SOUS, largest province in *Morocco, including the southern slopes of the Grand Atlas, the valley of the Oued Sous, the Anti-Atlas, the Noun (to the Atlantic Ocean), and the southern Darʿa. Early legends mention the existence of two pre-Islamic Jewish kingdoms in the Sous: one in *Ofran (Ifrane) and the other in the Darʿa. The Jews always lived dispersed in the Sous; in some of its regions they found secure, if remote, shelter. The larger urban centers did not attract great numbers of Jews, not even the ancient capital, Taroudant; however, the small community of this town, although relegated to quarters outside the city walls, for many centuries imposed its own takkanot and minhagim upon the numerous Jewish centers and communities of the Sous.
There were many wars and political upheavals over the centuries, and towns such as Tiyout and Tidsi, seats of prosperous Jewish communities, passed out of existence; in many localities ancient cemeteries remain as the only sign of Jewish life. The Marabout movement of the 15th and 16th centuries severely damaged the Jewish community. Forced conversions eliminated all aspects of Jewish life from territories where the Jews had formerly been numerous, with traces remaining only in names such as Aït-Mzal and Aït-Baha, and in the land of the Ammeln, where some of the present-day tribes are still called by names such as Aït-Aouday ("Tribe of the Jews"). In the Aït-Jerrar, Ida-ou-Milk, Chtouka, Aït-Ba Amran, and other places there are parts of *Berber tribes which may well have once been Judaized, or even Jews. In about 1510 the survivors of the persecutions joined together in Tahala, where they remained until 1957 when they left en masse for Israel, as well as in other centers of the Anti-Atlas where they met with different fates. By the 17th century the Jews of the important center of Illigh had become an influential community; 100 years later the Jewish populations suffered during a series of rebellions and upheavals, and their synagogues, like those of *Agadir, were destroyed around 1740. About 1792 Bou-Hallais gave the Jews of Ofran the choice of conversion or death. In the 19th century the occupation of the Sous by the central government offered the opportunity to pillage and massacre the Jewish population. In 1840 the Jewish village of Tatelt was destroyed, and 40 years later Tillin suffered the same fate; in 1882 the Jewish quarter of Goulimine was pillaged, and in 1900 the soldiers of the Makhzen razed the quarter of Ouijjane. In some instances the Jews resisted fiercely and succeeded in saving many of their settlements and in some cases they even went on the offensive.
In the high mountains, in often inaccessible localities, far from the troubled life of the plains, the Jews of regions such as Ounein, Tifnout, and Azilal – considered by modern ethnologists and ethnographers as the remnants of very ancient migrations – were probably Berber tribes that had become Jewish in pre-Islamic times. In these forbidding regions the Jews lived as autochthonous populations, detached from all outside influences. As in the case of many of their brethren in the Marrakesh Atlas, their common language was Berber, not Arabic. At the southwestern end of the Sous, the region of Noun, whose ancient center of Tagaost was destroyed and replaced by Goulimine, was the foremost supplier of ostrich feathers; from ancient times it was also one of the market outlets for numerous Sahara caravans, which until the end of the 19th century carried the continent's basic raw materials, such as slaves, ivory, ebony, pelts, and gold, from the heart of Africa. Some of the richest Jews controlled a vast part of this trade. In the 15th and 16th centuries their trade with the neighboring Canary Islands was of great importance. Moreover, from 1505 to 1540 a number of Marranos who had found shelter in those islands came to the Sous region and returned to Judaism. After 1880 almost every Jew became a retailer or a small artisan. Only after 1936 did the economic situation change somewhat for the better.
The surplus Jewish population of the Sous was regularly sent to the urban centers of Morocco, especially to Marrakesh and *Mogador where they contributed to the overcrowding of the local mellahs. It is estimated that up to the 18th century the Jewish communities of the Sous formed 20% of the total Jewish population of Morocco. Droughts and epidemics of plague and cholera in 1799, 1805, 1818, and 1878 decimated the local population, and in 1884 Charles de Foucault estimated that there were about 7,000 persons. Adding some Jewish communities not included in his studies to his figure, the number of about 8,500 is arrived at. In 1951 A. de la Porte des Vaux – whose calculations are the most detailed and reliable among available statistics – estimated that there were 6,420. After 1955 the Jewish population literally evacuated the Sous en masse, the great majority immigrating to Israel.
V. Monteil, in: Hesperis, 33 (1946), 385–405; 35 (1948), 151–62; J. Chaumeil, ibid., 40 (1953), 227–40; A. de la Porte des Vaux, in: Bulletin Economique et Social du Maroc (1952), 448–59, 625–32; P. Flamand, Diaspora en Terre d'Islam (1960); D. Corcos, in: Sefunot, 10 (1966), 58–60, 72–75, 77–83. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.J. Schroeter, Merchants of Essaouria: Urban Society and Imperialism in Southwestern Morocco, 1844 – 1886 (1988).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.