to one source, he ordered them to work around the clock without stopping until the job was finished—even if ordered by the prime minister or the defense minister. “Tell the workers that they should stop the work only on the direct order of Teddy Kollek and I will make sure that I am unavailable until the job is finished!”54 Residents were given only three hours to empty their belongings.55

Residents were given only three hours to empty their belongings.

The demolition team arrived at 6 p.m., only four hours after the ceasefire had been signed. They began their work with bulldozers at 11 p.m., under cover of darkness by design. The choice of contractors was also intentional:

The fear of an international protest made it necessary to use an unofficial civilian body to take on the job. The demolition work was given to the Jerusalem contractors and builders organization to distance any involvement of official bodies in the demolition as much as possible.56

The contractors, for their part, were so intoxicated with their assignment that at 3 a.m. that same night, they founded the “Order of the Kotel,” because they felt they were “carrying out a great mission for the Jewish people.” Later they wrote about themselves that they were “a sort of imitation of an order of knights for those who ‘purified the Kotel plaza for the people of Israel.’”57 One of the contractors shared: “I was sky-high; it was a pleasure.”58 They had reunions for decades after.

Israeli bulldozers demolish the Moroccan Quarter, June 1967

Israeli bulldozers demolish the Moroccan Quarter, June 1967.

On June 10, 1967, when Israeli authorities demolished the 10,000 square meter quarter to create the plaza, roughly 650 residents (108 families59) who lived in 135 homes in the quarter were made homeless.60

An army officer moved from house to house, ordering the residents to leave and gather at Zion Gate. When residents resisted, “a unit of reserve soldiers removed the residents by force.”61 For those remaining houses where residents still refused to leave, the bulldozer drivers were ordered to start leveling the houses even with families still in them.62 As one resident recalled:

The entire neighborhood was full of houses, and people felt depressed because these houses weren’t just their property, but also the property of their ancestors, from 800 years ago—or more . . . Anyone who saw the situation at that time would get emotional and sad. I saw people while they were leaving with their belongings to Shu‘fat [refugee] camp. It was a big crime committed against these people after the 1967 War.

They gave immediate orders for us to leave our house and take our belongings . . . They told us to take everything as fast as possible because we didn’t have time. Some people took their stuff like crazies and just stormed out of their houses. In an unbelievable way. It was “quick, quick—haul your things and get out, yalla, quickly quickly” . . . They didn’t let anyone stay. They emptied the entire neighborhood in a heartbeat. They took this decision in a very barbaric way.63

By morning, it developed that the bulldozer crew in its zeal had demolished homes that were not slated for demolition in the hastily drawn plan. At that point, according to Benvenisti, “It was then decided to demolish the entire Mugrabi Quarter.”64 The destruction continued for two nights under floodlights. By dawn on June 12, eight centuries of Jerusalem history, including two mosques, had been reduced to rubble. Residents were repeatedly blocked from returning to attempt to retrieve anything from the rubble.

“They emptied the entire neighborhood in a heartbeat.”

Isshaq Aweida, displaced former resident of the Moroccan Quarter

A rare archival video of the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter as it happened in June 1967

Credit: 

MadyFlstyn Facebook page

A former resident shared that when some of the affected Maghrebis pleaded with Kollek to intervene, he effectively shrugged his shoulders and said, “The order came from the military; it’s out of my hands.”65

The mayor of Arab Jerusalem at that time, Ruhi al-Khatib, later testified to the United Nations Security Council what he witnessed:

44. To begin with I have to go back to the first week of the occupation and summarize as follows. The Israeli authorities started by spreading horror in all comers of the city, outside the walls and inside, in the mosques as well as in the churches, occupying large buildings and hotels, raiding houses, shops and garages, looting whatever came into their hands, treating cruelly anyone who showed the slightest sign of dissatisfaction, gathering the inhabitants from their homes under severe and arrogant measures, keeping them standing for hours, irrespective of age or sex, and gaoling hundreds and up to thousands for unlimited periods and for no reason whatsoever. In a nutshell, the Israelis were creating waves of fear and terror to force people to leave.

45. By the end of a week of their occupation the Israeli authorities started a new campaign directed this time against the buildings and the residents of, the Maghrabi quarter. That quarter belonged to the North African Moslem communities including those from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Here the Israelis bulldozed 135 houses belonging to the Moslem Waqf-Moslem Trust-named after a very respected North African pious Moslem and religious leader called “Abu Madyan el-Gouth.” The houses were demolished and razed within two days, at a time when the curfew extended eighteen hours a day giving the poor residents a warning of only two to three hours. The poor bewildered people were lost and many of them were unable to save more than what they could carry-and only that if it happened that they had no children to look after. No response came to my quick appeal and that of the Municipal Council through the Army liaison officer who was attached to us. The bewildered inhabitants were scattered in the adjacent lanes and streets and some at a later stage found refuge in the neighboring villages. The total number of persons affected by this campaign was 650. Two small mosques were amongst the demolished buildings . . .66

Residents of the Moroccan Quarter

List of the occupants of demolished buildings in Mughrabi quarter and their components.

# Property owner Property components # of rooms             
1 Muhai el-din al-shamy House, facilities, fence 3
2 Al-Mughrabi waqf Fence, water well 2
3 Qasem al-daraji House, facilities, fence 2
4 Qasem al-daraj House, facilities, fence 2
5 Abd-allah qasem al-daraji House, facilities, fence, water well 4
6 Hassan al-jandoubi House, facilities, fence 2
7 Zakaria al-lizwazi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
8 Mahmoud al-jarabi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
9 Ahmad hamida House, facilities, fence 2
10 Fouad hamida House, facilities, fence 2
11 Yehia al-zawawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
12 Daoud al-zawawi House, facilities, fence, water well 1
13 Ali mohammad al-zawawi House, facilities, fence 1
14 Omar al-jourbi House, facilities, fence 1
15 Mohammad abd el-jalil al-maghrbi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
16 Abd el-jalil al-maghrebi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
17 Abd el-menim mousa qasem and his mother House, facilities, fence, water well 2
18 Ramadan mousa qasem Facilities, rest home, fence 1
19 Abd el-rahman mousa qasem Facilities, rest home, fence 1
20 Widow of Abd el-qader issa House, facilities, fence 2
21 Ahmad atallah House, facilities, fence 2
22 Neema saleh and ibn ahmad House, facilities, fence 3
23 Oum hanna shihab House, facilities, fence 1
24 Assad al-atrash Facilities, fence 1
25 Assad al-atrash Store 1
26 Adnan qanibi and hamada abu-assab House, facilities, fence 2
27 Adnan qanibi and kamal al-tiraani and
others
House, facilities, fence 2
28 Mahmoud arab House, facilities, fence 2
29 Abd salim hassneen House, facilities, fence 2
30 Saliha mohammad sharara House, facilities, fence 1
31 Harbi al-tayeb House, facilities, fence, rest home, water
well
4
32 Issa al-tayeb House, facilities, fence 2
33 Khalil al-tayeb House, facilities, fence, rest home 1
34 Zeinab, widow of al-dakali House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
35 Khalil al-laban House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
36 Ishaq Khalil al-laban House, facilities, fence, rest home, water
well
2
37 Ibrahim bn-saleh al-ashuri House, facilities, fence 2
38 Yousra al-marakshi and Ibrahim al-hasri Facilities, fence 1
39 Yousra al-marakshi and mohammad al-
labibi
Facilities, fence 1
40 Yousra al-marakshi and al-sheikh Ibrahim kahoush Facilities, fence 1
       
41 Ali saeed al-zawawi House, facilities, fence, water well 4
42 Ali al-shawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
43 Mohammad jouda and mousa ghosheh House, facilities, fence, rest home, water
well
2
44 Safieh ali rashid Facilities, fence 1
45 Waqf al-magharibe storehouseS 1
46 Mohammad abd al-wahab House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
47 Oum mohammad abd el-wahab House, facilities, fence 2
48 Saeed al-filali House, facilities, rest home, water well 6
49 Saleh zeib al-laban House, facilities, fence rest home, water
well
3
50 Mohammad al-zawawi and ahmad salman
abu ghosh
House, facilities, fence, rest home, water
well
2
51 Mohammad al-zawawi and alia ta al-
natsheh
House, facilities, fence, rest home 1
52 Jumua al-ahwal House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
53 Ibrahim al-ahwal House, facilities, fence, water well 1
54 Rashida mamoun House, facilities, fence, water well 2
55 Ali al-laban House, facilities, fence, water well 2
56 Ismael al-laban House, facilities, fence, water well 2
57 Abd el-khales and sons House, facilities, fence, water well,
storage
4
58 Faraj al-khales House, facilities, fence, rest home 3
59 Omar al-haj arabi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
60 Mahmoud al-shawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
61 Fathi al-haj arab House, facilities, fence, water well 2
62 Widow al-haj arab House, facilities, fence, water well 2
63 Qazem saleh al-tounsi House, facilities, fence, water well 4
64 Mohammad saeed al-zawawi and sisters House, facilities, fence, water well 2
65 Mother of mohammad saeed al-zawawi Facilities, fence 1
66 Saleh al-tayeb and abd al-aziz shehada House, facilities, water well, rest home 2
67 Saleh al-tayeb and fakhri shehada Facilities, fence 1
68 Abd el-kader habib and sisters House, facilities, fence, water well 2
69 Fatma habib al-sibai House, facilities, fence, water well 2
70 Abd al-majid ewaida Storage, store 2
71 Mahmoud al-darawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
72 Zahra al-rabih House, facilities, fence, water well 3
73 Ibrahim al-darai House, facilities, fence, water well 3
74 Abd allah ahmad al-maghrebi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
75 Mohammad ahmad abd al-salam al-fasi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
76 Ahmad abd al-salam al-fasi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
77 Hassan al-twati House, facilities, fence, water well 3
78 Ahmad abd allah al-jridi House, facilities, fence, rest home 3
79 Widow of abd allah al-jridi House, facilities, fence, rest home 1
80 Taysir abd allah al-jridi House, facilities, fence, rest home 1
81 Ahamd al-adawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
82 Abd al-rahman al-sarghini House, facilities, fence, water well 3
83 The Moroccan ambassador and al-haj al-
fatmi
House, facilities, fence, water well 2
84 Mohammad abd al-haq House, facilities, fence, water well, rest
home
4
       
85 Widow of al-haj Ibrahim abd al-haq House, facilities, fence, water well, rest
home
3
86 The office of al-magharbe waqf Rest home, water well 1
87 The store of al-magharbe waqf fence 1
88 Hassan ali al-maghrebi and his mother House, facilities, fence, water well 4
89 Mohammad mohammad Mahdi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
90 Al-sheikh mohammad al-mahdi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
91 Abd al-rahim abyan storehouse 1
92 Issa hashem al-maghrebi store 1
93 Al-haj Youssef ali House, facilities, fence, water well 3
94 Al- mughrabi waqf Store, storehouse, fence 2
95 Abd al-ghani al-atrash House, facilities, fence, water well 2
96 Fatma al-sibai House, facilities, fence, water well 2
97 Fatma al-sibai House, facilities, fence, water well 1
98 Ahamd al-tijani House, facilities, fence, rest home, water
well
3
99 Saleh al-draji House, facilities, fence, water well, rest
home
2
100 Mohammad bashir qasem House, facilities, fence, water well 2
101 Moussa al-draji House, facilities, fence, water well 2
102 Al-buraq mosque Mosque, facilities, fence, ablution area 1
103 Hassan al-zhani Facilities, fence 1
104 Zinab al-arabi Facilities, fence 1
105 Ali al-shawi House, facilities, fence, water well 1
106 Hamza al-shawi and sisters House, facilities, fence, water well 1
107 Hassan al-helfawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
108 Mahmoud al-zawawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
109 Mahmoud al-zawawi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
110 Yahia mohammad al-sheikh House, facilities, fence, water well 2
111 Mohammad al-mukhtar al-shnqikti House, facilities, fence, water well 2
112 Moussa taha and mohammad taha House, facilities, fence, water well 6
113 Widow of abd al-dayem House, facilities, fence, water well 2
114 Moahmmad abd al-ghani al-atrash House, facilities, fence, water well 2
115 Ismael al-mahsiri House, facilities, fence, water well 1
116 Nuzha the widow of al-sarghini Facilities, rest home 1
117 Abd al-kader al-sarghini House, facilities, fence, water well 2
118 Issa hashem al-maghrebi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
119 Mother of issa hashem al-maghrebi House, facilities, rest home 1
120 Mohammad ali al-twati House, facilities, fence, rest home 3
121 Mahmoud lai al-twati House, facilities, fence, water well, rest
home
3
122 Ali and Hussein al-madie House, facilities, fence, water well 5
123 Latifa anouar Facilities, fence 1
124 Mahmoud hassan al-maghrebi House, facilities, fence, water well 2
125 Hassan Mahmoud al-maghrebi House, facilities, fence, water well 3
126 Musbah abu mahdieh House, facilities, fence, water well 3
127 Khadije al-naili House, facilities, fence, water well 2
128 Saeed al-farkh House, facilities, fence, water well 3
129 Mohammad ahmad sarhan House, facilities, fence, water well 2
130 Ahmad sarhan House, facilities, fence, water well 2
131 Jameel al-salhi House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
132 Youssef al-salhi House, facilities, fence, rest home 2
       
133 Aisha al-adawi House, facilities, fence, rest home 1
134 Mohammad al-madbouli House, facilities, fence, water well 3
135 Mosque of al-sheikh abd al-maqam Mosque, facilities, fence, ablution area 1
136 Shahada al-toutanji House, facilities, fence, water well 4
137 Issa abu shukr House, facilities, fence, water well, rest
home
3
138 Mohammad roubein salem Storehouse and a large oven (15x8m) 2

Information courtesy of Nazmi al-Jubeh, Harat al-yahud wa harat al-maghariba fi al-Quds al-qadima: al- tarikh wa al-masir ma bayna al-tadmir wa al-tahwid [The Jewish Quarter and the Mughrabi Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem: History and Destiny between Destruction and Judaization] (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019);

An inventory of residents of the Moroccan Quarter at the time of its demolition, compiled by Palestinian historian Nazmi Jubeh

At least one elderly woman was acknowledged by the authorities to have been killed in her home, although residents say she was not the only one.67 Her name was al-Hajja Rasmiyya ‘Ali Taba‘ki.

Israeli bulldozers destroying the ancient Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem on June 10–12, 1967

The Israeli bulldozers at work destroying the ancient Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem on June 10–12, 1967

Credit: 

David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Image

By dawn on June 12, eight centuries of Jerusalem history, including two mosques, had been reduced to dust.

The state’s intent did not stop at cleansing merely the immediate area. Ahmad al-Jaridi, a resident among those who were dispossessed and exiled, recounts in an oral history: “The Israelis had buses waiting at Damascus Gate for those who wanted to go to the bridge that leads to Amman [Jordan]. They gave chocolate to people who got on the bus.”68

It is estimated that at the time of its destruction, half of the residents of the Moroccan Quarter were of Moroccan origin. About half chose to return to Morocco (via Amman) with the help of King Hassan II of Morocco, while the remainder relocated to Shu‘fat refugee camp, al-Ram, Abu Dis, and elsewhere in Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank.69 Many of these exiled Jerusalemites and their descendants continue to live within short distances of their former homes. Their stories are alive and part of the fabric of Jerusalem.70

Israeli bulldozers clear the rubble of the remains of the Moroccan Quarter, June 1967

Israeli bulldozers clear the rubble of the remains of the Moroccan Quarter, June 1967.

Israeli bulldozers clear the rubble of the destroyed Moroccan Quarter, June 1967

Israeli bulldozers clear the rubble of the destroyed Moroccan Quarter, June 1967.

Justifications

After it was over, Kollek justified the demolition thus: “It was the greatest thing we could do and it is good we did it immediately.”71

The official Israeli narrative that was quickly circulated announced was that what had been destroyed was of no significance, and its residents preferred and indeed volunteered to leave. Typifying this campaign is the following passage from a book on the Western Wall published by the Ministry of Defense:

The prayer area which had existed for more than four centuries would obviously be unable to cope with the new situation and the order was given to demolish the half-ruined hovels of the Maghreb Quarter and to relocate the few occupants who still lived there. It should be remembered that many of the occupants had left the Quarter long before the Temple Mount was liberated, as soon as it was known that the Israeli soldiers had cut off the city from the north. These Maghreb Quarter occupants realized that the Wall to which Jews had been denied access for so many years, would become a national attraction and they preferred to leave their houses and find other accommodation. The buildings of the Maghreb Quarter were among the poorest and the most derelict in the Old City; even the two or three important buildings could not in any way be compared to the beautiful houses in Hagai Street and the alleys leading to it from the Temple Mount.72

After the operation was completed, the section of the wall allocated for praying was expanded from 28 to 60 meters, and the small 120 square meter corridor in front of the wall became the Western Wall Plaza, enlarged to a massive 20,000 square meters where the Moroccan Quarter had previously stood.73

On April 18, 1968, the state expropriated 116 dunums of Arab property by the wall, including the Moroccan Quarter, Haret al-Sharaf, and Bab al-Salsila Street.74 With that, the Moroccan Quarter and its centuries of history were fully and finally erased.

Today, this plaza retains no traces of its origins, and its history and story are not widely known, even among Palestinians. As Simone Ricca has noted, “this erasure was not only physical, but one of memory as well.”75 The site is not acknowledged as one with historic value in official publications, museums, or classrooms. The integral role the quarter and its Muslim residents played in the city’s evolution for centuries is forgotten. The place is now the site of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of Jewish worshippers per day, effectively an outdoor synagogue, as well as the venue for swearing-in ceremonies for Israeli soldiers and bar mitzvahs.

Looking back, it is clear that the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter was the opening act of the Judaization of East Jerusalem, a process that flowed predictably from the Judaization of West Jerusalem before it and has continued inexorably ever since.

A combat unit of Israeli soldiers being sworn in at the Western Wall Plaza, 2014

A combat unit of Israeli soldiers being sworn in at the Western Wall Plaza, atop the ruins of the Moroccan Quarter on September 11, 2014.

Credit: 

Dreamstime

Epilogue

The late Meron Benvenisti, who went on to become the deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 1971 to 1978, was delegated by then mayor Teddy Kollek to supervise the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter in June 1967. Soon thereafter, Kollek appointed him as administrator of the “eastern sector.” 

In the Israel documentary short Mugrabi Quarter (2013, 7.5 min) below, directed by Anat Ronco, Benvenisti was filmed returning for a very awkward encounter with one of the few surviving residents of the quarter who still lives there, al-Hajj Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jalil ‘Abed al-Maludi.

Following the encounter, when pressed by the filmmaker, Benvenisti acknowledges this act of destruction as an “original sin.”

Mugrabi Quarter, by Anat Ronco (2013, 7.5 min)

Credit: 

Anat Ronco, Vimeo channel

Contributors

Kate Rouhana and Nadim Bawalsa of the Jerusalem Story Team collaborated on the research, writing, and editing for this Backgrounder. 

Notes

1

Maghreb, Africa,” World Atlas; “Maghreb,” New World Encyclopedia.

2

Maryvelma Smith O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive and the Virtual Illés Relief Initiative,” Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 81 (2020).

3

Murat Sofuoglu, “Turkey Seeks Return of Ottoman Lands in Occupied East Jerusalem,” TRT World, July 6, 2017.

4

Şerife Eroğlu Memiş, “Between Ottomanization and Local Networks: Appointment Registers as Archival Sources for Waqf Studies: The Case of Jerusalem’s Maghariba Neighborhood,” in Ordinary Jerusalem, 1840–1940: Opening New Archives, Revisiting a Global City, ed. Angelos Dalachanis and Vincent Lemire (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 1:82.

5

Abdul Latif Tibawi, The Islamic Pious Foundations in Jerusalem: Origins, History, and Usurpation by Israel (London: Islamic Cultural Center, 1973), 13–15, Islamic text in appendix, as cited in O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 52.

6

Memiş, “Between Ottomanization and Local Networks,” 84.

7

Tibawi, The Islamic Pious Foundations, as cited in O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 55. Afdal also endowed the neighborhoods of Haret al-Sharaf (meaning “the neighborhood of honor” in Arabic), next to the Moroccan Quarter, and Haret al-Maydan, both of which were illegally confiscated not long after the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter and used to expand the Jewish Quarter. O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 81.

8

See Tibawi, The Islamic Pious Foundations, for a thorough history of Jerusalem’s Islamic institutions, including the awqaf of the Moroccan Quarter. See also Nacereddine Saidouni, “The Awqaf of Maghribis in al-Quds (Jerusalem): Spiritual Links, Cultural Exchanges, Economic Necessities,” in Comparative Study of the Waqf from the East: Dynamism of Norm and Practices in Religious and Familial Donations, ed. Toru Miura (Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 2018), 168–69.

9

Saidouni, “The Awqaf of Maghribis in al-Quds (Jerusalem),” 169–70; O’Neill, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 57.

10

O’Neill, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 56.

11

Saidouni, “The Awqaf of Maghribis in al-Quds (Jerusalem),” 168–69.

12

O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 56.

13

Thomas Abowd, “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present,” Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 7 (2000): 8.

14

Simone Ricca, “Heritage, Nationalism, and the Shifting Symbolism of the Wailing Wall,” Archives de Sciences Sociales de Religions 151 (2010): 170.

15

Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem (Oakland: University of California Press, 1998), 8.

16

O’Neil, “The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive,” 53.

17

Ricca, “Heritage,” 171; Survey of Palestine, 2:899.

18

Meir Ben-Dov, Mordechai Naor, and Zeev Aner, The Western Wall, trans. Raphael Posner ([Jerusalem:] Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1983), 125.

19

Mary Ellen Lundsten, “Wall Politics: Zionist and Palestinian Strategies in Jerusalem, 1928,” Journal of Palestine Studies 8, no. 1 (1978): 7.

20

Vincent Sheean, “Holy Land 1929,” in From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948, ed. Walid Khalidi (Washington, DC: The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1987), 285.

21

For a highly detailed account of these many disputes, including the facts shared here, see Lundsten, “Wall Politics.”

22

Sheean, “Holy Land 1929,” 285–86.

23

By early 1930, this movement had an estimated 18,000 members. Lundsten, “Wall Politics,” 13n29.

24

Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar, is a day of mourning in Judaism when a series of catastrophes for the Jewish people that occurred throughout history on that date are commemorated, including the successive destruction of both holy temples in Jerusalem, the first by the Babylonians in 432 BC and the second by the Romans in AD 70. It is a day of collective commemorative mourning.

25

Ouzi Elyada, “A Nexus of Sensationalism and Politics: Doar Ha Yom and the 1929 Western Wall Crisis,” Israel Studies Review 34, no. 2 (2019): 124.

26

Sheean, “Holy Land 1929,” 289.

27

Sheean, “Holy Land 1929,” 293; Elyada, “Nexus.”

28

Ricca, “Heritage,” 171.

29

The Löfgren Commission,” accessed April 6, 2022.

30

Ricca, “Heritage,” 171–72.

31

Ricca, “Heritage,” 171, quoting “The Löfgren Commission.”

32

Saidouni, “The Awqaf of Maghribis in al-Quds (Jerusalem),” 166–67.

34

Ricca, “Heritage,” 171.

35

“Jerusalem.”

36

Shmuel Berkovitz, The Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Israeli Law (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2001), 87.

37

Isshaq Awaida, Testimonial” [in Arabic], Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive, September 23, 2020.

38

Places of the Quarter,” The Story of the Mughrabi Quarter, accessed April 6, 2022.

39

“Places of the Quarter.”

40

bdallah Schleifer, The Fall of Jerusalem (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 205.

41

Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem: The Torn City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), 306.

42

Benvenisti, Jerusalem, viii.

43

Arnon Regular, Kol Ha'ir, July 26, 2001, Western Jerusalem.

44

“Jerusalem.”

45

Abdul Latif Tibawi, “Special Report: The Destruction of an Islamic Heritage in Jerusalem,” Arab Studies Quarterly 2, no. 2 (1980): 183. This article is an English translation of an Arabic translation of a book originally written in Hebrew by Israeli journalist Uzi Benziman, Yerushalaim: ir le lo homa [Jerusalem: A city without walls] (Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1973). The chapter is titled “The Bulldozer.”

46

Tibawi, “Special Report,” 181.

47

Benvenisti, Jerusalem, 306.

48

Tibawi, “Special Report,” 183.

49

Benvenisti, City of Stone, 8.

50

Teddy Kollek, For Jerusalem: A Life (New York: Random House, 1978), 197.

51

Tibawi, “Special Report,” 185.

52

Nir Hasson, “How a Small Group of Israelis Made the Western Wall Jewish Again,” Haaretz, June 3, 2017.

53

Hasson, “Small Group.”

54

Ben-Dov, Naor, and Aner, The Western Wall.

55

Ricca, “Heritage,” 173.

56

Hasson, “Small Group.”

57

Hasson, “Small Group.”

58

Hasson, “Small Group.”

59

Benvenisti, Jerusalem, 306.

60

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 165.

61

Tibawi, “Special Report,” 184.

62

Tibawi, “Special Report,” 184.

63

“Isshaq Aweida, Testimonial.”

64

Benvenisti, Jerusalem, 306.

65

Mahmoud Al-Maslouhi, Testimonial,” Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive, September 21, 2020.

66

United Nations Security Council, “Situation in the OPT/Jerusalem Mayor Rouhi El-Khatib,” Provisional agenda (S/Agenda/1421), May 3, 1968.

67

See the documentary short by Anat Ronco, Mugrabi Quarter.

68

Destruction,” The Story of the Mughrabi Quarter, accessed April 6, 2022.

69

Abowd, “The Moroccan Quarter.”

70

Naomi Zeveloff, “Palestinians Remember Israeli Destruction of Jerusalem’s Moroccan Quarter,” The National News, June 3, 2017.

71

Hasson, “Small Group.”

72

Ben-Dov, Naor, and Aner, The Western Wall, 163.

73

Ricca, “Heritage,” 174.

74

Lundsten, “Wall Politics,” 5; Saidouni, “The Awqaf of Maghribis in al-Quds (Jerusalem),” 175.

75

Ricca, “Heritage,” 174–75.

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