Mimouna, the traditional festival celebrated by North African Jews on the last day of Passover, is often overlooked when discussing the Jewish holiday of liberation. Here are 10 things you might not know about the celebration that once brought Jews and Muslims together.
By Ophir Toubul
1. The name of the holiday, “Mimouna,” has several different, fascinating meanings. The most famous of them attribute the name to the Hebrew word “emuna” (belief), the death of the preeminent medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, Rambam (“Maimonides”) or the name of the Berber goddess of luck (“Mimouna”). A less popular explanation ascribes the name of the holiday to the city of Tamimouna near Sudan, from which many Jews came to the Tafilalt region in southern Morocco. During the Passover Seder, alongside the prayer for “next year in Jerusalem,” it was customary to pray for a return to Tafilalt. Does this mean we are actually Sudanese?
2. Mimouna symbolized North Africa, and specifically the close relations between Jews and Muslims there. In many places it was the Muslims who brought wheat, milk and butter to the Jews at the end of the holiday so they could make food. Jews in Morocco were viweed as ones who blessed the land for the entire year, and the Muslims saw the holiday as an opportunity to pay back their Jewish neighbors. In the city of Azemmour, Muslims allowed the Jews to use their fields and gardens for the entire day, out of a belief that the Jews would bless the land and leave it fertile.
3. An exceptional story on this topic can be found in the book “Zachur L’Avraham.” It describes how in the city Fes, the gates to the mellah (Jewish quarter) were locked by the police, and entrance to Muslims was forbidden. A Jew who wanted to invite his Muslim friend for Mimouna was forced to go to the police station and leave both their identification cards there until the end of the visit.
4. There is no one way to celebrate Mimouna. There are communities who make mofletta (a traditional pancake served during the holiday) and there are those who do not. There are places where Mimouna was celebrated at home, there were Jewish cities where the streets were filled with celebrations and in other places Jews celebrated in the fields and gardens. The main idea behind the holiday is...Read More