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Morocco to include Jewish history and culture in its school curriculum

Children sit in a classroom at a school in the Moroccan village of Taghzirt, in el-Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains south of the capital of Marrakech, on March 4, 2016. When using well-known search engines, one can find very few information about Taghzirt village. And while tourists from all around the world enjoy the sun warm days and the snow-covered view of the nearby mountains from Marrakesh, hundreds of villagers suffer from the harshness of winter and isolation, due to the state of the roads leading to it. Many villagers find it hard to access food, medical health and education. / AFP / FADEL SENNA (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Children sit in a classroom at a school in the Moroccan village of Taghzirt, in el-Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains south of the capital of Marrakech, on March 4, 2016. [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Morocco will soon be the "first" country in the North African region to incorporate Jewish history and culture into its school curriculum.

The move aims to "highlight Morocco's diverse identity", according to Fouad Chafiqi, head of academic programmes at the Ministry of Education.

The decision was made as part of an ongoing revamp of the educational curriculum in Morocco, which began in 2014, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

It "has the impact of a tsunami," Serge Berdugo, secretary-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco told AFP.

He added: "It is a first in the Arab world."

The move to add Jewish history and culture to lessons was discreetly launched before the normalisation deal between Israel and Morocco was announced last week, brokered with the help of US President Donald Trump.

The AFP further cited two US based Jewish associations – the American Sephardi Federation and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish – as saying that they had "worked closely with the Kingdom of Morocco and the Moroccan Jewish community" on the "groundbreaking" academic reform.

"Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco's philo-Semitism, is an inoculation against extremism," leaders of the two organisations said in a statement.

READ: Morocco builds ties with Israel in return for recognition of its authority over Western Sahara

As part of the plan, two new books will be introduced into the curriculum, which will include a description of the life and heritage of Moroccan Jews under Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah Al-Khatib, a descendant of the Alawite dynasty.

"While there was a Jewish presence in Morocco before the 18th century, the only reliable historical records date back to that time," Chafiqi said.

The books, intended for fourth and sixth grades, include historical accounts dating from the 17th century to the present day.

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