When Martha Rettig, a pro-Israel activist and former tour bus driver in Israel came across a pro-Isreal comment by a person with an Arabic name, she was floored. Mohammed, a young Moroccan man stated he felt the Jews hold the birthright to Israel. Although Rettig has a master’s in Jewish education and worked as a heritage tour guide in Israel for 25 years, she was surprised to learn that Morocco had a strong connection to Judaism.
During the 7th and 8th centuries, many of the Amazigh tribes practiced Judaism. Her discovery provoked her to research further and inspired a desire for a call to action. There exists a large socioeconomic gap between how the Amazigh people live in contrast with many Arab Moroccans. Many Moroccan Amazigh people live in disenfranchised regions of the country, ranging from the South to the Rif and Atlas villages; even in caves. The Amazigh culture is over 5,000-years-old, indigenous to Morocco, and constitutes over 60+ percent of the Moroccan population.
For decades the Amazigh language is not used in official government records or taught in schools. This recently changed after countless years of activists who pushed the agenda. Yet the Amazigh plight is still a challenge in Morocco. All these truths have played roles in why it is difficult for Amazigh workers to find jobs.
“I have known Youssef for years,” said the French owner of a Marrakech Bed and Breakfast about his employee. “He is smart and reliable. That’s the thing — I always hire Berbers. They are the best workers.”
Despite his hard work, the Amazigh worker does not get paid very much. A similar story rings true for many of the talented Amazigh village artisans who provide their goods to be sold in the Marrakech souk. They only get a small portion of the earnings.
These unjust stories and many others galvanized Martha and her friend Denise Marie to start a GoFundMe page. These Jewish women have helped many Amazigh by raising money for them to buy clothes, pay for medical costs, and even attend school.
Mohammed, who inspired Martha’s honorable endeavors, is now attending university in Beni Mellal. He was born in a cave, however, thanks to the efforts of these philanthropic ladies, he has a brighter future ahead of him.
In addition to running the GoFundMe page and helping financially, Martha has also stayed active in Morocco by making friends with locals. She is currently assisting an Amazigh man living in Nador, a Northern coastal city near the Spanish enclave Melilla, convert to Judaism.