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New York (JTA) — With a por-
trait of His Majesty King Hassan
and his country's red and green
flag behind him, Serge Berdugo,
who was visiting here recently,
was the model of a perfect min-
ister of tourism. He extolled Mo-
rocco's beaches, "world-class
gastronomy" and sense of hospi-
But Mr. Berdugo wears an-
other hat as well, and it was
equally evident when he ad-
dressed a meeting of the Confer-
ence of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations
last month: As president of the
Moroccan Jewish community,
Mr. Berdugo is his country's
ranking Jewish communal
Though he lives in a Muslim
country, and the community he
heads has shrunk to below 10,000
members from 300,000 in 1948,
Berdugo is adamant that his is
not a "remnant" Jewish commu-
It is instead one that thrives,
he said, quickly attributing this
phenomenon to the tolerance of
the Moroccan monarch and peo-
ple, and to the loyalty of Moroc-
can Jews in Europe, North
America and Israel.
"Moroccan Islam is a gentle Is-
lam that is tolerant, and very
strong,' he said, calling it "a force
that permits the blossoming of
"We're a very special country
— absolutely Orthodox, but we
live our religion merrily," he said.
"Every hour of the day is im-
mersed in the religion, and with-
out any conflict."
Mr. Berdugo's ancestors set-
tled in the country in 1490,
refugees from the Spanish In-
quisition. As King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella Christianized
their kingdom, they expelled both
Muslims and Jews.
"When you have experienced
the same inquisition, and you are
expelled together, when you come
back to the same country you try
to be fair to each other," said Mr.
While Morocco has long been
normalizing its ties with Israel,
it has so far not established for-
mal relations with the Jewish
For some years, Israelis born
in Morocco have been allowed to
visit the country. Now, Mr.
Berdugo indicated, restrictions
are being eased on others with Is-
raeli passports. He said there are
five licensed tour guides who
speak Hebrew — Muslims
trained by a rabbi in Strasbourg
— and "now you go to a shuk and
hear everybody speaking He-
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