Sunday, October 12, 2008
On our way back up (north) from Merzouga I continued to call out the names of cities and villages that once had significant Jewish populations and that in all likely continues to possess Jewish cemeteries. Amir told me he was interested in seeing something Jewish. Show me something, he said. I had shown both of them some sights in Rabat including the former Alliance Israelite Universalle school, a (former) Jewish owned paper shop, a synagogue and some Judaica for sale in Rabat storefronts. I told them we would stop in Erfoud and find something. I didn’t bring any of my notes with me on the trip and so most of what I could show them would have to be drawn from memory. I had remembered that the Erfoud cemetery continued the tomb of R. Eliyahu Abuhatzeira of the famous Abuhatzeira clan. The problem was we were pressed for time. We were trying to cover too many hours in too short a time. We would be forced to drive at night if we made any stops and anyone who has driven in the south of Morocco knows that night driving can be slightly risky. I kept my eyes peeled as we drove north from Rissani to Erfoud. Pull over here, I said. I spotted what I assumed to be the Erfoud Jewish cemetery. I had never been there of course but was sure I was in the right spot. I entered the cemetery as Amir and Tara trailed quite far behind. There was a caretaker on premises but no one came out to greet us or ask us questions. The cemetery is in fairly good condition. As you enter there is a row of graves directly in front of you and also to the right of you. The cemetery is walled on all sides. Many of the graves had stones on them, the traditional Jewish mark of visitation. Between the two blocks of graves is the grave of R. Eliyahu Abuhatzeira. There is large room for participants who partake in the annual hilloula. I also noticed some broken pottery on the ground in the cemetery. I had heard that there was a Berber superstition that associated breaking pottery in Jewish cemeteries with some sort of good luck. I’m not sure if this is true but I did see a broken tagine. For Amir and Tara it was one of their first tastes of Jewish Morocco and there we were only an hour or so away from the Sahara.
Posted by Chris Silver at 2:24 PM