Friday, June 13, 2008

Jews in Morocco

Posted is a nice little piece in the JPost about Jews in Morocco.

I studied in Morocco some seven years ago. I was there not long after 9/11 and while the Intifada was still raging daily. It was a fascinating experience, and I really loved my time there. I lived in Rabat with a Moroccan Muslim family who were wonderful to me. I still keep in contact with my host brothers. I spent passover there, and hiked around the Middle Atlas mountains with a kilo of matzah in my backpack, and shared it with everyone I met. I also used to make people laugh when I would ask for directions to the synagogue in Rabat, "ou le mosque pour juifs?" (Where is the mosque for Jews?)

One of my favorite anecdotes involves a close shave. I used to go on a weekly trip to an old barber who would shave me for a few dirhams. During Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, the campaign that followed the Passover bombings in Netanya, there was a huge pro-Palestinian rally in Rabat. I decided to be out of the city that day, since I was already away for the weekend. The day when I returned, there were stickers all over the place of the Dome of the Rock, including in the barber shop where I would get shaved. I noticed this sticker in the mirror behind me as the barber had the straight razor to my throat. Gulp.

Meanwhile, as the news played on the tv above, al-Jazeera began broadcasting a clip of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This led to the barber to grumble under his breath about Sharon, all while he had the straight razor to my throat. My shave ended with a few drops of sweat on my brow, but nary a nick.

I have lots of other little anecdotes about being a Jewish Zionist living in Morocco, but I will share them in due time.