Friday, March 01, 2013

Berber film is an essay in nostalgia

  With thanks: Ahuva; Lily

Kamal Hachkar's film about the Berber Jews and Muslims of Tinghir in the Atlas mountains (Tinghir-Jerusalem: les Echos du Mellah) is the inspiration for an in-depth Associated Press article on the Jews of Morocco.   Hachkar comes across as a judeophile - he travelled to Israel and even learned some Hebrew. The AP article reports that the film has been attacked in Morocco for 'normalising' relations with Israel. It has been widely picked up in the international press. Here is an extract:

"A surprising critic of the film is one of Morocco’s Jews, Sion Assidon, a leftist activist, former political prisoner and a member of a group advocating the boycott of Israeli products.

“The film is effectively a vehicle for the message of normalizing with Israel,” Assidon told the AP. “The people we see are never once questioned about the essential issue, which is that they are colonizers occupying the land of another people that were earlier expelled.”

The Moroccan Jews in the film do look back fondly on how well they got on with their Muslim neighbors and lament the daily violence and hatred that characterize the tense relations in Israel today with the Palestinians. (My emphasis - ed)

About 1 million Jews of Moroccan origin now live in Israel. Some 50,000 Israelis — many of them Moroccan — visit Morocco every year, said Sam Ben Chetrit, the head of the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, who moved to Israel from Morocco in 1963.

Ben Chetrit said that on a visit last year, “we were told (by legislators) ‘we are happy you are here, this is your home, but make sure you bring your children too.’”

Read article in full


However, the historian Georges Bensoussan, has questioned the truthfulness of the film. In this clip, he points out that the film says more about how people choose to remember what they lived through, than  it does about the historical facts themselves. 

Bensoussan explains that the Muslims interviewed in Tinghir do not remember having much interaction with the Jews. The Jews of Tinghir, interviewed in Israel, are more talkative, but paint a picture of harmonious coexistence, to the extent that one old lady almost kisses Hachkar and even lashes out against Israel.

But when you dig a little deeper, Bensoussan says, it appears that 'coexistence' between the two groups was limited to when the women did the laundry. They did not visit each others' houses. They did not celebrate festivals together, and after the creation of Israel, the Muslims showed frostiness if not hostility towards the Jews.

 He describes meeting a 58-year old Jew from Tinghir, whose 87-year-old father, born in the town, was still compos mentis, although a bit deaf. His son sat him down for the 52-minute film, with a pair of headphones on so that he could grasp every word. At the end of 52 minutes, the old man said:"It's all false!"

How can one explain the discrepancy between the coexistence described in the film, and the old man's reaction? Bensoussan claims that the director did a fair amount of selection himself in favour of positive coexistence stories. Hours and hours of filming must have ended up on the cutting room floor. But at the end of the day, it is only human to want to remember the good and blot out the bad - and this is what makes Tinghir: Les Echos du Mellah so fascinating an essay in nostalgia.

Film shows Berber Jews are in exile in Israel 

Did history start in 1960? (Noam Nir's blog)


bataween said...

Question: Could you let me know if these are Yemenite Jews?:

To answer your question, the woman is Yemenite Jewish but she is married to a Muslim. I think this is the case documented on this blog of 'Laila' who escaped her Jewish husband on her wedding night to marry the Muslim love of her life.
The programme is at pains to demonstrate that the marriage is legal ...the bride's family have argued she was abducted. Perhaps an Arabic speaker could confirm whether I have got this right?

Anonymous said...

This film is about Berbers (E3B3), nothing to do with Yemenite Jews or middle-eastern people or what so ever excepted Berber-Jews.
Berbers were christians, St Augustine was a Berber, as Victor the first, who was a pope.

bataween said...

Sorry to confuse you, the previous comment was referring to another film