“You can change that, Youness” said Jamal Morelli, my documentary supervisor. The Arab media has shaped people’s minds greatly which has caused confusion concerning who is a Jew and who is a Zionist. The term Jew has become linked with war, guns, killing Palestinians, Israel, Zionism, and a whole list of bloody events. In Morocco, many people sympathize with Palestinians because they are Arabs and Muslims, which automatically puts Israel (or Jews as they see it) in the side of the enemy. The audio-visual has a very large impact on the viewers, for example people would boycott Israel whenever media told them to do so.
I started working on Moroccan Judaism in 2009, when I first wrote a thesis on The Presence of the Mellah in Morocco for my B.A. It dealt with defining the key terms and the history of Jews in Morocco. Lately, and because the audio-visual is easier to reach and takes only some minutes to show rather than tell, I worked on a documentary film on the Moroccan Jewish Culture and decided to call it Moroccan Judaism: A Culture in Danger.
In this documentary I interview scholars, researchers, professors, etc. they all contribute in educating the viewers about the presence of Jews in Morocco, their history, culture, language, and life in a Muslim country. The documentary is divided into five main chapters. I start with a vox pop asking people in the streets of Fez whether they know about Jews in Morocco, they reacted differently and I managed to catch their spontaneous reactions with the camera. I follow this with the key terms which are: Judaism, Zionism and the Moroccan Jewish Culture. I believe it is important to start with definitions to help people follow the train of thought. By giving definitions I show that the documentary is not dealing with Zionism, nor Judaism but rather with the culture, the Moroccan Jewish culture as an important aspect of the Moroccan Culture as a whole.
“Where did Jews come from?” this is the title of the chapter which introduces us to the early immigrations of Jews to Morocco, followed by the ones who joined from Spain after the Inquisition. The Mellah, which is the Jewish quarter in Morocco, is discussed as an essential component of Judaism in Morocco. Simon Levy elaborates on the meaning of the word and why Fez was home for the first Mellah.
The chapter that takes the title “Moroccan Citizens” highlights the language that Moroccan Jews speak, and shows some aspects of coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. The climax of the documentary is the “Exodus” which has caused much misunderstanding among Moroccans even until today. Finally, “Save Moroccan Judaism,” shows some examples of how this culture might be preserved. Museums, restoring and renovating synagogues, and the Geniza project (which is basically dedicated to helping researchers on Moroccan Judaism) are some examples. Music and its importance in bridging cultural gaps, is the ending of the documentary.
The documentary was premiered at the American Language Center of Fez, I received some useful feedback there. I also projected it at the International Institute for Languages and Cultures (INLAC) in Fez in the presence of American and Moroccan university students, teachers, directors. There was a very useful discussion since the majority didn’t know about this aspect of the Moroccan Culture.
Recently a review of my documentary was published on Morocco World News, you can read it here: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2011/08/moroccan-judaism-a-culture-in-danger/
I was pleasantly surprised to read a comment on my Youtube channel from a fellow whose simple English did not keep him from expressing his opinion about this project, he states: “Hello, my name’s Zakaria Faqyr, really I’m improve that moroccan jews make a lot of things to riche the cultural, science and economic mind of moroccan people ,I’m Muslum but really that works (moroccan jews works) let me thinking more and more about our friendship , sorry! our brothership. thank you so much for your hard working.” [sic.] Reading this I feel that my goal is being accomplished and people are adopting a new perspective to understand Moroccan Judaism and Jews. Therefore my answer to you sir is “I will.”