In 2013, Jewish-Berber relations in Tinghir, a large kasbah in an oasis at the mouth of the stunning Todra gorge, were popularized in a controversial film, “Tinghir-Jerusalem,” by a Moroccan-French director, Kamal Hachkar. Breaking a taboo of Moroccan Islamists, Hachkar visited Israel to interview Israeli Jews who left the Tinghir mellah in the 1950’s.
In the film, he brought together by telephone his Amazigh father who still lives in Tinghir with his Jewish friend from Tinghir who had been living in Israel for over 60 years. The scene brought out the common humanity of Moroccan Jews and the Amazigh people, as well as their intertwined lives before the Jews emigrated. It also was an important demonstration of the nostalgia of both Moroccan-Israeli Jews for the country they left and the positive memories of Moroccans for the Jews who left.
Islamists protested the 2013 showing of the film in Tangier. In 2014, however, over 500 people applauded and no one protested the film when it was shown in Tinghir. The Daily Star of Lebanon reported on the reaction of attendees:
“This story is ours and will continue to be, whatever the issues and the manipulations of others,” said Fanny Mergui, a Moroccan Jew who emigrated to Israel with her family at the age of 16 before returning to Casablanca, where she now lives. I was born with a Star of David and a crescent moon on my head. This land here, we will carry it with us for ever. Kindness kept us together.”
Daoud, an elderly craftsman in Tinghir, is among the few who are able to share personal memories of the town’s Jewish past with the younger generation. “There was always understanding between Jews and Muslims. Religion separated us, but kindness kept us together. The departure of the Jews left a vacuum, and they are always in our memories,” he said.”
Of course, life was more complex for Amazigh and Jews in Tinghir through the 1950s than was depicted in the film. The stresses of business relations, religious differences, governance and security weighed heavy on both peoples at different times.
While the city of Tinghir now has a population of 42,000, the kasbah, which includes the mellah, holds many fewer people. In 1930, a French soldier wrote that the kasbah had 300 homes, with a Jewish quarter of 70 homes in the center.