Archive for the ‘Days of my Life’ Category

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.


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.



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On Friday, March 16th, 2012, I premiered the documentary “My Neighbor… The Jew” at the American Language Center of Fez. As part of the event, I introduced my work. My presentation was as follows:

In 2008, I was walking by a mosque in my neighborhood and I heard the Imam shouting “May God kill the Jews.” I was frightened to hear such a statement from an influential person, someone who is preaching to thousands of people. It was like a slap in the face. Now, to give background to this, it was Friday, and Gaza was under Israeli attack. The Imam did not draw a line between Israel and Jews. In other words, Jews in Morocco, for instance, are not responsible for that massacre. On the contrary, in that evening during the Shabbat service, there was a prayer for peace in the Middle East. Here is the thing, only few people know about this act: Jews praying for peace in Gaza. However, a lot of people think they know that Jews are evil. That is when I decided to bring that out from the synagogue where there were at most 15 people, to be shared with the world, or at least, with Moroccans.

Let me share a funny story with you. Usually, to mark the end of the Shabbat, three stars should appear in the sky. Jews in the synagogue of Fez are a bit spoiled; they depend on the evening call to prayer, saying that “this man knows!”

My Neighbor… The Jew is the product of this desire, to show this common life between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. I worked on this documentary with two veiled Muslim girls: Camellia Filali, and Afaf Lahbabi. They both joined in this ambition and journey of presenting a balanced view of Jews in Morocco. We opted for this title, in order to highlight the concept of Neighbor. The neighbor in both Islam, Judaism as well as in the Moroccan culture is almost hallowed. The Hebrew Bible says: “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” (Leviticus 19: 18) which includes the Muslim neighbor. There is a Hadith narrated by the Prophet of Islam that states “The best neighbour in Allah’s estimation is the one who is best to his neighbour.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Number 1287) and the famous Moroccan proverb declares “Choose your neighbor before your house.” With these thoughts, I will leave you to watch the film.

These were the very same words with which I presented My Neighbor… The Jew at the American Language Center of Fez. The hot room did not take away people’s interest in watching all the documentaries presented. After the presentation and  showing, the audience was given room to ask questions and react to the film. To my surprise, people reacted rather to my presentation. I was attacked for using the word “Imam” and one girl addressed me saying “you show two different groups, the Jews are praying for peace, and Muslims as evil” others agreed saying “you over generalized.” This article is basically a response to these remarks.

It was amusing to learn that these people who criticized my usage of the word “Imam” were rather concerned for the westerners who were present in the room. They believed that these westerners would get the idea that the Imam is an evil person, and then end up stereotyping Muslims. Wait a minute! The Imam is not an angel, is he? An Imam is someone who learns the whole Quran by heart, there are many Imams in the mosques who do not even have a decent education. And having them preaching to thousands of people, is dangerous!

I made sure before starting my presentation that I was going to share personal stories. I started with “I was walking by A mosque in my neighborhood…” I see no generalization here, I did not say “throughout Morocco” or “I have always heard Imams saying”, etc. Now to tell the full story. On a Friday, I was walking by the mosque in my neighborhood, and I was attracted by the large number of people praying, who even used the street as an extension of the mosque. The Imam/ preacher’s voice was loud enough (loud speakers) that it could be heard from miles away. I was amazed with the excitement that accompanied “Amen!” The Imam in a trembling voice, full of faith, was cursing the Jews. He was literally shouting “May God kill the Jews, May He pour his anger on them, May He orphan their children.” I understood that the sermon must be about the war on Gaza which was going on at that time (2008).

As long as there are feelings like that, there will be Muslims who feel responsible to “change” the world and make it better, and go to Jewish schools (like in Toulouse) and kill innocent people to please their leaders. The dangerous thing is that they believe that they are doing the right thing and maybe are even promised paradise by doing such acts. Let me remind you, that these are not purely Islamic acts, but Muslims’ acts, and there is a difference. Islam is not terrorism and it does not promote the killing of innocent people nor of the people of the book. It is rather the Muslim religious leaders who interpret the religion differently to satisfy their political agendas, or simply their hatred. The best example of a Muslim man to be talked about in this regard is the prophet Mohammad. Nobody can deny his peaceful relationships with the people of the book. There are several Hadiths regarding this. I recall one that says: if the Day of Judgment should arrive and if someone has a sapling in his hands, he should plant it first. One should deduce that the man who brought Islam to the world is against destruction. He is against such terrorist acts. So learn from him and follow his example. The Quran promotes respect to the people of the book, since they are the first to belong to a monotheist religion. The Quran clearly states that “If any one slew a person it would be as if he slew the whole people, and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5: 32) It is obvious that the religion is not to blame, but rather the people. I suggest that the imams, religious leaders, revise their sermons.

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On April 6th, 2011, Charles Windsor, the Prince of Wales, visited Fez, after meeting the day before with the king Mohamed VI and enjoying the historical monuments of Rabat. His visit to Fez was announced in the synagogue, where we were invited, because he was having a special visit to Ben Danan Synagogue, which is a 17th century synagogue.

Ben Danan synagogue was full of mostly Fessi Jews: Rabbis, ladies, gentlemen, young, old. All waiting for the coming of the Prince. Everyone looked elegant. I was sitting next to the cousin of the Prince. Mr. J. L. Norton, Esq. Does this name sound familiar? Well, yes. He is my friend Jess, who has had five grandfathers on the English throne. Since Jess looked very English and very elegant, everyone was asking me who he is. I kept answering, he is my friend, but soon preferred to answer a Professor of English, since they were willing to know more.

The synagogue was full of VIPs, including: Simon Levy, the director of the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, Armand Guigui, the president of the Jewish community of Fez, Sefrou and Oujda,  Ministers, national and international media, and later the Prince with his bodyguards. After waiting for a long time, the Prince finally comes. Everyone rose and directed their cameras to him. He was welcomed by Mr. Levy and Mr. Guigui. He received different gifts from the Jewish community: a book from Mr. Levy, a Shufar, and many others. He was introduced to some people, such as Rabbi Abraham Sabbagh, the Rabbi of Fez, Mr. Edmond Gabbay, the director of the Jewish museum of Fez, etc.

Then, he was invited to sit down to listen to the prayers after having been given a French translation. The prayers were for blessings, a prayer for the king Mohamed VI and the Moroccan Kingdom, a prayer for the Queen Elizabeth and her kingdom and then a prayer for the Prince.

The Prince came and shook our hands, I said “Good Afternoon Your Royal Highness, I am Youness Abeddour, Welcome to Morocco.” He smiled and said that we all speak  good English, when Samantha declared that they are American students, he asked what are they learning, she said Arabic. And then he moved to Jess, and asked what is he doing in Morocco, Jess answered that he is a professor of English and added that he is a Planteganet and then the Prince replied “Aren’t we all!”

Soon after he left, and we were invited for lunch. We went to Maimonid Center where we had our lunch, and marked a special day in our lives.



The Youtube link:

On the Moroccan News

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I am a postgraduate student, I admit that I am not well-versed in politics. But as a Moroccan citizen, I feel it is my duty to reflect on what’s going on in my country, following the news and eye-witnessing the events here, in my city Fez.



Morocco is a kingdom ruled by his majesty Mohamed VI since July 30th,1999 after his father the king Hassan II passed away on July 23th, 1999. The kingdom is 12 centuries old.


Following the news on what’s going on in North Africa and the Middle East, almost all these countries are against the regime including their presidents (and kings in some countries). We heard on TV the slogan “the people want the fall of the regime” which implies the expulsion of the president as well as the government.

Morocco is different, however. At this period, almost all Moroccans were sharing pictures of the king on facebook, with slogans such as “we support the king” and groups entitled “we love the king” & “The Nations burn themselves to expel their presidents, we (Moroccans) burn the world for our king Mohamed VI” and the like. I personally feel so proud of my country and of Moroccans, and proudly joined these groups.

Couple of weeks ago, there were some videos circulating of demonstrations that will take place on February 20th in Morocco. This date, according to them, has become linked with “freedom.” On Sunday, Feb, 20th, there were demonstrations in the capital (Rabat), Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh and other cities. Following the news, they were peaceful demonstrations. Interestingly, and unlike other countries, the demonstrators were lifting up the photos of the king Mohamed VI with slogans “Long live the king.”

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In the afternoon of the same day, I took my ID, iPod and went out to see what’s going on. Walking in the street, almost all stores and cafés were closed. There were few buses. I had to walk to Atlas (where there was a demonstration). On my way there, I met with some guys and women running, and they told me to go back. I asked some kids “what’s going on?” they replied “things are tense, there are troubles.” Since the way looked safe, I continued my walking. There was a group of people surrounding someone who was saying that “these (the demonstrators) do not understand” apparently he was commenting on the slogan they were using “the people want the fall of the regime.” He added that “we should support the king, the king is young and he is also with change.” I managed to film that. I understood that the demonstrators moved to the university, probably to gain more participants especially students (who were among the demonstrators too).

I continued my way to the court in Atlas where there was a demonstration in the morning, it was empty but there were police tracks. I met with a friend (who lives close to the university) and we were soon joined by an American friend. We went to the university and things were calm. We walked to the centre ville, things appeared quite and normal, till a group of young people (not more than a hundred) appeared shouting “the people want the fall of the regime” followed by “long live the king Mohamed VI.” I filmed them. They continued their way to avenue Hassan II. Soon after, police tracks came but did not interfere.

At the mean while, I texted my friend in Narjiss and he told me that there were some demonstrations along Trek Sefrou and they were very aggressive and “horrible.” This is mainly because there was a match in the stadium of Fez, and the viewers on their way back made lots of troubles and damages (probably out of fun?).

On my way back home, I saw a bank’s glass broken, the entrance door of a residence broken, dustbins thrown down. A foreigner was prevented from photographing fearing that he will misuse the photographs (as was previously done in Laayoun). The police were organizing the traffic. And demonstrators were still shouting…

Concerning the Media; it is misleading. As Sayf al-Islam al-Qadafi, al-Qadafi’s son, in a speech states that media has provided wrong information concerning what’s going on in Libya, and Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia. Yes, and Morocco is not Egypt, or Tunisia. A wrong media coverage, just to give a STORY, some news channels are giving the impression that “Moroccans are against the king” which is NOT true! We are with the king, we support the king, but it is the government which is corrupt. The king is a young man, we are a young people, we want a young (in age not in experience though) government and prime minister.

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Three days before we planned to go on a trip to Ifrane (about one hour drive from Fez). On Friday (Feb. 18th) at 9 AM I met with Yassine and we went to Driss’ place. We (actually Driss) drove to Simohamed’s (known as ElHamzaoui) place, and lastly Otman with his guitar.  We were well-equipped for a journey in the snow: buta (gas), tagine, meat, vegetables, a large carpet, cameras, and the guitar. So five of us headed to Ifrane. This was our first trip with Driss’ new car, knowing that he is a brand new driver (yet he approved to be a very professional one).

Loud music, dancing and pictures/ videos, this was the atmosphere in the car while on our way to spend a day in the snow. We stopped in Emmouzar to have breakfast: tea, coffee, milk and mlawi. Then we resumed our way. We were stopped by the police in the entrance of Ifrane for a regular check. Ifrane was filled with snow. So beautiful.

At last, we are playing with snow, a snowballs fight. A very stunning nature, all covered with very white snow, mountains, trees, and rocks. Everyone made his camera ready and started taking lots of pictures: jumping, throwing snowballs, being crazy, and also filming interviews with ElHamzaoui who acted as a Saudi coming to Morocco, Driss as his English translator, Otman as the interviews’ commentator, Yassine the saudi’s bodyguard and myself as the cameraman. We spent about an hour there to continue our day in Mishlifen.



Mishlifen is about 20 kms from Ifrane. It was, literally, all covered with snow. We enjoyed skiing from up the hill. Again, lots of pictures (well, this is a day that should be well-documented, you know!). After discovering the place more, we took our kitchen stuff and cleaned (with clean snow) vegetables, ElHamzaoui and Driss were the main cooks. The tagine, however, took more hours cooking than they expected so we had lunch at 5 PM!! It smelled very delicious (and also tasted). While waiting for the supposedly lunch, we (of course took pictures) played the guitar, composed our own songs (which were basically snow and tagine-centered). After enjoying the tagine, we cleaned the place and got ready to go.


In the end of the day, we were all freezing cold (for we got wet). We difficultly made our way back to where the car was stationed. Each one of us was doing something to get his body warm. Soon after, we got into the car, and to our surprise (or shock) the car did not start (apparently it was freezing too). The four of us were pushing the car (while Driss directing it and doing his best to start it), but no satisfactory result. Someone (for whom we asked help) made an attempt, but he just made things worse; he got the car into deep snow, and all of us again were trying to take it back to the road. Someone else stopped to help us do something about the car. After many attempts “it is moving.” We were all like YEY!!! That was around 6 PM, it was getting dark.


It was getting darker and darker, and the car’s battery getting lower and lower. After making it back to Ifrane, Emmouar, the car’s lights got off, oh ow!! Importantly, Driss (with his assistant ElHamzaoui) managed to drive without lights (in the dark) and luckily it was a full-moon night, sometimes depending on other cars’ lights. Yassine, Otman and I in the back were all focusing on the road, as if watching a film. We were not freaked out, still we did not want to die! But we all had trust in Driss’ abilities. We were praying not to be stopped by the police for a check, otherwise we will have problems and the car might not move again. We were stopped once though, but the policeman understood the situation.

When we almost arrived to the airport of Fez (which is about 15 kms to Fez) the car stopped, and it had no lights, this was dangerous but still!!! We managed to push it to a nearby café. Driss called a mechanic who is a friend of his. He came and we took the car to the garage and got a taxi back home.


Probably while reading the last three paragraphs you got the impression that we were upset or the like, not at all! We were still singing, taking pictures, and enjoying our experience, and congratulating Driss for his professional driving. I am writing about this journey on my blog because it was a special and a great one!


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