A Moroccan professor and his students recently visited Israel as part of a cultural exchange made possible by the Abraham Accords — the historic diplomatic pact that is changing how the Arab world interacts with the Jewish state.
Shalem College in Jerusalem this week hosted Professor Dris Bouyahya and his students. It’s his first visit to Israel and he used the opportunity to talk about the long Jewish history of Morocco and how he perceives Israel.
“Wherever I cross by, there are people who ask me ‘where are you from?’ I say ‘Morocco,’ they say ‘my dad is from (this Moroccan city) and my grandmother is from there.’ So I didn’t feel alien to come to Israel,” Bouyahya said.
The cooperation between his students and the students from Israel was introduced by “Israelis,” a collective founded six years ago to create ambassadors for Israel among young people — those who can build the future within the new Middle East. Their interaction with the young Moroccans is bearing fruit: two of them are even continuing their studies at Israeli universities.
“We felt as Moroccan citizens here in the state of Israel a kind of brotherhood, friendship. We felt like we are in our family, maybe even in our country. Because being in Haifa for four days I find some streets having the name of cities in Morocco,” said Suheir, a student from Morocco.
Students from Shalem College’s Middle Eastern and Islamic studies program are learning to speak Arabic fluently and sharing a common language with their Moroccan counterparts.
“Of course, during my daily life here, I meet a lot of Arabs and most of our teachers are here like our neighbors. But I didn’t meet like face to face Moroccan students before. So it’s a great honor and it’s very special,” said Yarden Meller, a student in Shalem’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program.