“From Casablanca to the Sahara: Stories from Two Weeks in Morocco” with Rabbi Greyber, 8/24/21

“From Casablanca to the Sahara: Stories from Two Weeks in Morocco” with Rabbi Greyber, 8/24/21

[Music] and as you just heard there we are going to record this session and um with thanks to ed halperin for his suggestion we should have live closed captioning enabled uh on this um ed can you give me a thumbs up if you are seeing our excellence excellent i’m really grateful for that suggestion and so the the uh closed captioning has been enabled to in enable more people to to access the zoom conversation um i want to say thank you to jenna who is our zoom host with the most um and i’m going to jump in and get us started uh the first thing which i want to tell you about our trip so jennifer is here with me so if when i make mistakes um she can chime in um or you can get the real story from her uh this was a 25th wedding anniversary trip for us celebrated uh early our wedding anniversary is on september 1st as you can imagine for a rabbinic couple to travel over an anniversary such as this on the actual day is not really feasible um and so long ago we made plans to go to morocco um for this for this trip why we chose morocco i don’t exactly know um it was one of those places that had sort of existed in my mind as um as a as a fascinating and beautiful country to see um and uh and and we are thrilled that we that we made that choice um and the way that it and the way that it started i’m going to share my screen um and have a bunch of photos as i did from the israel session last time um that’s not how it started but uh the way that it started see please just make sure can everybody see the screen that i’m sharing good okay so um the way that it started is actually a little bit before this picture this is when it’s very fun um to say jennifer and i um i met my wife in casablanca um i was as you know from if you were here last week i i was in israel um earlier in the summer and um and i was planning to uh my plan was to take i and i actually had a ticket on the very first direct flight between um right that was planned right no it wasn’t planned that jennifer is wearing the same shirt now uh i i had a ticket on the very first planned direct flight um from israel to morocco uh started as a consequence of the of the abrahamic courts because of coronavirus or other things um it got pushed that flight got pushed off of a week and they said would you like to you know keep your ticket but just for a week later and i said no i need to be in morocco um on on this particular date so i ended up through a series of machinations i’m flying from tel aviv to paris and then paris to marrakesh i landed at marrakesh um stayed the night and then um went the next day to casablanca um yes my bag got lost um and there was a whole drama around that um morocco is not one of those countries where you oh here you can just scan the barcode on the back of my ticket and they’ll track exactly where the bag is that sort of technology has not made its way to morocco but thankfully um thankfully jennifer and i the bag finally arrived um and we met in casablanca i’m just gonna pull up a map just to show you uh can everybody hold on i lost my view yeah people can see this um so this is the map of our trip this is the map of our trip we started in uh in casablanca casablanca is a is a city along the water i’m sort of in the middle of um in the middle of morocco um of just for reference there’s this southern and western area called western sahara this is a matter of much controversy it has been contested between morocco and algeria for a long time and it was one of the things that then president trump uh essentially threw into the accord um in order to make the deal for the abraham accords um and essentially uh you know giving up the um hopes for independence that some of the native tribes um who live in the western sahara had um not going to go into all of that but you know just for for for reference we never got down to that sort of south and western part of the country but the we drove north i’m going to go through all of this but we drove rabbat is the capital of morocco we then drove inland to chefchaouen um which is the farthest north that we got um right here up in the upper right uh upper uh corner of the map is the straits of gibraltar so you can see how really really close you are to spain um this drive on not very good roads um you know there are some highways in there things that we would call highways or pretty good roads um but lots of less good roads in there as well um took us basically a full day probably about seven hours in the car we then came down another big part of our trip was in fez um which you can see here we then did a long trip another about seven hour trip to um to the the sahara um to the sahara desert um going near um close to algeria we then drove back and ended up we spent another chunk of time in marrakech and we scooted over to essoera which marilyn was and i were talking about as the call was getting started a beautiful port city i’ll say more about that at the end um and then we flew out of marrakech um to paris and then paris to new york and new york back to uh back to raleigh one other thing which i’ll point out is that um there are uh a couple of mountain ranges and i’m not gonna get all of this right but essentially um the there is uh up in this part of the country on the way to chefchaouen we went over called something called the rift mountains and then there are the lower atlas mountains and these mountains sort of run uh you know run diagonally um and then there’s the upper atlas mountains um which and you come down off of the upper atlas mountains into um into the desert area and um just to give you a sense the the upper atlas or the high atlas mountains so marrakech is here within an hour to an hour and a half drive from marrakesh is the second highest the second highest mountain in all of africa i believe that he said it was something like 4400 meters which somebody can do some quick uh checking but i think is 13 or 14 000 feet high second only to mount kilimanjaro so um really very very interesting and um and lots of lots of driving through the mountains um i want to just give a special welcome to my friend and brother um uh and and partner in all sorts of crime uh our our imam abdullah and teple um who is on the call and um and i mentioned that uh now because as i go back to the pictures um i’m gonna share this screen again um the very first picture let’s see if i can do this so that it uh works in the way that i want it to just a moment yeah um so the very first picture is um is on the holiday called and abdullah can tell me if i pronounce that close enough yes i’m getting a heart sign so i think i did it right your arabic is getting better my brother not nearly where your hebrew is my friend but i’ll do my best i’ll do my best so is a an important muslim festival that celebrates um ibrahim um and the almost sacrifice of one of his sons abdullah correct me if i’m wrong but as i understand the identity of which son it was is not specified in the quran but there is an established muslim tradition that it was ishmael and of course you know judaism understands that as as isaac um and as part did i get that right muslims are right uh you know well this is one of those places people can see how we disagree right it’s important it’s important um so what i will say is that it was quite something to get there i want you to understand that this this scene of people riding around with um sheep uh in the back those sheep were not long for the world um this was not a this was not uncommon this was all over by the way i’m pretty sure that this particular picture yes you can sort of see that and it’s being driven this is like a motorcycle that’s hooked up with like uh um a truck in the back um the marrakesh is the city of motorcycles um because they’re less expensive uh and so they sort of get hooked up with everything but all of these sheep were being taken home to people’s homes and the tradition as i understood it was to uh slaughter the the sheep in the home um as an offering uh to god uh and and a celebratory thanks um we we saw i’m gonna go forward i think i have a shot here nope um so in some other pictures um we we saw uh you know jennifer and i came out of our hotel room in casablanca and on the street we saw a couple of people walking around with butcher knives um they were uh slaughterers for hire that they would sort of go around and take care of the slaughter um uh you know for uh for some sort of price um and uh and then people who were poorer um were actually lighting uh you know sort of bonfires using uh wooden pallets you know pallets that that they used for shipping things they would they were lighting those and sort of having communal bonfires for for the offering the feast um it was it was pretty amazing experience just to uh just to be there as that was all unfolding and um pretty much the whole country shut down um there were very few stores open very few restaurants open um just to celebrate the festival and i believe it’s it the first three days are especially festive but i think it lasts for for seven days um this is a picture during our time in casablanca so uh jennifer landed and then um we got in some uh some uh touring in the early afternoon and one of the places we visited was uh the mosque uh built in honor of hassan ii um and he had a vision for creating um a structure that all moroccans could be proud of and that would be open to uh to everyone it was built by um yes through uh taxes but also through donations from moroccans um some moroccan jews and uh other moroccan muslims and any anybody who’d ever lived in morocco um sending in uh gifts um from either citizens or from wherever they lived um i think it was like incorporated somebody told us it was incorporated into like when you applied for a visa you would you know there was a little fee for us where you were given the opportunity to it’s an extraordinary place um and it was just one of the most beautiful places i would describe it as the eighth wonder of the world the um you can see jennifer and me um and and behind us is this plaza uh the plaza uh um can hold a hundred thousand worshipers um on on the flat uh plaza outdoors and then um you can see some of the incredible doors um and and just uh artisanship from what i understand for seven straight years there were 35 000 artisans who worked in shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week in the construction of the mosque and it’s in its surrounding plaza um it was built by the way next to the water um out of a sense that being close to the water and being close to nature um that provides a more awe-inspiring experience um and these are some of the photographs that i took from the indoors you can see some of the carpets that are that are laid out um this picture so you can see all the way to the front of you know that is not a small door at the other end of the room so you get a picture inside the um inside the mosque it can hold 20 000 worshipers um on the on the floor so something the size of the deen dome except pardon me abdullah i i forgive me um for for uh for for my bringing um argument into the uh into the conversation but the dean dome on the number of people but not in you know in in seats and stuff like that just on the flat surface and then there is a women’s section uh which have which can have another 5 000 worshipers i took this picture because underneath is a whole other um level to it that is there for people offering uh doing ablutions um with the the uh the custom to wash your um i know eyes hands uh abdullah what else feet and their hands up to their elbows all right and if you can imagine doing it it is a muslim it is a muslim but it’s done five times a day before every single prayer for both men and women right and and so if you you know if you can imagine the need to do that for you know uh 25 000 worshipers inside and i don’t know the extent to which the lower floor serves also the worshipers outside but that’s a major part of the construction and they wanted to um to give a vision of you know from the from the floor upstairs to uh to the floor downstairs as well um this is just some more of the um you know the the ceilings all over morocco um are made of cedar and the tradition is to make the the ceilings of of cedar cedar is not a wood i’ll come back to this later but essentially it is a wood that um regular people are forbidden from having in their homes and for using for sort of secular purposes um it can be used for things such as mosques it can be used for construction of the palace of the king’s palaces but the but the use of cedar is um is extremely limited you can see the beautiful artisan work of the of the ceilings and the other thing the other reason i included this picture is if you see this seam um in the ceiling i don’t know if you can imagine this but this ceiling of the mosque actually opens um it opens in order to ventilate the huge amount of air in the mosque um on uh you know on on some sort of regular basis or make the ventilation possible um and i we we joked around with the guy could you open it for us and he said sorry it cost several thousand dollars to open it and close it every time that it happens so no you know we don’t have that in the budget um but it’s really an engineering um marvel uh in addition to just being extremely beautiful and uh took some close-ups you know this is not an exception this is just some wall that we took a picture of um but all of this um uh all of the mosaics and everything um handmade and beautifully beautifully done our guide was for morocco for casablanca was a woman named hassana or hastna which is the feminine form of hassan she is a very very interesting woman um from a traditional family um did not uh get married um and uh and works as a tour guide and someone who has a deep love of casablanca she was giving us grief because um we were sort of scooting out of casablanca and she said everybody comes to casablanca and says you know it’s just a modern city and then they go see the rest of morocco and that there’s nothing to see she said there’s a lot to see and there’s a lot of history here you should stay um so she loves loves what she does um and it was a wonderful way for us to start the tour um a couple other parts of casablanca um we this is a it’s basically a bar that we went to um that used to be if you can imagine the atlantic ocean used to be essentially where the cars are and yeah it’s either the re either the ocean has retreated maybe that’s not going to last so long but for this time the ocean has retreated and um or there was infill but um but now there’s you know cars and buildings stuff like that but this used to be where the ocean was and these are cannons that were built by the portuguese and it was essentially a fort and boats would come on up and um if they didn’t want your boat there then you know they had a cannon to tell you that you needed to go away um and then this is just a picture of the of the beach area along the beach in what we would call sort of the beverly hills sort of very expensive part of casablanca um is uh you know um there are these beach clubs with pools and and other stuff like that um for dinner i included a food picture because this is kosher meat and for dinner jennifer jennifer and i went to the jewish community center of casablanca um i’ll start to share a couple of uh just a little of the history of the jewish community um estimates of the jewish community um in the 1930s 40s um range somewhere in the area of 250 to 300 000 jews i believe it was the largest jewish community of the muslim world and today the jewish community is approximately 3 000 jews um why jews left casablanca is a complicated story that i’ll get into more a little bit later um but uh the point being is that there still is a community um that is strong enough to have its own little center and um and they even have kosher meats sometimes there’s a shoheid who flies in from uh from france and uh and does the shrita um there i know that the rabbi in fez is also chokhae um because we had chaba’s lunch together and talked about that but in any case it was nice to be able to go to the jewish community center um and enjoy i told abdullah that i that they served me some oxtail soup um which is a a a wonderful delicacy um and this is just a little uh you know some pictures of the room that’s the restaurant where we ate um and it there’s just sort of this lounge you can see jennifer relax in there a little bit on the upper floor there are um people play games um and uh and and sort of uh you know enjoy themselves um and it’s just sort of a a place to hang out um the other thing wait that i just wanted to i don’t know if i captured it but in the jewish community center there was um there were of course pictures of the king there are pictures of the king everywhere um and i’ll talk a little bit more about that later but the king um let me just say this part now um if uh if you have i don’t know if you’ve ever traveled to a country where there is a real monarchy and when i say a real monarchy i’m contrasting that with uh with queen elizabeth i mean queen elizabeth definitely has a lot of money and she does have a palace but we all know that the real decisions in in britain britain functions as a democracy um like everyone you know a flawed democracy but a democracy in morocco uh the the monarchy is not just for show it’s not just about palaces and having a lot of money um there is a huge amount of power over the army over the police force over the economy um and it infuses it really infuses everything um everything there and and i included the you know the the picture again i’m not sure if i caught it um in one of these photos but uh i was just sort of struck how there was um a picture of the of the king um in the jewish community center um here is my fun i don’t know if you can tell but in those guys hands um our knives and they were the ones who were heading off to go offer the sacrifice for eid um as we came out of our hotel on the next morning and headed out of casablanca so as we headed out of casablanca we drove we drove north and we drove through rabat on another trip it would be interesting i think there is a whole jewish history to rabat which is the capital um but it was and everything was sort of closed and so we we scooted up um on our drive and at a certain point you turn inland and you start heading um you you start heading through uh through the mountains and things like that and as you can see this is a bridge okay um i would say it’s a nice bridge right uh you know you can drive in america and see you know see bridges sort of all over the place and maybe not over you know mountain canyons and things like that but um it it’s to me right it’s not uncommon um you know this seems to have nice architecture our driver aziz was very very excited about pointing out to us the beauty of this bridge and making sure that we knew that it was the king’s bridge right that the king had built that bridge i think was named for um for the king um and he was very very proud and maybe i’ll talk for a moment about um about monarchy which was one of my observations um so i think in america we would say well um of course there’s a bridge right those are my tax dollars hard at work um and we might even say you know i built that bridge right um because we have a sense that um our government is you know of the people by the people and for the people um and that everything that happens really is as a result of um of tax dollars and you know sort of those things going and i think that honestly there is a certain um entitlement that we have when we encounter things like bridges um i’m not saying that you know i think there’s something great about uh the accountability that we have over our um over our leaders and over those you know who serve the public um but i was really struck by the fact that aziz sort of turned to me and this was a moment for him to be incredibly grateful and sort of appreciative that the king had built this bridge and i think one thing that i really emerged with um from the experience of being in a monarchy um was a um not only in a monarchy but also in in a muslim country another thing that is just sort of all have everything is inshallah okay inshallah means if god wills it right god willing um you take nothing for granted uh there’s nothing that you that you know that that is outside of god’s will and nothing that you sort of really have any control over and part of the part of what that means is that you you sort of part of the experience or the cultural experience that i really um that i really felt was a sense of gratitude for anything and everything that happened um and i think that you know as rosh hashanah approaches i know that this is not a sermon um but but you know it is elul and you’re talking to the rabbi so it’s on my brain and as rosh hashanah approaches i think you know first of all it gave me a lot of insight into the liturgy of rosh hashanah which is very sort of through and through uh declaring god as king or declaring god as sovereign and that doing so is is is something joyful um ultimately yes it’s fraught with um with anxiety but ultimately it’s joyful um that one has a benevolent king a benevolent monarchy and um and you know i can just say i took a picture of this uh bridge and remember that experience of how aziz was filled with gratitude um for the king um and for the fact that here there’s a bridge in the road um he experienced that not as sort of you know i had this come in and i deserve that bridge i built that bridge um the king did take his tax dollars right and then decided to uh to to give them back um and but aziz dealt uh you know reacted to that with with with the sense of of gratitude um i took a picture of this this is there um this is essentially the national water system um the these boxes under this is a pipe and every quarter third of a mile or so there’s one of these cement boxes and that blue pipe is essentially access and farmers sometimes can get access and you can sort of branch off of the pipe but many many times we drove by one of these blue pipes and and and their their permission had been gotten by the local authorities and we saw people with um jerry cans um sometimes they were loaded onto donkeys sometimes people with buckets gathered around who were gathering their water and bringing it back to their homes there are a lot of places in morocco where um where there is no running water um but the uh but the way in which you get uh water is through this national uh national system so we drove along and i’m gonna i’m gonna go back to the just to the picture again um to tell you where we are um we drove inland and um where i’m at is about here okay there’s a small zone uh you can see that that uh small thing right there there’s a little city you’re not sharing right now sorry oh it’s not sharing sorry thanks for telling me hold on uh yeah is that better okay um so we drove hold on so uh we we drove up to um we got to chef shawn but before we got there we got to this town called uazon and before it was on we turned left and went to this little village called um jen john is that how you pronounce it i think it was called azjan okay and as we drove into asghan um what i noticed is that the the road all of a sudden was actually pretty nicely paved there was paint on the buildings um everything just sort of seemed to be pretty well taken care of and i was very curious as to you know why that was and then we pulled up to this steel gate and like knocked on the door and somebody let us in and where we arrived to was the was the um the grave of um rabbi i think this one’s name is rabbi diwan um part of my experience honestly is when we pulled into this particular place um our driver sort of expected and by the way aziz is right there he’s the one in the doorway and he sort of expected that i as a rabbi would know and sort of react with um you know give him a big wow for the fact that we were visiting um the rabbi the grave of this rabbi that sadiq um and when i i think i know things right not a whole lot but like i know some stuff um but there’s a whole world of muslim jewish tradition excuse me of moroccan jewish tradition i know some of the stars but uh but i don’t know a lot of the other rabbis in a lot of the other teachings and and the president of the jewish community of modern day morocco described morocco as a land of tsadiki um that there are i i think he used the number 4 000 graves of righteous people jewish righteous people sort of buried all over um this pile of stones you can see is actually the grave you can see the the uh hanukiah or the menorah i can’t tell how many branches there are um there and um and let me see if i can move forward and yes here is the the gravestone um um and and this was his grave but it wasn’t just that pile of rocks right that was that was brave um there was a whole complex built around it okay this is the this is the social hall okay this could probably hold i don’t know three you know 300 people or so you know sitting around maybe maybe fewer sitting around tables um but there’s a big social hall there here’s the king um here all the people who donated to it um although um and i’m gonna talk more about the financing of all this but um there’s a whole synagogue um and you know here i am uh standing in front of the ark and um and there’s a mikvah um so that says uh uh you can see the word mikvah there nessem um um and i went in and saw the mikvah and even amazingly this is like this big courtyard and you see all of these little doorways and and essentially these are like little hotel rooms i’m not saying they’re very fancy there’s no cable tv or anything but what is this all for right and the answer is that on rabbi diwan’s yort site which in the jewish in the moroccan tradition is called a hilula there is a giant celebration and people come on pilgrimage to his grave and um and not only then but also on particular weekends but the big one is the hilola and this village is filled with the i believe that our guide used the number 25 000 pilgrims um jews who come maybe some muslims as well um but jews who come you know yes from morocco but there aren’t 25 000 jews in morocco anymore they fly in from israel they fly in from and this was all before the abraham accords so they would enter in from israel but you know not directly but coming through europe i’m certainly from france some from uh from the united states but flying in for this big celebration and these rooms you know my senses maybe they’re like vip suites or something like that and the government of um the government of morocco uh you know my observation about how it sort of looks a little nicer there is that the government of morocco has invested in in creating all of this um it obviously employed a lot of the people in the local village who sort of you know it raised their standard of living um and you know uh have created this infrastructure for all of these pilgrimage visits um and it’s and it’s pretty extraordinary there is a person whose only job it was um 24 hours a day seven days a week he is the guard and he gets a place to live on this complex and opens the door for visitors and makes sure that nothing happens to the complex um you know one of the things that i’ll share i’m going to take a moment just to share now before i go on is that jews in morocco at this point my my sense of it and faye i just want to say a special welcome to you and please feel free to chime in and tell me rabbi you have it all wrong you don’t know what you’re talking about okay i i would like to say one thing before you know my old age i just would like to say rabbit rabbi is a very big um you know big guy and the that was built by all the jews that came the moroccan jews the that that center we used to go like there was nothing there and we used to go and we will have build fires and and play and it was an amazing pilgrimage but they built the jews from all over the world the moroccans from all over the world decided to build that compound and it is true that now it’s like the hilula is around after pesach around before shavuot and that’s when they all go there to celebrate and it is one and uh thank you thank you and thank you for the correct pronunciation right uh and and um you know the thing i i appreciate the correction uh in the sense that um there are many places that the jews of morocco and and by the way faye when we were there the the president of the jewish community of casablanca was there and and i asked him i said to him you know i’m just curious why did you stay right because obviously most of the moroccan jewish community left morocco and you know he said look he i think he has like an electric company and his son has business interests but he said he stays because um he really feels a deep sense of uh of of duty to preserve and to take care of all of these um pilgrimage sites and all of these places um i will say also and we’ll see this later on that the government that the king of morocco and the government are investing tremendous amounts of money in restoring uh jewish cemeteries in restoring jewish um you know uh other things and why that’s the case i think there i think there are two answers to it one of them is cynical which is that jews um you know that jewish tourism is a smart uh thing for the economy um to encourage you know jewish tourism um but i i think that that misses something very deep that i experienced when i was there which is and i can’t emphasize this enough the jewish story is integral to the story of morocco indeed um jews trace their history in morocco uh whether mythically or not that you know whether it’s historically it’s impossible to know exactly when the first jews arrived to morocco but um they understand their arrival there as possibly being part of when king solomon uh dating back to king solomon um dating back to the to the expulsion uh the babylonian exile the destruction of the first temple more jews arriving there the the destruction of the second temple and there is a native population okay um a population that predates jews uh they’re called that are called berber and faye we learned something about the word berber um that i find words very interesting um berber is related to the word barbarian and i believe that it comes from the latin it was what the romans essentially called anybody sort of at the outer reaches of the roman empire who they couldn’t quite get a handle on or they couldn’t understand what they were saying and and and for those of you really interested in this i i believe that it’s a linguistic phenomenon that the doubling of con when you have constant and short one word uh one syllable words and then with consonants and you double them it can be pejorative so the an example in english is the word riffraff right that riff-raff sort of is something whatever um and in hebrew what’s called the arab rav right the rav rav is sort of way of putting down right a certain group of people and in and and the berbers were called that right um as a way of as a pejorative name modern moroccans are sort of reclaiming the word and fey help me if i get it wrong amazir or amazing amazing exactly amazing it means free person right in in that language and and many amazing right converted to judaism when jews arrived whenever they arrived to morocco and so judaism can honestly be understood as one of the first religions of the state of morocco and and and moroccans all i can say is moroccans the moroccans who we met understand this very very deeply and there are in some ways you know there i i think that many modern moroccans have um miss the jews who used to live in their midst and um and and have some confusion as to why jews left on mass so very much indeed indeed because we were never thrown out of morocco as i’ve always said never ever the king mohammed v my most favorite king of all i always thought he was jewish but nobody would would agree with me and he on his deathbed he said do not do any harm to your to our jewish brethren and i’ll tell you a couple of other stories king mohammed very famously this lives on as part of the the tradition of moroccan jews during world war ii when morocco was under french occupation and the germans then took control of france with the vichy regime and the germans came to the morocco and said basically hand over your jews and the king famously said we have no jews here we have only moroccan subjects and and there is in rabbat when uh people come to get tours of the of the jewish sadiq right of the jew you know uh the the tradition is to bring people to the tomb also of of king muhammad to acknowledge what an important role he played um i’m going to come back to this phase so hold hold hold all these thoughts yes yes um but but the the the it what i i would just say that all of these um sites like the one that i was showing you this one um the of uh of rabbi amram diwan is is done by the moroccan uh jewish community but there were many many many that are being invested in by the king of morocco and it’s i i would just say it’s too cynical to just say it’s all about tourism um you can see faye i’m sure you you know you may you know all these names yes well that’s north dakota is where you went i’m so glad i can’t wait to hear you say and and i want to show you a couple of photos this is a photograph from the spanish monastery there’s a spanish monastery above the city it’s a wonderful hike up and you go at sunset and below you can see the blue city and you see blue and white city you can see all of these uh all of these buildings with this beautiful blue and white um for those of you who have been to spot in uh in israel you may remember that many of the buildings in spot or the doors in spot are blue um and uh there are a couple and and the jews essentially brought the tradition the white buildings were painted the white buildings belong to muslims and the blue buildings belong to the jews and um and and the jews brought with them the tradition of painting the buildings blue according to what we heard from spain when the jews were expelled from spain in 1492 one of the places that they went was morocco many of them came to chefchaouen and they painted their the buildings blue and this has now caught on even though the jews are no longer there and um and it’s just uh absolutely beautiful what i was gonna say is jews also um were expelled from spain and went to spot and they it may have been the a spanish jewish tradition to um to paint you know paint uh paint doors blue or paint buildings blue a friend of mine who’s a scholar said that it’s actually quite common in morocco and in the middle east more generally to paint uh that blue um uh awards away the evil eye um moroccan is a is a particularly sort of uh superstitious country in that respect but this may have been something very special that was brought to shepherd from the jews of spain and you see it you see it in israel as well these this is the spanish monastery i mean you can see some people hanging out there up at the top and uh these are just some of the photographs that i took at sunset we had a wonderful dinner um there’s a really beautiful hotel and it was just so i included one of those there’s my beautiful wife yes um and uh and then i took a couple of photographs um through at the through the the city um there’s a river uh down at the bottom and um as somebody explained to us that is where the women go to do laundry because there’s free water and you can see this woman who is working do you know doing laundry the next picture may be a little bit graphic for some of you so you know turn away if you don’t want to see it but um i told you that was being observed and uh and that meant that you had to clean the sheepskins after they they don’t throw away parts of the animals so you eat what you eat and then you have a sheepskin and you can see that she’s working on the sheepskin down at the uh down down at the river this is some of the beautiful mosaics some of the beautiful doorways oh my gosh [Music] time after time after time the mosaics the doorways the hamsas just absolutely beautiful this one you know very colorful by the way the word dar and we know the modern hebrew word is dira which means apartment in hebrew and dar just means a dwelling place so many arabic arabic and hebrew words uh shared in common i’m just gonna scroll through okay this is very special so where we are now is um there is a town square um where to this day people will bring in their goods from the country and sell them on market days in the town those of you have studied some mishna you may know the word fundak or pundak a fundak or pundak i had always heard it was sort of a um hold on let’s wait for this to come up i had always heard that it was just like a hotel but it’s a specific kind of hotel it is the place where people who have brought their animals and their uh and uh you know who have ridden their animals with all of their wares to sell they need a place to stay not just for themselves but also for their animals and the fundak is located just off of the off of the main square and it’s a place where you can get a room but also your animals can get a room and we went to the fundak off of the square and when we were there we met a man who um who had a store that made saddles for donkeys okay he makes the saddles himself he takes straw and stuffs them in and makes them and we talk to him and i’m going to let you listen to the conversation in a minute um i have a couple of videos here um but essentially the man said to us that he remembers his jewish friend um his jewish friend actually gave him the store they used to be like you know next door neighbors they would have stores next to each other the man before he left morocco gave him the store he continues to work in the store and that jewish man’s daughter comes to visit from france every year to visit her father’s uh muslim friend who continues to run the store okay and i’m gonna press play and just let you listen our friend yusuf was our guide and he does some translating for us can you hear hold on i think it’s not hold on for one second i think i know how to do this i’m gonna stop and i’m gonna do share screen and i’m gonna do optimize for video clip and let me try again and see if this works and this shop so say explain it again this shop was only by a family jewish and the name of ghana was haron caliente this old man was working with him when he was a small kid and he stated the job internet and he started doing it now and what is the job sorry [Music] okay and i’m gonna do another one so that’s him and his daughter in france she came as well and when her own life and this is a photograph i took um his friend uh aharon is aaron right that’s hebrew for aaron okay and just one more thing so the main square is is that one he’s there okay and this is the funda this is the formula and the you would bring your it’s still to this day still to this day walking and you can’t spend people people bring their animals and they can stay in one of these rooms for one or two dollars a day yes right and [Music] okay so hold on i’m gonna just share for a second i i just found it fascinating and for those of you when you study jewish texts you will come across so um avraham for for um uh the the rabbis will say that when avraham planted what’s called an echel um there’s a debate in the talmud um the the shell stands for achilles for eating drinking and resting and one of the rabbi says that that was a fun doc okay and and and there you have in modern morocco um a you know a a a an actual fun doc um and for me as a rabbi to to sort of see jewish texts brought brought to life in this way um was was really beautiful let me scoot forward because you’re going to be here for a long time if we don’t um you can see the word um um so this is fascinating i’m trying to i would like to be able to see you and i i can’t i’ve like lost everybody’s faces um let me just all right i’ll i’ll go ahead so the word mella is from uh salt that’s how you say salt in hebrew and the jewish quarter was called in his to this day is called melach because the jews had a monopoly on the salt trade um and uh and by the way salt was before currency before there was money salt is um uh you need to turn off okay uh uh salt is how people were paid that’s where the expression you were you’re worth your weight in salt comes from it’s also i believe where the word salary comes from right that you have your salary that’s related to the word salt okay and so this is all of the jewish quarters all over morocco um are called uh are are called um uh uh are called melech um this is the and jen if you’re able to come in and sort of help me figure out how to uh see faces that would be great because i’m a little confused um i want to just keep going this is the jewish cemetery of chefchaouen you can see chefchaouen here it is a walled city by the way and all of the cemeteries are outside of the city um i was actually very confused because it’s obviously overgrown and there’s a bunch of stones but it’s not obviously a cemetery but when we looked closer we saw these stones and you can see that the stone is in the shape of a head and then longer ones for the body and this was one of the ways that um the graves were marked um uh you know obviously the body is in the ground but this while our tombstones many of them are are upright like this um this was the the way that the um that it was there uh you can see here the jewish cemetery is called materia after the name of the site where it is located um this is sort of the least kept up right this was a sign we had some stuff on it but it was the least restored of any of the cemeteries that we saw this is yusef and aziz and jennifer and me at the end of our time in beautiful chefchaouen and that’s a view from the sunset from the spanish mosque monastery this is a picture we then went on to and let me just quickly show you we went on the next big place that we stopped was um we did a drive down to um actually past fez and we first went to meknez and we visited the cemetery um in mechnes let me share my screen again and i’ll just show you we did go to fez i promise we just first went to mcniz and you can see uh some of the inscriptions but this is the cemetery in mechnas um the the how big it is gives you a sense of you know of of the um of how big the jewish population was the more restored stones this this is evidence of the restoration of the cemetery that the moroccan government is doing okay and you can see that these these these were done recently by by masons um we then got to um got to fez where we spent shabbat this is in hebrew an announcement of a communal meal aten you’re invited for um for shabbat at the maimonides center okay and that was on the 24th of july um we went to our dinner um at the maimonides center this is a picture of it um and uh and that night there were just a couple of people probably uh jennifer and me and i think maybe four other people um we had kosher wine uh you can see that this is a product of morocco um and from the cellars of mcness so there’s still kosher wine strictly kosher wine being produced uh in morocco and then um i got one also from casablanca um a kosher wine from casablanca that we took with us this is the beautiful um gates at the entrance to the old city of fez it has it is blue on one side and green on the other side um and just an absolutely gorgeous entrance maimonides spent time living in morocco and you can see that unfortunately at this moment his uh his home in morocco is a chinese and moroccan food restaurant um shea momonadi i believe that it’s been rented to them but but eventually the jewish community hopes to acquire it once again and and have it be a museum um in honor of maimonides i just thought it was quite fascinating um the oldest university operating university in the world is in uh is in fez and this is an entrance to the university um i don’t know if abdullah is still on the call but we were told that entrance into the university was forbidden to non-muslims when i asked him about this uh earlier today you know he just spoke about how um it’s not sort of really uh required according to sharia law but it’s it some there are as in judaism there are some people who interpret things much more um much more conservatively um and so they they restrict access in that way um but you can see the quite ornate uh you know uh quite ornate entrance um and as it says you know uh you know the the prohibition here um there are this is a the grave of another those of you who know the commentaries and the orochime is a very very important commentary part of many miku okadolot and it was rabbi ben atar this is a relative of his who died in 1986 and was was um buried um in uh in fez in the jewish cemetery this is the grave of yehuda ibn atar and then this is the cemetery [Music] in fence okay and and just you know just to give you a sense of it um in the cemetery uh there is this there’s a small chapel and uh we looked in the small chapel and got permission as a rabbi i think maybe they may permit me to handle some of the objects a little bit more than normal and we saw a deer skin torah okay and i just those of you have seen a torah up fro up close know that the parchment is is very thin when it’s made from calfskin or goat skin um and the writing here is just absolutely beautiful and the deerskin is quite durable and i i’m confident that this toro goes back to the 1800s you can see how thick it was um the every part of the part that i saw was still kosher but um i don’t know uh you know obviously um i didn’t look at the entire uh scroll but it was absolutely fascinating um here’s jennifer taking a look and checking it for kosher and you can see on our torahs one of these if one of these was this thick the other one would be totally thin right in other words you would be genesis uh exodus you know leviticus numbers and most of deuteronomy would be here you just have a little deuteronomy there with this torah god help the person who did hogba i mean you know another thing that i took some pictures of is when somebody gets married there are no elaborate elaborate jewelry that is picked that is purchased for the bride um and uh i mean you can just see some of the stones here i think that some i don’t know who can afford all of this but you know i was told that some of these are twenty thousand dollars or or more but that’s sort of the thing which you do um oh that’s much that’s meant oh my gosh so uh if faith want to say something well that’s like andrew dimela my my my uncle’s store bookstore was right somewhere there oh my does that those are the the the houses where jews left lived when uh when they were in that’s la grande du mela it’s called the big the big street of the mela wow so thank you and and um what i want to share the reason that i snapped this photograph is because there’s something you know that this is a jewish street um in arab architecture um there are the focus is inward um and most of the windows if there are windows are very small and you cannot look into them very much when jews arrived from spain um they uh and by the way fez is built into three cities there’s an old city um which goes back i think to the 700 is seven and eight hundreds there’s uh the the the mela um and and which is largely populated uh the jewish quarter um going back to uh the andalusian you know after the spanish inquisition and then there’s the nouveau ville which is uh built by the french um you know during the colonization um as a french colony but what i noticed here with the guide pointed out is look at the patios i mean look at how there are patios facing outward um that’s a very different architecture than you find in traditional um in in the old in the old city um and and it tells you something about you know about about the neighborhood um i i uh did an uh no no um i got scolded a little bit um because i snapped a picture of the guard in the official garments of the king’s guard the king of morocco currently lives most of the time in fez apparently he has asthma um and uh and and fez is nice and dry and so there is you know there’s guards in anywhere all the time in all of the king’s palaces but um i imagine that the security was extra strict uh i decided that none of you were gonna go copy the the garments of the king’s guard and uh and stage a coup um and that i was a safe security threat um so that is the the white is the official garments of the uh of the king and then here this is the the entrance to the king’s palace um you know the big door i’m not sure what all the other doors are for but behind this i don’t know if i snapped a picture but there’s a large uh yes you can see the courtyard and it goes back um probably a third of a mile um it just in turn the grand entrance to the area um and you can see all of the elaborate work we went and took a picture at an at a lookout and i think it’s an old fort and you can see the city of the city of fez um behind us we also got a demonstration of seeing um pottery being made i think i have a video there’s absolutely gorgeous gorgeous pieces some definitely being made for jewish tourists this is a picture of a beautiful um i think this was actually an old synagogue um and if i if i’m right it was turned the old synagogue was turned into a carpet store um absolutely beautiful yeah uh hold on let me go back here this is the carpet store and if i remember right you know it’s a synagogue because there were 12 posts one for each of the 12 tribes um and you know uh it’s an absolutely beautiful building obviously not being used for the purpose um for which it was created i i thought that this was uh there is tremendous poverty tremendous tremendous poverty and this is a woman who is sitting outside of the door of the university that i mentioned uh if you look here um we were also went on a trip to a tannery and all of these uh you know squares and circles are essentially where skins are soaked and worked and prepared um camel skins goat skins other skins soaked and worked and prepared in the old way that it used to be that it used to be done we were told that we were lucky that it was uh i guess hot and so it didn’t smell all that much it smells very bad let me tell you um if that’s what it smells like when it doesn’t smell that much it smells bad really really bad uh but it was uh it was a fascinating part of the trip and um and again in the mishnah um if you study the mishna of shabbat there are whole questions about what are you allowed to do and not do to skins that are you know that are soaking or this that and the other and um and we got to see these um we get to see this uh where how this process likely unfolded during the time of the mishna or something uh quite close to it okay and this is just a little more in the um antique shops there are old judaica um which you know which is sold you see the the torah you see some of the torah crowns you see um you know places for shabbat candles you see the hamsas um this is the video by the way of the man making pottery you can see that he turns the wheel with his feet and then he does the work um by hand and it was pretty beautiful to watch all right i’m gonna have to move us along even though i want to show you everything uh that’s a beautiful picture of fez when you go to the cemetery um i think in this video uh you know yeah you can see that there are dogs um you know there are a lot of wild dogs not wild but you know sort of packs of dogs um and uh food yeah um [Music] anyways uh we then drove on to the desert and in uh we visited sort of a small village that had a uh what used to be a talmud torah and a synagogue and this is just a beautiful beautiful synagogue what i want you to notice is look at the seating okay people sit on the outside and then they sit on the inside and look at the person sitting on the outside and here people are looking at each other and then here people are looking at each other again and the the person leading the prayers the ark is up here the person leading the prayers is is at the back of the room right and that’s where the torah is read okay so it’s just a very very different architecture than than something that we’re looking at um if you think that we have a lot of naming opportunities at bethel i just want to point out that this light okay was given by avner for some sort of gift to the shul uh he got to name the fluorescent light right so this is not in fez though i maybe one of the synagogues in in fez or maybe in the ville nouvelle maybe that’s is that the oh maybe it’s a different this is not my grandfather’s school i was hoping you’ll see it in uh in the mela of fez but this is not my grandfather’s shoe yeah and i’ll tell you a story you know what i think the reason we may have missed out maybe not sure when we went around um our guide momo which is short for for muhammad came to a synagogue and he knocked on the door and there was no answer and momo said this person is going to be in trouble because essentially he’s given a place to live and his only job is to open up the synagogue when people need to come see it uh and so we didn’t get to see that synagogue wonder and i do remember it was it’s it’s a new one it should be it’s a unesco protected now i mean they have re refurbished it and it’s unesco protected and next to where to it is the the ovens where my grandfather made matzah on pesach i remember walking by the ovens and i’m almost positive that that’s the one that was that’s unfortunate i’m so sorry baby if we do the federation trip in uh october of 2022 we’ll be sure to go back okay yes yes so let me move us along we drove then over the upper atlas mountains and down to the sahara um we passed through a town where there’s a sort of a major a university for just a few hundred people but my sense is that it’s sort of a rich ski town as we came out of the town what iran beautiful beautiful and monkeys by the side of the road um which was which was just you know fun to see we drove through some towns what they call apple country so much so that in the middle of the square as you drive through the town they have apples they’re very proud of their apple harvest and we finally got as we got towards the sahara we came to the synagogue of an extraordinary synagogue where again there are people who come and make hillula and make pilgrimage this is a safer torah in here and this is a scroll with all the hafta wrote okay and so the hafta wrote are not read from a book they’re read from um from a scroll that looks like a safer torah we were able to take it out um for those of you who are unfamiliar this the the eastern you know non-ashkenaz tradition a red upright not laying down um you don’t do you know when you do hog by you just sort of lift it up a little bit but you’re you know uh it really you know really it just functions very differently this safer torah was obviously done um it made in israel and i didn’t get a picture of the writing on the safer torah but i can only let me see if i can zoom in a little bit it’s not going to show it the writing was imperfect and a safer torah like this probably costs at least at least a hundred thousand dollars and either it was done by the moroccan jewish community or it may have been paid for by the king of morocco no no the jewish community would be just okay um and and again people come here to make it lula this is one of the seafrey of the haftarot and you can see when you have a half taurus scroll you can put the trope and you can put the vowels in right so that it’s much easier to read um this is a picture of me and the man whose only job it is to open up uh to to to the torah forest uh the the uh the area um this is our drive to the our driver is named ali uh you can see the barrenness of the landscape we were thankfully in a nice modern four by four there’s my wife looking quite concerned because really we were in ali’s hands we are driving on a road at this point but the road pretty quickly we turned left and we were driving in the middle of the desert um we did make it there safely this is a picture of um of the camp uh and of the welcome that we got uh orange juice and cookies and tea of course and you can see that’s an air conditioner it’s pretty amazing how they do it the solar power um but uh you know it’s it it’s a beautiful tent and uh and it was a beautiful space jen and i did a camel ride i thought oh good i’m so glad did you up on the dunes yeah so they brought us up the dunes i felt very bad for my camel it was a hearty camel we went up to the top of the dunes um some of you saw these on facebook just a beautiful beautiful sunset um and and just a physically beautiful there he gave me a nice smile and then i got up early in the morning and i walked to the very top of the dunes and it was just amazed by how it forms this very straight line um for where the top is and where you know each side is going in the other side and if the sun is over here then you get a slightly darker shade of brown here um these are our hosts uh they wore the traditional berber um yeah the blueberry the blueberry um they were wonderful and i will show you let’s see if i have the video on the way out it was a little bit more complicated we got stuck fortunately we there were a bunch of guys who came and helped out and this wasn’t their first rodeo and uh and you can see a little bit as they pulled him down away from wherever he wasn’t supposed to be oh no he was not supposed to be bad yeah it was a little low much we then went there’s jennifer okay um and we went to a market in risani um risani was uh an absolutely beautiful market um and actually very different it’s a suck or a shook a very different feeling that the than the markets in fez or even in chefchaouen yeah it had a very feel of being in the desert of being in the desert and um this risani and air food are sort of these small towns that um were for travelers um for for people going from marrakesh and casablanca out across the desert and fez um that our guide had this beautiful blue ring that was he was a very man a very impressive stature here you can see one of the spigots is locked and then like when you when if you want water and need water you know there that’s how people sort of got water we ended up buying our carpet um in risani good for you and and here you can see the rest traditional uh what is it called faye jelavia okay i didn’t end up buying this one but i did get a couple of the shorter ones that i that i brought back okay quickly this is the story of the carpet okay i’m gonna tell you a quick story by the way are people are we still doing okay it’s 8 25. uh wait i’m okay okay all right uh so the the the story here is that um you know we were first of all the demonstrations of the carpets are amazing they like roll these out for you with with a lot of pizzazz everywhere you go by the way you are welcomed with tea and from what i understand i’m not going to do it here in my kitchen but if the tea is here and you pour the height of the pour indicates the the extent of the welcome so if you if you are running a store and you want to welcome somebody and say welcome to my store you know it’s way way way up here um in the hotels and stuff so we got this wonderful welcome to get all of these carpets laid out when we were at the carpet store in fez we weren’t feeling so well um and and but we were feeling better this day and we said okay we’ll bring something back so we finally made a couple of selections and then came the negotiation okay now the negotiation is a whole thing all right our guide invited us they put the carpets that we had chosen they laid them out and said come come sit on your carpets okay so the negotiation takes place while you’re sitting on your carpet and it begins with a great uh invocation you know we’re so glad that you are here we want you to understand that whether or not you buy anything whatsoever we will all remain friends we are all you know we wish everybody only blessings and long life and that nothing that we say or that happens through negotiation is going to offend anybody whatsoever right and and then and then based on the two carpets they that you have written down the the price is 26 500 dirham okay um which you can see got scratched out here okay and he took out a pad and wrote down 26 500 now i had been told faye you can tell me if i did okay all right um and my mom is on the call and my grandfather was a was a negotiator so oh my god so so i had learned you know that it is it sometimes the final price is 75 off it’s 25 of what the initial number is so like don’t you know it’s not just jewish you know don’t pay retail right like it’s a it’s a thing so i said you know i’m so so grateful and you know we you know we’re great you know we’ve had such a wonderful time but that you know it’s just really not in the range and i don’t want to offend anybody but it’s just not in the range of of anything that we’re you know that we’re that we’re looking to pay and i i just sort of stayed quiet for a bit and then the next thing that was written down he said well for you it’s coronavirus time and you know and and we very much you know we like you very much we want to make a deal we’re going to make a very special price a very special price it’s going to be 22 000. 22 000 by the way the exchange rate is something around eights durham to one okay and this was for two carpets they’re handmade i mean they’re absolutely beautiful by the local uh women so 22 000 was written down and you know i sort of continued you know this just really really is not you know and they finally said well you know what would you what is something that you would pay and i said i don’t want to insult i really don’t want to insult i don’t want anybody to take it and i finally wrote down fifteen thousand okay um and uh you know and and what i can tell you is that the man this shopkeeper did it was a combination it was something like this it was you know it was vigorously no no no no no no no no with a smile on his face but also kind of laughing like no way no way now in his head he may have been thinking to himself yes i’m so excited that means that i’m gonna get at least that much but he was never going to show me that right he was there and and then something unexpected happened okay our our our guide turned and said um i you know we are going to come to an agreement and the way that we’re going to do that is that jennifer is going to write down a number and we know that jennifer cares about the shopkeeper’s wife that’s exactly right and then gently hope for and that jennifer cares about her husband and she will come up with the right number that is going to that is going to make both of the men uh happy right now i thought i would just like to say that i think that this is a wonderful i would like to suggest this to the united states congress i would like to suggest it for those of you who were here about the israel-palestinian conflict i think that this would be wonderful the knesset should take this i think this is a very good strategy to turn over all decision-making to women um generally and even to my wife jennifer i’d be totally fine so jennifer it looked at me a couple of times as this is going on um to sort of you know check in and i was trying to say to her no no no i trust you i trust you the other thing you should know is that jennifer is the son of tommy may who is a quite good businessman himself daughter excuse me [Laughter] and and jennifer graber came up with the best solution okay so she those that you may not remember she wrote down oh is it did is it on here so the the she wrote down um i guess it’s on another paper eighteen thousand okay now i would like to say i was gonna have suggested twenty thousand right as a meeting place my wife my wife wrote down eighteen thousand and she explained that in the in judaism the number 18 is linked with life our deepest hope is that all of us are blessed with long life and and and and there was something absolutely perfect about bringing a a a jewish concept a religious concept in to the negotiation as a way of bringing it to a close now you should know that the shopkeeper for a moment was indicating to our tour guide no no no this is i wanted to get much more and the shopkeepers said nope we we have concluded our deal this is wonderful and we are done jennifer you know for for for all of that all right i have to go on but um but we it was the the um the the trip the this is the market in rizani um it’s a beautiful and an amazing place if you’ve been to the shook in jerusalem you know how they sell spices all piled up um just beautiful colors by the way the wearing of the burqa um and i don’t even know if this is the right name but the where women are fully covered in black in some muslim countries is um is sort of a sign of religious coercion and oppression and here what we were told many times is that this is the tribal custom that it’s and that it’s not uh related to islam it is the tribal c
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