Jewish life in Morocco


By Michel Hoebink

Unique photographs of Jewish life in southern Morocco in the 1950s are on display at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. Today, only dilapidated synagogues and empty cemeteries are the reminders of what was once a vibrant community.

The photographer Elias Harrus (1919-2008) took pictures portraying Jewish life in southern Morocco in the 1950s, before most of the country's Jews migrated en masse to Israel. The Dutch photographer Pauline Prior travelled to the same locations last year to photograph what remains of this heritage. Her photos provide a dramatic contrast. "My grandmother told me that Jewish and Berber women used to work the land together," says the secretary of Amsterdam's district council of Zeeburg, Fatima Elatik, at the opening of the exhibition. "They spoke the same language, had the same culture and sang the same songs. I always found it a very special story." The Jews lived around 2,000 years in Morocco, usually in harmony with their Berber neighbours. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948 most of the 270,000 Moroccan Jews have emigrated to the Jewish state. Only a small community remains. Today most Jews live in the large cities in the north of the country. The first wave of migration was underway when Elias Harrus took his photographs. Harrus worked for much of his life for schools founded by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, a Jewish educational organisation dedicated to the emancipation of Jews in Muslim countries by advocating a modern, secular education.

As an insider his photographs document the daily life of the Jews of southern Morocco in intimate detail. The organiser of the exhibition, Sulimat Cohen, says Eliat Harrus' photographs form a unique testimony. "They recorded the life of a community just before it disappeared." The photographs testify to the good relations between the Jews and the Berbers. They had daily contact and depended on one another financially. You see Jews working in the trades in which they specialised, such as tanning leather and jewellery making. They fashioned the famous silver ornaments which Berber women in southern Morocco would wear on their wedding day. There are also portraits of Sunday markets where Jews and Muslims would work side by side. Sulimat Cohen: "The Jews often worked as merchants who would travel through the mountains from market to market.This would have been very dangerous for the Berbers, since the different clans were often at odds. However the Jews enjoyed protection from everyone due to their important economic function.

"Cohen points to comments made by a Berber merchant in southern Morocco which were cited by English writer John Waterbury: "Before the arrival of the French we were always fighting one another. However there were two rules which everyone abided by. We did not tolerate prostitution among our women. And whatever we did to one another, we would never touch a hair on a Jew's head." What is left of the Jewish presence in southern Morocco? In 2008 the Jewish Historical Museum sent the Dutch photographer Pauline Prior to the Atlas mountain range and the Sahara to look for traces. Her photographs are on display alongside those of Harrus. Harrus' portraits are full of people, while those of Prior are silent and empty. You see dilapidated synagogues, a desolate Jewish neighbourhood and an unused cemetery. However the cemeteries - especially the graves of holy rabbis - are the most lively places photographed by Prior. Moroccan Jews revere holy men who worked wonders during their lives the same as Moroccan Muslims do. The graves of holy men are scattered across Moroccow, many of them Jewish.

Moroccan Jews who live in Israel frequently visit some of them. Amsterdam district council secretary Fatima Elatik says most young people of Moroccan origin in the Netherlands have little knowledge of the close contact which Jews and Muslims once had in Morocco. She hopes that many children of Moroccan origin will visit the exhibition.

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Royal Air Morocco Shamed for Bad Customer Service


The European Commission on Thursday named and shamed few airlines for failing to address concerns about misleading customers over website ticket prices. The EU's aviation blacklist for online ticket sales included Royal Air Maroc which failed to respond to the commission's 18-month crackdown into misleading claims on airline and air ticket websites in 15 EU countries plus Norway.

"This is not just a signal that they have some problems, it is a signal that these companies do not care too much to reply to the consumers' concerns," EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told a press conference.

As a result of an EU "enforcement investigation" started in September 2007, 115 airline websites out of the 137 investigated have been corrected. Among the points consumers still need to look out for are unclear price information, whereby extra non-optional charges are added throughout the booking process, sometimes at the end.

There can also be problems with availability of an eye-catching offer -- one which may not have been really available in the first place. Other problems can include contract terms written in a different language, prices given in an unfamiliar currency and no indication of how to contact the website making the offer.

Iberia, SAS and TAP, Finnair, Air Malta and Tarom were among those getting a clean bill of health from Brussels. Lufthansa, Alitalia, Aer Lingus, Austrian Airlines, Lot, Brussels Airlines, Swiss, Ryanair and Easyjet were on a list of those which have promised to correct existing problems.

While welcoming the improvements, Kuneva stressed that "we do not take anything for granted. "We will watch carefully what happens next but I think it is a very positive sign for the future," she said. The European Commission hopes that all companies involved will put their websites straight, or at least commit to doing so, by the end of June, after which remedial measures could be taken.


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Make It Matter: Sea Change


By Petra Guglielmetti

Some of the kids have never felt sand between their toes, inspected a seashell, or excavated a moat around a sand castle. They've never sprinted headlong into a flock of seagulls to watch them flap and scatter. Some have never even seen waves. It's not that they live so far inland. They're from the Philadelphia area, only an hour's drive from the beach.

Yet their summers more likely involve city recreation centers, steamy blacktop, or a splash in a public pool or a fire hydrant turned fountain.

Vince and Jeanie Hubach always wanted to share the sandier side of life with others. The couple, who grew up in small towns outside Philly and spent their childhood summers on Jersey Shore beaches, founded and run a nonprofit called Angels on the Atlantic that makes it easy—and free—for local city kids to visit the beach.

Photographed By Metin Oner
Vince and Jeanie Hubach love sharing the shore with others.
The idea for the organization began to germinate 16 years ago. Vince, who buys and sells restaurant equipment, was setting up pizzerias and delis in poorer sections of cities like Camden, Philadelphia, and Trenton. "Kids would be hanging around while I was working," he recalls. "I'd say, 'Why don't you go to the beach?' They just looked at me like, 'The beach?' "

Vince shared those stories with Jeanie. "Without children of our own, we wanted to do something for these kids, but in our own way," Vince says. In 2004, they bought a two-acre beachfront property in Ocean City, New Jersey. It came with a restaurant, which they ran as a breakfast and lunch spot, putting profits toward getting their nonprofit on its feet. (It was their first attempt at running a restaurant, but a local magazine named it one of the best places for breakfast.) Within two years, they had generated enough cash and lined up enough volunteers to start inviting urban community organizations to bring kids to their swath of public beach for a day.

At first, the groups that Jeanie called were skeptical. Two strangers would provide beach tags, bathing suits and sunscreen, T-shirts and towels, shade tents, and all the hot dogs, hamburgers, and Popsicles the kids could consume? All they had to do was get there? Vince recalls that first group of 40 kids: "They were running into the ocean, screaming and having the time of their lives. We knew at that moment that no matter what it took, we were going to build this thing." Over the years, the Hubachs have played host to over 4,800 kids, mostly 6- to 14-year-olds. This summer alone, they're expecting 5,000.

Vince, 41, lives at the shore from June to September to run the program full-time, and Jeanie, 43, joins him on weekends. During the week, she coordinates the group visits and works as a personal assistant to a business executive. Next on the agenda: raising money to build a 6,000-square-foot beachside pavilion to house the Angels program as well as allow physically challenged local residents easier access to the beach.

While some neighbors have had zoning and overcrowding concerns, community support, overall, has been tremendous. Brownie troops have run swimsuit drives, schools have collected loose change, and scientists from GlaxoSmithKline have developed Science by the Sea, a hands-on class involving sand, seashells, and microscopes.

Ultimately, the kids are happy tossing a ball, building sand castles—and letting their guard down. Vince recalls the day he overheard one boy say to another, "I don't think we're gonna hear any gunshots today."

Not surprisingly, the kids often tell the Hubachs that they've had the best day of their lives. That's the thing, says Jeanie: "This program helps them see that there's a whole big world out there to explore and that they're welcome in it.
Loving the Leftovers

Nalani Lavedure merely wanted to put to use the unsold items from her church's garage sale. But once she'd unloaded them at the refugee services program of the Minnesota Council of Churches, she had a brilliant idea: Why not help more families by rounding up all the other unsold items from all the other sales in the area?

Lavedure, 58, an inveterate volunteer, had found yet another cause to support. She now regularly visits garage sales and church bazaars—"the biggest gold mine"—and hands out flyers asking people to donate any leftovers. She sells less essential items, like waffle irons, on eBay and uses the cash to buy necessities, like detergent, at the dollar store. When she noticed a bank was offering the use of a moving truck to new clients, she arranged to borrow it during off-hours to move furniture. She's hired refugees to help with the moving to gain work experience, and she's taken them to thrift stores to buy interview clothes. "The store offered a senior discount, so they wondered if everyone gets a discount on Tuesdays."

Lavedure also helped with the welcome kits MCC provides to each family. She reorganized its supply room, standing couches on end to free up space, folding and stacking towels and blankets, and putting together dish sets. Staffers were busy assisting some 1,500 people who had fled persecution in countries like Myanmar, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Sudan and had no time to worry about the state of the donations or the increasing need for more. "I started doing this so the caseworkers could spend more time with the clients," she says.

Lavedure, who worked as a machinist for 27 years, says, "I get such a joy high from this work." She recalls the time she and a refugee had just moved a family, and he said to her, "Last night this family had nothing. Now they have beds."

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Dr. Hamid El Khalfi

Prof. El Khalfi

Dr. Hamid El Khalfi is Professor of Language and Literature. He holds 2 Master's Degrees and a Ph.D. from Essex, England. He has resided in the USA for over 10 years and in Connecticut for the past 6. Although a citizen of the US, he refers to himself a Citizen of the world. He is a community activitist, a speaker and an educator.


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