Is the Moroccan Jew happier outside Morocco?

How do Moroccan Jews feel about their country of birth and their new countries? In this fascinating paper by Emanuela Trevisan Shemi in HaSepharadi, the author concludes that Jews who moved to Israel are more likely to be nostalgic for their country of birth; Jews who left for France, Canada or the US less so. My explanation is : in Israel, a country of Jews,  citizens accentuate their roots and ethnic differences,  whereas in the West, new immigrants are drawn into assimilating into the majority culture.

. Read more at:
https://hasepharadi.com/2019/02/17/from-heritage-to-the-construction-of-a-collective-memory-of-the-moroccan-jewish-diaspora/?fbclid=IwAR2xOiOdfg5EKQmK22cX9tiSPA_hHJJch4z_mZ5_dYNlRPsOZKUptlGsf4E

From Heritage to the
Construction of a Collective Memory of the Moroccan Jewish Diaspora.
Read more at:
https://hasepharadi.com/2019/02/17/from-heritage-to-the-construction-of-a-collective-memory-of-the-moroccan-jewish-diaspora/?fbclid=IwAR2xOiOdfg5EKQmK22cX9tiSPA_hHJJch4z_mZ5_dYNlRPsOZKUptlGsf4E

(With thanks: Isaac)

Jewish quarter in Fez

Moroccan Jews that have emigrated to Israel often evoke images of
separation and amputation from the motherland, feeling as if they belong to two
cities, that of birth and that of death. Both cities are joined by the same
golden threads, to a life divided by exile in the homeland, ruled by feelings
of sobriety and tenderness; and exile in Israel, ruled by intoxication and
excitement, culminating in an indelible love for one’s city of origin, like an
infant being nurtured by its mother. Conversely, the writers that did not
emigrate to Israel typically dwell more on the traumatic event of the departure
itself and less on any nostalgic feeling for the city of their birth. For
instance, David Bensoussan, originally from Mogador, who later emigrated to
Canada, reconstructs in his historical novel, The Rosette of King Solomon, the
generational line of Jews living in Morocco.

He connects the Jews of Morocco
directly to King Solomon, symbolized by a six-petal rosette. Each of these
petals represent a generation who descended from Solomon, portraying their own
unique story, handed down from generation to generation until our own times.
Mogador, the author’s birthplace, receives great attention, as does the story
of the fifty martyrs of Oufran, a tale of violence and abuse towards Jews in a
small settlement in the south of Morocco. Only the Jews have retained a memory
of what occurred there and carried that memory wherever they went. The question
of why the Jews left Morocco, which is still a matter of scientific debate, is
a thorny and complex issue.

 In an attempt to provide some answers, Bensoussan
has two young men, one Muslim and one Jewish, converse. From this conversation
their differing stances are expressed. In their exchange, feelings of nostalgia
are attributed above all to the Muslim, who feels the shadows of the Jewish
past weigh on him, “the past of our town haunts us”: “I can conceive that the
French have returned to their home country,” says Mounir. “But why have the
Jews left the town? They felt at home and lived in friendship with us!” “They
have nonetheless gone back to their homeland”, says Elika, “but how can we
speak of homeland? They had lived on Moroccan soil for more than two millennia.
The past of our town haunts us,” declares Mounir. Many of our elders talk of
nostalgia of the town “at the time of the Jews.” Your ghosts gnaw in our walls.
(p.230)

As with Bensoussan, the next writer expressed ambivalence towards his
hometown. Jacob Cohen, a writer born in Meknes in 1944 and a resident of
Montreal, Berlin, Casablanca, and Paris, tells in his novel The Danger of
Climbing onto the Terrace
  of the kidnapping of a little girl, whose
kidnappers try to convert her to Islam. In a novel that touches upon this
delicate and controversial theme of the 1960s and 70s, the author grasps the
opportunity to express his own nostalgia for Meknes: “Did people live in peace
in Meknes?” “Well, to tell the truth … it was peace in fear but nonetheless
peace … it was also more cheerful, warmer … and in this vapid life (in Israel)
… even the parties had no taste. Have you forgotten Meknes? The clandestine
departures, the humiliations…” (p.12).

Accordingly, as someone who did not
emigrate to Israel, Cohen expresses criticism of the migratory experiences of
Moroccan Jews towards their mythical homeland: They had left the mellah because
we had nothing to expect from the Muslims, despite the fine words, except to
find themselves in a similar situation, openly exposed to the sarcasm of
humorists and politicians. The Moroccans again lowered their gaze, this time
before other Jews who believed in Western superiority… “The portrait of the
colonized” described him, well fitted, this has become an intrinsic part of his
being. Ashamed of his origins, he would say he was from Marseilles. (p. 35)

The
Jewish Quarter in Meknes:
For Ruth Knafo Setton, who was born in Safi and
emigrated as a child to the United States at the end of the 1960s, her past is
colored black but splashed with color: “When I look back into our past as
Moroccan Jews, it’s dark, like the mellah. A dark line, broken by glimpses of
sun”. In the novel, written in English, Setton revisits the story of Sol
Hatchuel, known to Muslims as Lalla Suleika (“Holy Lady Suleika”), the girl
from Tangiers who in 1834 chose martyrdom rather than surrender her faith. In
the novel, it is a return journey to Morocco which recounts the weight of
family memory. The environment described is that of the Moroccan Jews belonging
to the upper class, who remained in Morocco after many left in the 1950s and
60s. In this context, anyone who stayed behind maintained a disillusioned
vision of Israel, which no longer corresponded to that of a mythical country
dreamed of for centuries. The only people who continued to dream were the older
generation, subjugated by a still memory and image.

This feeling of
disillusionment is evident in the writings of Daniel Sibony, a French
psychoanalyst born in Marrakesh in 1942 and later relocating to Paris. Sibony
exhibits feelings of belonging to his native city. These emotions fed on the
roots of the Diaspora and were built on the hopes surrounding the imminent
departure from Morocco: As for me, I’m back in my native city where I never
felt at home and here I once again have the impression of only feeling “at
home” when I’m due to leave; throughout all my childhood I have felt it within
my body… it is one exile which takes over from another, where we were not at
home. In Marrakesh we were deeply “rooted” and these roots were made of exile,
just by the fact of being there. It was exile which, although represented as a
delightful, festive act, remained nonetheless an exile: “our exile was of those
which are made of uncertain little acts of home-building and are delightful,
festive, radiant havens (p.15).”

 The narrator objects to those Jews who stayed
in Marrakesh when they declare themselves satisfied and lacking in nothing; a
nothing that has permeated throughout their entire lives: “We have everything
here (tbark llah  ̶  thanks be to God); we lack nothing.” Yet the nothing lacking
seems to have invaded everything. The emptiness I encountered was filled by our
presence ̶ our gestures, our bustling activity, our arguments, our parties and
our desire to leave. (p.144)

In conclusion, it would seem that the phrase
uttered by Bensoussan, “How happy within himself is the Moroccan Jew and how
infinitely happier he is outside Morocco,” may be true above all for those Jews
who have left Morocco for Europe, Canada or the United States and less so for
the Jews who emigrated to Israel. The feeling of a double sense of belonging,
on the one hand to one’s city and country of origin and on the other to the
country of arrival, as described, are noticeably present among those who have
emigrated to Israel.

 There is an ideology of denying the memory of the past,
denying the Arab language and culture, or put simply denying the possibility of
having a dual Jewish-Arab identity. Despite this, the past seems even more
ready to rise up in the generation that left Morocco as children or
adolescents, and contribute to a diaspora identity within Israel, forming a
“Little Morocco” in Israel.

 Read article in full

Moroccan Jews that have
emigrated to Israel often evoke images of separation and amputation
from the motherland, feeling as if they belong to two cities, that of
birth and that of death. Both cities are joined by the same golden
threads, to a life divided by exile in the homeland, ruled by feelings
of sobriety and tenderness; and exile in Israel, ruled by intoxication
and excitement, culminating in an indelible love for one’s city of
origin, like an infant being nurtured by its mother.

Conversely, the writers that did not emigrate to Israel typically dwell
more on the traumatic event of the departure itself and less on any
nostalgic feeling for the city of their birth. For instance, David
Bensoussan, originally from Mogador, who later emigrated to Canada,
reconstructs in his historical novel, The Rosette of King Solomon,6 the
generational line of Jews living in Morocco. He connects the Jews of
Morocco directly to King Solomon, symbolized by a six-petal rosette.
Each of these petals represent a generation who descended from Solomon,
portraying their own unique story, handed down from generation to
generation until our own times. Mogador, the author’s birthplace,
receives great attention, as does the story of the fifty martyrs of
Oufran, a tale of violence and abuse towards Jews in a small settlement
in the south of Morocco. Only the Jews have retained a memory of what
occurred there and carried that memory wherever they went.

The question of why the Jews left Morocco, which is still a matter of
scientific debate, is a thorny and complex issue. In an attempt to
provide some answers, Bensoussan has two young men, one Muslim and one
Jewish, converse. From this conversation their differing stances are
expressed. In their exchange, feelings of nostalgia are attributed above
all to the Muslim, who feels the shadows of the Jewish past weigh on
him, “the past of our town haunts us”:

“I can conceive that the French have returned to their home country,”
says Mounir. “But why have the Jews left the town? They felt at home and
lived in friendship with us!”
“They have nonetheless gone back to their homeland”, says Elika, “but
how can we speak of homeland? They had lived on Moroccan soil for more
than two millennia. The past of our town haunts us,” declares Mounir.
Many of our elders talk of nostalgia of the town “at the time of the
Jews.” Your ghosts gnaw in our walls. (p.230)

As with Bensoussan, the next writer expressed ambivalence towards his
hometown. Jacob Cohen, a writer born in Meknes in 1944 and a resident of
Montreal, Berlin, Casablanca, and Paris, tells in his novelThe Danger
of Climbing onto the Terrace 7 of the kidnapping of a little girl, whose
kidnappers try to convert her to Islam. In a novel that touches upon
this delicate and controversial theme of the 1960s and 70s, the author
grasps the opportunity to express his own nostalgia for Meknes:

“Did people live in peace in Meknes?”
“Well, to tell the truth … it was peace in fear but nonetheless peace …
it was also more cheerful, warmer … and in this vapid life (in Israel) …
even the parties had no taste. Have you forgotten Meknes? The
clandestine departures, the humiliations…” (p.12).

Accordingly, as someone who did not emigrate to Israel, Cohen expresses
criticism of the migratory experiences of Moroccan Jews towards their
mythical homeland:

They had left the mellah because we had nothing to expect from the
Muslims, despite the fine words, except to find themselves in a similar
situation, openly exposed to the sarcasm of humorists and politicians.
The Moroccans again lowered their gaze, this time before other Jews who
believed in Western superiority… “The portrait of the colonized”
described him, well fitted, this has become an intrinsic part of his
being. Ashamed of his origins, he would say he was from Marseilles. (p.
35)
The Jewish Quarter in Meknes

For Ruth Knafo Setton, who was born in Safi and emigrated as a child to
the United States at the end of the 1960s, her past is colored black but
splashed with color: “When I look back into our past as Moroccan Jews,
it’s dark, like the mellah. A dark line, broken by glimpses of sun”8. In
the novel, written in English, Setton revisits the story of Sol
Hatchuel, known to Muslims as Lalla Suleika (“Holy Lady Suleika”), the
girl from Tangiers who in 1834 chose martyrdom rather than surrender her
faith. In the novel, it is a return journey to Morocco which recounts
the weight of family memory. The environment described is that of the
Moroccan Jews belonging to the upper class, who remained in Morocco
after many left in the 1950s and 60s. In this context, anyone who stayed
behind maintained a disillusioned vision of Israel, which no longer
corresponded to that of a mythical country dreamed of for centuries. The
only people who continued to dream were the older generation,
subjugated by a still memory and image.

This feeling of disillusionment is evident in the writings of Daniel
Sibony, a French psychoanalyst born in Marrakesh in 1942 and later
relocating to Paris. Sibony exhibits feelings of belonging to his native
city. These emotions fed on the roots of the Diaspora and were built on
the hopes surrounding the eminent departure from Morocco:

As for me, I’m back in my native city where I never felt at home and
here I once again have the impression of only feeling “at home” when I’m
due to leave; throughout all my childhood I have felt it within my
body… it is one exile which takes over from another, where we were not
at home. In Marrakesh we were deeply “rooted” and these roots were made
of exile, just by the fact of being there9.

It was exile which, although represented as a delightful, festive act,
remained nonetheless an exile: “our exile was of those which are made of
uncertain little acts of home-building and are delightful, festive,
radiant havens (p.15).”
The narrator objects to those Jews who stayed in Marrakesh when they
declare themselves satisfied and lacking in nothing; a nothing that has
permeated throughout their entire lives:

“We have everything here (tbark llah ̶ thanks be to God); we lack
nothing.” Yet the nothing lacking seems to have invaded everything. The
emptiness I encountered was filled by our presence ̶ our gestures, our
bustling activity, our arguments, our parties and our desire to leave.
(p.144)

In conclusion, it would seem that the phrase uttered by Bensoussan, “How
happy within himself is the Moroccan Jew and how infinitely happier he
is outside Morocco,” may be true above all for those Jews who have left
Morocco for Europe, Canada or the United States and less so for the Jews
who emigrated to Israel. The feeling of a double sense of belonging, on
the one hand to one’s city and country of origin and on the other to
the country of arrival, as described, are noticeably present among those
who have emigrated to Israel. There is an ideology of denying the
memory of the past, denying the Arab language and culture, or put simply
denying the possibility of having a dual Jewish-Arab identity. Despite
this, the past seems even more ready to rise up in the generation that
left Morocco as children or adolescents, and contribute to a diaspora
identity within Israel, forming a “Little Morocco” in Israel.
. Read more at:
https://hasepharadi.com/2019/02/17/from-heritage-to-the-construction-of-a-collective-memory-of-the-moroccan-jewish-diaspora/?fbclid=IwAR2xOiOdfg5EKQmK22cX9tiSPA_hHJJch4z_mZ5_dYNlRPsOZKUptlGsf4E

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