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Mercredi 21 Novembre 2012,

Mimouna Club Fez a eu le plaisir d’organiser une table ronde au Maimonide (Centre de la communauté juive de Fès) où l’invité d’honneur était le réalisateur du film documentaire « Tinghir – Jérusalem : les échos du Mellah » Kamal Hachkar.

Kamal Hachkar

C’était une journée exceptionnelle, les amis de ce club culturel ont joui le débat avec ce jeune réalisateur autodidacte qui est professeur d’Histoire-Géographie dans un des lycées de Paris. Ce dernier a voulu passer un message pacifique, en relatant l’exode massif des familles juives marocaines et notamment juives amazighes en Israël. Le réalisateur a fouillé dans le passé pour collecter plus d’informations sur cet exode (Les raisons et les conséquences) qui a laissé des cicatrices profondes dans l’histoire d’un Maroc multiple et pluriel.

La journée de ce Mercredi 21 Novembre a commencé par une petite tournée dans le centre Maimonide, la où les membres et les invités du club accompagnés de Kamel Hachkar, ont découvert une salle que je dirais «nostalgique», pleins de photos sur les murs qui témoignent d’une époque merveilleuse, des visites de personnalités célèbres représentant les deux communautés juive et musulmane de la ville de Fès, une époque aujourd’hui révolue.

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En commençant par une présentation générale du Club Mimouna Fez, les participants de cette table ronde étaient excités à discuter et à avoir plus d’informations sur ce film documentaire et surtout, ils ont voulu savoir les raisons qui ont poussé ce réalisateur à travailler sur ce sujet et sur Tinghir particulièrement. Quant a lui Kamal Hachkar, il était très généreux sur ce niveau, il a expliqué davantage l’idée de ce film documentaire, en le présentant comme moyen important pour passer des messages de paix et de tolérance et surtout, pour encourager les Marocains à s’ouvrir sur la culture, les arts, et les identités de leurs pays.

table ronde

Kamal Hachkar, a mentionné des noms qui ont encouragé et soutenu la réalisation de ce travail, dont feu Simon Levy. Il a ajouté que ce travail a été le fruit de plusieurs années de recherches un peu partout dans les archives de certaines villes (Rabat, Casablanca, Fès, Nantes, Jérusalem etc.) Il a parlé aussi de multiples étapes qu’il a traversé pour pouvoir réaliser cette oeuvre à la manière qu’il voulait. Avec enthousiasme et bonne volonté, ce jeune Franco-Marocain a su réaliser ses objectifs, et je cite quelques uns : l’encouragement des jeunes à la préservation et la protection du patrimoine culturel Marocain. Et l’appel à la mobilisation des jeunes pour construire un monde où la paix et la tolérance ont une place indispensable.

Après avoir traité plusieurs sujets concernant ce film documentaire qui a récolté plusieurs prix nationaux et internationaux, l’ensemble des participants à cette table ronde se sont mis d’accord que l’acceptation d’autrui malgré ses différences, est un moyen indispensable pour que la paix et la tolérance jaillissent dans les cœurs des gens, et qu’il faut obligatoirement éduquer les générations qui viennent à conserver et prendre soin de leur héritage et histoire.

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Le patrimoine culturel Marocain nous appartient à nous tous, juifs et musulmans, arabes et amazighs, Préservons le!

 

— Je tiens à remercier au nom de l’équipe organisatrice et aux noms de tous les amis du Club Mimouna, M. Armand Guigui le président de la communauté juive de Fès, Sefrou, et Oujda qui nous a donné la chance d’avoir un local où l’évènement s’est déroulé.

 

Récit par Bouchra Choukrani

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نظم أعضاء فرع مدينة فاس لنادي ميمونة يوم الأحد11 نونبر 2012 أمسية ثقافية داخل مقهى الساعةCafé Clockالمتواجدة بالمدينة القديمة، نبشت في ذاكرة التاريخ البعيد القريب، محاولة أن تكشف بعض أسرار الهوية المغربية اقتصارا على نشاطين اثنين.

كان أول النشاطين عرضا للفيلم المغربي “وداعا أمهات” للمخرج محمد إسماعيل،وهوفيلم يناقش قضية رحيل اليهود المغاربة إلى إسرائيل في فترة الستينات من القرن الماضي، ويميط اللثام عن أواصر المحبة التي كانت تجمع بين اليهود والمسلمين داخل بلد آمن منذ عهد قديم بمبادئ التعدد الثقافي ووحدة الوطن.

 وقدمت نائبة رئيس (ن.م.ف)*الفيلمَ بكلمات وضعت الجمهور داخل السياق التاريخي والاجتماعي لكل من الشريط ووقائعه، تاركة للحضور فرصة اكتشاف الأحداث والتفاعل معها، ليتم استطلاع وجهات نظرهم فيما بعد.

وعقب انتهاء العرض الذي تم بسينما دار الساعة في جو تراثي يموج بعبق الذكريات وهمسات الحنين، انتقل الحاضرون إلى النشاط الثاني الذي كان عبارة عن جلسة نقاش موسع حول الفيلم وحيثياته ومجرياته.

وترأس الجلسة رئيس (ن.م.ف) منطلقا من التعريف بالنادي وبأهدافه،ومقدما نفسه حتى يتسنى للكل أن يقدموا أنفسهم، ويخوضوا إذ ذاك في جو حوار انطبعت أطوارُه بصبغة التفاهم والرضى والاختلاف المحمود الذي لا يجر إلى صراع ولا يؤدي إلى جدال عقيم.ودارت معظم موضوعات النقاش حول آراء الحاضرين في بعض مقاطع الشريط بما في ذلك جوانبه التقنية.

و كان هذا اللقاء فسحة حملت الجميع على بساط الشوق إلى الماضي المشترك المتجذر في صميم الهوية المغربية الموقنة بالتعدد والمؤمنة بالآخر وبضرورة وجوده من أجل وجود الذات وصيرورتها.

ومهما كان الأمر، فقد أفضى الحديث إلى إزالة بعض اللبس الذي يشوب اللمحات التاريخية، وإلى ملئ شيء من الفراغ المتعلق بقضية الهوية ومفهوم الوطن في المغرب، مما جعل الحاضرين يطلبون من تلقاء أنفسهم تنظيم لقاءات ثقافية أخرى مشابهة، وأنشطة تربوية تمحو من الأذهان الصور الجاهزة والأفكار النمطية، وتحول دون ضياع كل من العقل البشري وقيمة الإنسان المثلى بين متاهات المواقف الإيديولوجية والأهداف الفردية.

ن.م.ف): نادي ميمونة فاس)*

بقلم  حميد الطالبي

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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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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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Are there Jews in Morocco? This is the first question that documentary maker, Youness Abeddour poses to local Moroccans in his documentary titled “Moroccan Judaism: A Culture in Danger.” The answers to this seemingly simple question, leads Abeddour into a rich discussion about Moroccan Judaism, in which he addresses many topics such as the history of Jews in Morocco, and questions of culture, language and identity.

Abeddour’s documentary is laid out on such way that one can understand how the past relates to the present and how an integral part of the citizenry, Moroccan Jews, came to be a part of the Moroccan landscape. Additionally, Abeddour’s documentary attempts to shed light on a few key terms, such as Zionism, that are often confounded and which often dilute such crucial conversations. Abeddour uses a variety of mediums to explore this topic, such as expert testimonials, documentary clips, and photos and through the intersections of these three means, a dynamic presentation emerges where the viewer is probed to think critically and deeply about the role of this underrepresented community, including their history and their contributions to Moroccan culture.

Of particular value to this discussion is Abeddour’s segment on how “Moroccanness,” is conceptualized as a function religion and language. This adds an interesting dimension in understanding how Moroccan Jews may have to grapple with their own identities as both Moroccan and Jewish, particularly those who speak a language other than Arabic.

Abeddour has done a great service to representing Moroccan Judaism and this documentary is critical for broadening the discussion on a minority population within Morocco. Further, this documentary is ever more important because it gives voice to Moroccan Jews, where such voices are underrepresented, and often neglected or silenced because of the political climate of the Middle East.

While the documentary was very interesting and informative, the length of the documentary was short, thus shortchanging many of the important topics that were presented in this documentary. Therefore, rather than discussing few topics in great length, many topics were addressed briefly. While this meant that the viewer emerged with more general information about this topic, it would have been interesting to see this documentary delve more deeply into specific topics such as Moroccan Jewish identity. Moreover, it would have been interesting to include more personal perspectives on how individual Moroccan Jewish perceive their identity and role in Moroccan culture and how this might relate to their conceptualization of citizenship and belongingness. That said, this documentary was definitely worth watching and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gaining some preliminary knowledge about Moroccan Jews.

By Maha Hilal

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August, 2011.

          “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.”

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