Jaqui and Fernando Levy Hara and their sons, Brian and ___________, recently traveled to Morocco to learn more about their Jewish Sephardic roots. They were surprised to see how deep the Jewish culture is in present-day Morocco, through the food, craftsmanship in the markets and even in their language. They found that every city still has the old Melah-the ancient Jewish quarter. Melah means “salt” in Arabic as well as Hebrew, because the Jewish merchants used to trade salt, which was as expensive as gold in those times
The Levy Hara family visited synagogues, some several centuries old, and a few were still functioning as synagogues, while the rest were kept as museums. They visited a Jewish cemetery in Marrakech, with tombs from even before the ninth century. At the Jewish museum in Casablanca, they learned that during World War II, the King did not accept Hitler’s orders to arrest and hand over all the Jews to the Nazis in order to be deported to the extermination camps, and that Morocco is the only Muslim country that recognized the existence of the Jewish people and their right to exist.
One of their most memorable moments was their camel ridge to a bereber camp in the middle of the desert, on the top of the High Atlas Mountain where they spent New Year’s Eve around a campfire. They slept in tents in 28 degree weather (of course no heat or electricity) and despite the cold, their hearts were warm with an even stronger family bond and appreciation of their heritage.