1st direct commercial flight from Morocco lands in Israel, brings beautiful music

The plane’s pilot, founder of Morocco’s Symphony Orchestra, has already been to the country to work with an Israeli conductor.  

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Morocco’s national carrier launched its direct flights to Israel Sunday, landing for the first time at Ben Gurion Airport a little over a year since Rabat and Jerusalem signed the normalization agreement known as the Abraham Accords.

Royal Air Maroc was supposed to start flying to Israel in December but all plans were delayed by the restrictions imposed on air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline’s CEO, Abdelhamid Addou, said he was “very proud and honored” on the occasion.

He added, “This new connection will be a factor of rapprochement between our peoples. These connections are based on very old ties between our monarchy and the Jewish people. Today, it is about reconnecting a family.”

Israel and Morocco have had an under-the-radar relationship for decades, which finally came out into the open officially in the historic accords mediated by the Trump administration. Israelis have been allowed to enter Morocco through a third country for years, and tens of thousands would visit annually before the pandemic hit.

The same could not be said of Moroccans visiting Israel. — although the pilot of Sunday’s historic Flight AT228 is perhaps an exception that proved the rule.  Karim Taiser has a second identity as founder of Morocco’s Symphony Orchestra, and he was in Israel just a week ago in that role.

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As reported by i24 News, he and his orchestra performed in Timna, a national park in Israel’s Negev desert, together with Israeli conductor Tom Cohen’s Jerusalem East and West Orchestra. They played Andalusian music, which originated in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.

This music, Cohen told i24 News, exemplifies the new spirit of cooperation between Arab countries and Israel.

“When we talk about Andalusian music, we talk about music that was created in the Golden Age, when Jews and Muslims lived and created together,” he said. “This music in its origin is music made out of coexistence.”

In Jewish history, the Golden Age of Spain was a period of hundreds of years of Moslem rule during which, intermittently, Jews were generally accepted and Jewish religious, cultural, and economic life flourished.

“Music has the ability to connect people, to connect countries,” said Israeli singer Narkis.  She hails from a city in Morocco known as “small Jerusalem” and performs together with Moroccan star Sanaa Marahati, who sings in Hebrew as well as Arabic.