Paintings and Photography
A Moroccan Pilgrimage
Marc Eliany was born in Morocco in an enchanting town at the foot of the Atlas Mountain: Beni Melal. And he grew up as a child in Casablanca, before immigrating to Israel at the age of 12. Israel was for him, as for most Moroccan Jewry, the promise of ancestral dreams. Israel was the land of freedom from persecution and Justice. But upon settlement in Israel, the reality was different and Morocco became for him the land of dreams. And for many years, Marc Eliany studied the land of the Maghreb and engaged in an ongoing comparative analysis. In Israel, Moroccan Jewish culture disappeared with the exception of caricatural vestiges, too distant from the truth.
But in Morocco, 5000 Jews still lead the life they led for two thousand years. In "A Moroccan Pilgrimage" Marc Eliany brings a refreshing testimony on Jewish life in Fes. It is a sensitive review of life in a very old community, perhaps as old as the city itself, which was founded in 789 CE.
Jews contributed to Fes a tradition of learning, for here even Maimonides came to study, rich and colourful arts and crafts and especially jewellery making, national trade and international commerce and high court diplomacy. This was the place where even the dhimi Jew was respected.
Nowadays, only 160 Jews live in Fes, some young and some old. They no longer live in the old mellah we see in Marc's photos, but they still congregate at the Rambam community centre for celebrations or for bi-weekly ritual slaughter of innocent chicken. They pray at the Ben Saadoun synagogue and they burry their dead in the ancient cemetary, where saints are still revered.
Here the present remains a testimony to a magnificient past.
Marc Eliany, at the Museum Gallery of Safed's Artist Colony, May 25 through July 2, 2000.