Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, November 7, 2008

Arazan – Oct 29

I decided to sleep in as I was exhausted from all my travel. I headed to the grand taxi station around 10.45 am and waited until 11.15 or so but could not get a taxi going to Arazan. One of the drivers told me to come back around 2 and so I went back to the hotel, rested a bit more, and then headed to lunch. After lunch I headed straight for the grand taxi station and was the 6th and final person for the taxi headed to Arazan. Much easier than the morning. The ride to Arazan was easy. Arazan is a small Berber village. It was not too difficult to locate the mellah. I was in Arazan for one reason. I had heard that there was a synagogue left in excellent condition. Although everyone and everything else was gone an elderly Muslim man had watched over the synagogue for some 45 years. Apparently when it was rediscovered by the lone Jewish tour guide here the elderly man chided him, asking, “What took you so long?” A group of men directed me to a young girl who took me to the guardian’s house. He was surprisingly tall. He took me to a wood door and had me unlock it as the lock was small and his eyesight poor. We then walked to another wood door that was also locked and this time he unlocked it. This led us into the courtyard of the synagogue that also doubled as the women’s section. He then opened a third door, a set of double doors actually, a beautiful bright blue, and I finally saw the synagogue. It is incredibly small but tugs the soul right away. Painted on one of the beams that surrounds the bima is written in Hebrew: How good it is Jacob to dwell in your tents and Know Before Whom You Stand - the King of Kings, Blessed Be He. On each wall the corresponding direction in Hebrew is painted. The walls are mud brick and the roof is thatch with a skylight. Surrounding the bima is the bench on which people could sit at the appropriate time during prayer. Above the bima is a shelf with a small burner for light. The ark is small but exquisite painted ornately. I know I have said this before but this synagogue has to be one of the highlights of my trip.

Before we left the men’s section and the main sanctuary I asked the guardian if he knew any Hebrew. A little he said.

Baruch haba. Baruch Ata Adonai. Shma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. Shavua tov. Mazal tov. And finally: Shalom Aleichem wa Aleichem Shalom.

He then led me to the women’s section and the mikvah which was an astonishingly good condition. Totally unexpected he then invited me into his home for tea and tagine. We sat and broke bread together. We discussed as much as my language skills would allow me and had a wonderful time as his 7 month old son/grandson (I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to ask) kept us entertained. He was an incredibly cordial host. I again began to let my mind wander. I can’t wait to show this synagogue to people. It would make for a really a nice bike ride from Taroudant and then to wander through Arazan’s alleys to the mellah…

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