SALÉ-RABAT , twin towns on the Atlantic coast of *Morocco, separated by the Bou-Regreg River and situated on the site including the Merinid necropolis of Chella. Ancient Sala, ruins of which still exist in Chella, was an important Roman town known as a center for buying gold dust. The existence of a Jewish colony there during the second century c.e. is confirmed in an inscription on the tombstone of a hellenized Jew. The region was subject to Jewish influence over a long period, and the conversion of the country's inhabitants to *Islam in the eighth century gave rise to the heresy of the Berghwata, who were inclined to Judaism. The *Almohads, who liquidated the Berghwata in the 12th century, built the town of Rabat, which did not lose its position of importance to the more ancient town of Salé until the fall of the dynasty in 1269. Abrahamibn Daud mentions the Jewish community of Salé (Sala) in his Sefer ha-Kabbalah. The merchant shipowners of the western Mediterranean conducted an active trade in Salé, especially the Jews of Majorca during the 13th–14th centuries. Later, the Genoese gained the monopoly over trade in Salé, and in 1492 the Jewish exiles from *Spain were badly received by them. After 1550 the Jews of Salé were wealthy and numerous. They lived among the Muslims, who were mainly of Andalusian origin. A few Jews settled in Rabat, which at that time was only known by the name New Salé, in contrast to the neighboring town which was Old Salé; the twin towns became one of Morocco's most important trading centers. In Rabat the Hornacheros, Muslims who had arrived from Spain in 1610, had little sympathy for the Jews; nevertheless, they welcomed them as soon as the privateering against Christendom, especially Spain, gained in intensity, calling for supplies of European arms and rigging, and pouring into the town goods and Christian captives, which the Christian nations hastily redeemed. At that time Rabat and Salé finally constituted themselves into independent republics.
Although the Jews conducted their affairs in Rabat, the majority lived in Salé, where Dutch Jews also settled. Between 1620 and 1660 the leading merchants in the two towns were Samuel b. Sofat, R. Aaron *Siboni, and the Dutchmen Benjamin Cohen and Aaron Querido. Moses Santiago was the counselor of the governor of Rabat, negotiating the truce with the king of *France in 1630. The peace treaty of 1683 with The Netherlands was negotiated by Isaac and Joseph Bueno de *Mesquita, merchants in Salé, the place of residence of Gideon *Mendes, the Dutch consul in 1699. Moreover, until the 1850s several Jews of Salé-Rabat acted as consuls for the European powers. The Shabbatean movement won many followers in the towns, where the dayyan of that period, R. Jacob *Sasportas, successfully overcame the resulting unrest. The yeshivot of Salé and Rabat were very active, and graduates included talmudists and legal authorities such as R. Ḥayyim b. Moses *Attar, author of the famous Pentateuch commentary, Or ha-Ḥayyim, who after many wanderings immigrated in 1741 to Ereẓ Israel; R. Shem-Tov Attar, R. Samuel de *Avila and his son R. Eliezer, R. Abraham Rodriguez, R. Samuel Caro, R. Solomon Tapiero, R. Judah Anahory, and R. Joseph *Elmaleh. The Jews of Rabat were among the founders of the Jewish communities of *Gibraltar in 1705, *Mogador in 1767, *Lisbon in 1773, and Mazagan in 1825, as well as the community of the Azores which they founded in 1820. A short while later some of their distinguished families – Amzallag, Aburbi, Amiel, Ben-Tobo, and Moyal – settled in *Haifa, *Jaffa, and *Jerusalem, having transferred their assets to these places.
After 1750 the community of Salé was absorbed mainly by that of Rabat, which numbered over 6,000 persons. This population, a very active one, enjoyed considerable affluence, and its wealthiest elements obtained leases on the collection of customs duties, both in Rabat and other ports, later adding numerous other monopolies. In 1790 Governor Bargash saved the Jews of Salé-Rabat from the persecutions of the sultan Moulay Yazīd, but they were nevertheless compelled to pay the large sum of 600,000 gold mithkals to the sovereign. Morethan one half of the Jewish population of Salé-Rabat perished in the plague of 1799. In 1807 they were confined to two mellahs for the first time. This measure, which was painfully felt, initiated a wave of emigration, especially to South America, while a large number of families whose wealth was of recent acquisition converted to Islam. New elements, mainly from Tlemcen, established themselves in the mellah of Rabat in 1830. Both the old and the new communities were impoverished by the isolationist policy of the sultan Moulay Sliman. The dahīr, which Sir Moses *Montefiore obtained in 1864 on behalf of the Jews of Morocco, caused some of the Jews of Rabat to exceed their rights, thus setting off severe disturbances. The rabbis and the authorities only succeeded with difficulty in allaying the agitation. There were massive departures for *Casablanca, where the Zagury, Hayot, Lasry, Benchaya, and Marrache families, as well as others from Rabat, were the most influential in the new community for a long time. Under the French Protectorate (since 1912), various Jewish institutions were established in Rabat, notably the Supreme Rabbinical Tribunal (abolished by the government in 1965) which was headed by Rabbis Raphael Encaoua and Joseph Benatar over a long period.
In 1947 there were 20,000 Jews in the region of Salé-Rabat. Of these, 12,350 lived in Rabat and 3,150 in Salé. Until the mid-1950s there were also branches of the *Jewish National Fund and *wizo in Rabat. In 1970 Salé had not a single Jewish inhabitant, while about 4,000 Jews still lived in Rabat. The majority of the Jews of Rabat had immigrated to France, the *United States, and *Canada, those of Salé going almost exclusively to Israel. By 2005, only several hundred Jews remained in Rabat. Ya'akov Mellul, chief rabbi of Rabat, noted at the end of the 20th century that, with the exception of the larger community of Casablanca, most other Moroccan Jewries, Rabat included, had no prospects for Jewish continuity. Most of the Jewish schools in Rabat were closed, including the wide network of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle and Oẓar ha-Torah schools and a rabbinical seminary, founded in 1951. There were no rabbis, no infrastructure for community life, and the young left their homes for the West in pursuance of their higher education. Their parents followed the children to the West to preserve the close-knit nature of the family, as well as to protect them from marrying non-Jews.
J. Goulven, in: Bulletin de la Société Géographique du Maroc (1922), 11–41; idem, Les Mellahs de Rabat-Salé (1927); Miège, Maroc, passim; J. Caillé, La Ville de Rabat jusqu'au Protectorat Français (1949), passim; D. Corcos, in: Sefunot, 10 (1966), 98f.; idem, Les Juifs du Maroc et leurs Mellahs (1971); Hirschberg, Afrikah, index; A.N. Chouraqui, Between East and West (1968), index s.v.Rabat, Salé.add. bibliography: K.L. Brown, People of Salé: Tradition and Change in a Modern City, 1830–1930 (1976); M.M. Laskier, The Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Jewish Communities of Morocco: 1862–1962 (1983); idem, North African Jewry in the Twentieth Century: The Jews of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria (1994).
[Haim J. Cohen /
Michael M. Laskier (2nd ed.)]