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Archive for August, 2012

This is taken from my Master’s thesis entitled “The Representation of Moroccan Jews in Moroccan Cinema.” (2012)

 

A Bit of Luck (1994)

Tipat Mazal

We learn about the Jews’ departure to Israel from a Moroccan perspective [after analyzing Mohamed Ismail’s Goodbye Mothers, and Hassan Benjelloun’s Where Are You Going Moshe?], the author has opted for adding a film that completes the story of when they arrived to Israel. It is like part II for Where Are You Going Moshe? Tipat Mazal (A Bit of Luck) is a 1994 film which shows the emigration of Moroccan Jews to Eretz Israel[1] while following the story of a father Jojo Ben Soussan and his daughter Vivi in their journey. This is not really a Moroccan film, but the filmmaker and the theme are from Morocco. With Ze’ev Revach who plays the protagonist in the film, we learn about the Moroccan Jews’ emigration to Israel from another perspective.

It is only the first 19 minutes of this film that take place in Morocco, the rest is in Israel. It is possible that Hassan Benjelloun was inspired to make his film as an elaboration on these 19 minutes; since there are several similarities between Where Are You Going Moshe? (2007) and A Bit of Luck (1994).

Before Jojo’s departure to Israel, we see him in the cemetery praying and crying at the tomb of his grandfather asking him for blessings for a safe arrival to Eretz Israel. The tomb represents his past in Morocco that he is leaving behind, a past that died and was buried there. Shlomo (in Where Are You Going Moshe?) even took some dust and put it in his pocket to remind him of Morocco while he is by his father’s tomb.

Both Shlomo and Jojo are singers and they play the lute. We always see them singing the Moroccan song “My Casablanca, My Morocco.” It is part of their identity, Moroccan national identity. Jojo even sings it in Israel.

When Grasia’s boyfriend, Albert, learns about her departure with her husband Jojo to Israel he asks her “what are you going to do there in a country of desert?” He adds trying to convince her to stay with him “I will take you to Spain, Paris, all over the world. And you want to go to the country of hunger, Israel.” This conversation somewhat introduces us to the mood of the film. Indeed, she does not go to Israel but rather leaves with the wealthy Albert to Paris.

Importantly, Jojo tells his wife that when they will go to Israel, they will sing and dance when the Messiah comes. This shows that he is going to Israel for religious reasons, because when all the Jews of the world meet in the Promised Land, the Messiah will come. The same sentence is said by the Rabbi in Where Are You Going Moshe?

The camera moves to the boat that is taking the Moroccan Jewish population to Israel. When it was announced in Hebrew that they have arrived to Israel, we see them all running to see it singing the national hymn of Israel Hatikva which means Hope. Then we see a rainbow which is the symbol of God’s promise on earth[2], connoting God’s promise to return them to the Holy Land.

When the buses arrive to Israel, a woman is welcoming them in Hebrew, Jojo wonders if anyone understands her, but no one does. Then a woman speaking Arabic comes instead and they are all co-operating with her. We see translators of different languages; this shows that Jews are coming from all nations.

The first issue they face when they arrive to Israel is communication. Hebrew is the language spoken in Israel, and Moroccan Jews don’t usually use it for communication. While they are in Israel, there is a school for kids teaching them Hebrew. Then they are complaining about the hard life they are leading where they are only eating eggs, sleeping on the floor, and mosquitoes are everywhere. They are not paid well for the hard jobs they do. This is predicted by Shlomo’s wife who tells him “stop singing, when you get there (Israel) hard work is waiting for you.”

The film actually confirms what Albert said in the beginning, Israel is a desert and a place that needs construction. The Israel that we see in this film is only a desert, an empty space. This is the reason why Benchetrit in Goodbye Mothers asks Henry who works in construction to join the young state.

The fact that Jojo goes blind when he is in Israel is very symbolic and interestingly he is cured in Paris … and then returns to Israel (while one would be expecting him to go back to Morocco). The film ends (in Israel) with a song about Morocco.


[1] Eretz Israel stands for the Land of Israel. It will be used here as used in the film.

[2] Genesis 9: 9- 17.

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15 Students from Different Moroccan Cities,

15 Days in the Holy Land,

What a Remarkable Experience!

 

When we first arrived to Jerusalem, we heard a couple of gun shots, each one of us looked at the other in shock and wonder of what’s going on, believing that this is a country of conflict and war, we were not comfortable. We soon learned that the gun shots were a sign of a wedding and celebration. That was our first cleansing from a deeply rooted prejudice that there is war everywhere in the country. The days to come in the Holy Land served to educate, enlighten and correct our mind sets, and our presence there helped us mainly to have our own story.

It is a story that is based on direct contact with different people, on visits to many cities and places and on a cultural experience. We always asked questions, which was our means to learn and understand, and then we would study the answers. We met different locals: taxi drivers, security guards, shop keepers, bus drivers; both Palestinians and Israelis. We also met Palestinian and Israeli authorities. We visited different cities which have different aspects: the Holy City, Jerusalem; the city of Jewish and Arab neighbors, Haifa; the liberal cosmopolitan city, Tel Aviv; the city with a large Moroccan community, Ashdod; a city in the Palestinian territories, Ramallah, in addition to Galilee, Jaffa, Nazareth, Beersheva, and the Dead Sea. This tour around the country furnished us with a varied and complex point of view of Israel/ Palestine.

Ramallah

The people, be they Jews or Arabs were happy and quite amazed to meet with a group from Morocco in Israel/ Palestine. They also had a lot of questions for us, others were trying to find a link to Morocco; “My grandfather comes from Morocco,” “My cousin visited Morocco,” “Someone I know married a Moroccan,” etc. Some of them even made an enormous effort to speak the Moroccan dialect with us.

I believe that our visit has drawn a smile on many faces, it has enriched an understanding of who were considered the “Other,” it is a huge step to bridge gaps, to communicate, and to simply know each other. If you call it normalization, I call it education.

Ashdod

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