Illuminated Beth Bookmark by Jean-Jacques LEVI

BOTBOL Family Tree


BOTBOL (Beth-Vav-Tet-Beth-Vav-Lamed) is one of the most common Jewish North African surnames. It appears in several variants: ABITBOL, BOUTBOUL, TEBOUL, BOTBOL... According to Les Noms des Juifs du Maroc by Abraham I. Laredo, the name indicates in Arabic a profession "the father of the tamborine" maker of seller of the popular Moroccan musical instrument. Nevertheless, according to Meknes traditions, the name comes from the Hebrew tbol which means purification in a ritual bath. Thus, "the father of the bath" would be the manager of the mikveh.

While the form ABITBOL was the most common in southern Morocco (especially Sefrou), the form BOTBOL was most common in Fez, Tangers, Tetouan, and Meknes. These two forms have appeared in Morocco since the early 16th century. During the 19th century, it was on ofthe 20 most common Jewish surnames in Morocco.


Although his birth certificate says that Machlouf ABITEBOUL (or Makhlouf or Maklouf) was born in Mascara, Algeria, he was actually born 1828 in Fez to Jacob BOTBOL and Aicha CHETRIT in Fez, Morocco where he lived most of his life. (Source: his granddaughter Rebecca ARROUAS was told this by her father (also named Machlouf), and it is marked in the citizenship papers of Messody BOTBOL.)

Accordingly, he spent a week in Mascara arranging his official papers, and was resultingly accorded French citizenship 30 June 1879 by imperial decree number 236x79 through application of the law of 14 July 1865. Upon adoption of the French nationality, he changed the family name from ABITBOL to BOTBOL.

Maklouf has a businessman, and supplied the French army in Algeria.

Maklouf married Aïcha SABBAH. In 1882, after the birth of their first three sons Joseph, Haïm and Abraham and their daughter, Maklouf died young leaving his Aïcha pregnant with a son named Machlouf after him. (Machlouf means "replacement" and is often given as name to posthumous children.)

Maklouf found some diamonds while doing work in the house he rented in Nouaelles in Fez (perhaps hidden by an earlier owner fearful of representatives of the Sultan). The wall was in bad condition and continually had to be patched so Maklouf decided to break it down and replace it once and for all when he discovered the treasure. Often, the Pacha in such a case would arrest the house owner, condemn him to death and confiscate the diamonds in the name of the king. He sought the French citizenship to protect himself from a death sentence. He was thus able to obtain his nationality and leave his affairs in order for his wife Aïcha before dying shortly after his return to Fez, Morocco in 1882.

Maklouf and Aïcha had five children:

BOTBOL siblings: In front Haim BOTBOL (left), Meriem BOTBOL (center), and Joseph BOTBOL (right in oriental clothes). 2nd row: Abraham BOTBOL (left), Machlouf BOTBOL (with bowtie)
BOTBOL siblings:
In front Haim BOTBOL (left), Meriem BOTBOL (center), and Joseph BOTBOL (right in oriental clothes).
2nd row: Abraham BOTBOL (left), Machlouf BOTBOL (with bowtie)

Maklouf had a nephew Haim BOTBOL. (Given the fact that he and his brother both named their sons Haim, one might suspect that their father was also named Haim perhaps.)

Haim BOTBOL brother of Maklouf BOTBOL (Sr.) was tailor of Mohammed V (King of Morrocco).

Daniel E. Loeb, eMail:
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