Moroccan press attachee whitewashes Moshe film


Trailer for ‘Ou vas-tu Moshe?’ – a refreshingly objective film about the exodus of Moroccan Jews

It’s not often you see a lady wearing a Muslim headscarf at a synagogue, but the press attachee at the Moroccan embassy in London was not afraid to stand out from the crowd at last week’s screening of the film “Ou vas-tu Moshe?” at the Porat Yosef synagogue in Hendon.

The film, made in 2007 by Hassan Benjelloun, recently featured in the first Maghrebi film festival at Ashdod, is a sympathetic look at the exodus of Jews from Morocco in the 1960s seen through the eyes of a non-Jew. The screening was organised byHarif, together with the Porat Yosef (‘Moroccan’) synagogue, and attracted about 70 people.

At the centre of the plot is Shlomo, the last Jew in Beijad. The Muslim fundamentalists are keen to pay Shlomo to leave, so they can close down the town’s bar, while a prospective buyer is equally desperate for Shlomo to stay. The director humanises the Jews, is critical of the Moroccan government for ransoming its Jews against wheat and trucks, and accurately describes the harsh conditions awaiting them in Israel. All in all, this film gives an objective view of the subject matter, refreshingly free of propaganda.

When asked for her reaction during the post-film discussion, the young lady in the headscarf said she would have liked the film to show more of the ‘coexistence’ between Muslims and Jews. She herself had grown up with Jews and Christians and had even learnt Hebrew at the Alliance Jewish school in Casablanca.

The next day, an unsigned review appeared in Au fait Maroc, an online newspaper. It was redolent of nostalgia and praised the film for its references to the ‘harmonious coexistence’ that had prevailed between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. It quoted the co-founder of Harif, Lyn Julius: ” The Jews of Morocco are nostalgic for that perfect coexistence with their Muslim co-citizens. They continue to feel a deep attachment to their country of origin, Morocco.”

Lyn Julius reacted with disbelief. “The young lady from the Moroccan embassy put words into my mouth,” she complained. ” The film-maker was obviously very worried about the influence of fundamentalism on Morocco. The presence of the Jews in a sense guaranteed the rights and freedoms of others : the freedom to drink, dance in mixed company and enjoy life. The Jews’ departure puts these freedoms and rights at risk. I am distressed that this important message was completely lost on this young lady.”

The young lady may have been bold enough to wear a headscarf in a synagogue, but her unsigned whitewash in Au Fait Maroc is the height of cowardice: it hides inconvenient truths, insults the work of a brave and honest film-maker, and does nothing to advance understanding between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. Will the readership of Au Fait Maroc read between the lines? If things were so wonderful between Muslims and Jews, why did Jews leave in such numbers?

One Comment

  • And if the Jews left in such great numbers, it means that after all things were not as fantastic as they want us to believe!

    I sincerely hope that one day they will make a film with our story (Jews from Egypt) preferably directed by a Jew like Chouraqui.

    sultana latifa


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