- Title: MOROCCO: Museum celebrates Moroccan Jewry
- Date: 9th December 2010
- Summary: CASABLANCA, MOROCCO (DECEMBER 5, 2010) (REUTERS) FILM DIRECTOR KAMAL HANKAR TALKING TO TWO MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE (SOUNDBITE) (French) FILM DIRECTOR KAMAL HANKAR SAYING: "The only remaining traces of the old Jewish presence are cemeteries and graves which mean dead people. I wanted to find those Jews who lived in Tinghir with my grandparents. This is why I went to Israel to meet those Jews who were traders and sang Ahidous. The objective was to show this melting pot where Jews and Berbers lived and make the new generations aware of it because they did not have the opportunity to live this cultural diversity in Morocco."
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2010 21:19
- Location: Morocco, Morocco
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA6083PKZ772RN7O49N7YA32U3Q
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca has since 1997 celebrated the history, religion and cultural traditions of Moroccan Jews, whose numbers have dwindled in the North African country from half a million to under 5,000 since the mid 1950s.
The ethnological centre, supported by the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage, was the first of its kind in the Arab world and displays artefacts of Jewish domestic and religious life, acts as a documentary archive and also curates exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography.
Museum director Simon Levy, a retired university professor who was a member of the Moroccan Communist Party and was imprisoned many times for his ideas during the reign of late King Hassan II, has called for the history books in the Moroccan curriculum to be revised. He says they ignore a large chunk of Moroccan history in which Jews played an important role.
"This museum was essential because during the last forty years, Jews were ignored while they are everywhere living and working with their other countrymen. But school books, mainly history books simply erased the Moroccan Jews. This is impossible and unacceptable at the same time. No nation could simply obliterate one of its constituents in its history books. So, it was essential to show, but in a nice way and without creating problems, that we exist concretely and the best way to do it, is to have this museum," Levy told Reuters TV.
Moroccan Jews, including those who remained in the country as well as those who emigrated to Israel or other countries, remain closely attached to the North African country where they lived for centuries.
Nearly one million Jews of Moroccan origin now live in Israel. Some of them came from the small town of Tinghir in the Atlas Mountains, and many they haven't forgotten their roots.
Kamal Hankar, a young French-Moroccan filmmaker, went to Israel to trace the Jews who lived with his Muslim grandparents in Tinghir (580,00 km south east of Rabat) before emigrating to Israel in 1967 after the Six Day war.
His trip was a fruitful one. Hankar met many Jews from Tinghir, now in their sixties and seventies but still speaking Arabic and Berber and retaining fond memories of their childhood in Morocco. The result was the documentary film, "The Jews of Tinghir", premiered at the Jewish museum on Sunday (December 5).
Like many Moroccans of his age, Hankar had never met a Jew in his native town, the only evidence of their presence remaining in derelict graves. In making the film, Hankar said he wanted to tell the younger generations that for centuries, Jews, Arabs and Berbers lived in harmony in Morocco.
"The only remaining traces of the old Jews presence are cemeteries and graves which mean dead people. I wanted to find those Jews who lived in Tinghir with my grandparents. This is why I went to Israel to meet those Jews who were traders and sang Ahidous. The objective was to show this melting pot where Jews and Berbers lived and make the new generations aware of it because they did not have the opportunity to live this cultural diversity in Morocco," Hankar said.
Today, most Morroccan Jews live in the larger urban centres, such as Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Marrakech, but for centuries they were spread across all Morocco. Many of those who have emigrated have not forgotten their ancestral roots. Thousands of those who settled in Israel return to Morocco for religious festivals or as tourists.
One Moroccan Jew who left as a child for France remains strongly attached to the land of his fathers.
Andre Elbaz is now a world-renowned painter, but at 76-years-old, his heart remains in his native El Jadida (200km south of Rabat). Promoting a mongraph of his work at the museum, he told Reuters TV:
"Morocco's air is unique. Believe me, I visited many places in the world and everywhere I go, I miss Morocco's air. I am passionate about my country. I return to it frequently and I hope to return to it for good. I also hope that my children will come back to it as well as their children to carry on the work done by me father and grandfather and by myself".
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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