After the synagogue I prepared to say goodbye. Shukran wa Hag Sameah. But they insisted I join them for lunch. For about an hour I sat with one of the women as she patiently conversed with me about everything and anything. I mentioned that I had gone to Rissani to see the home of the Baba Sali and that I had been to his hilloula in Israel. She excitedly told me that she was related to Baba Baruch and Sidna Baba Sali and then quickly covered and uncovered her eyes blessing him and his family.
The house I am in looks large. There is space. I am seated in the living room. The woman I am speaking to is fascinating. Her family is originally from Figuig, the oasis town of 200k palm trees about 7 hours south of here. The cemeteries are destroyed she says but I have seen at least one picture that makes me believe there are at least some tombstones untouched. Her family used to travel to Algeria she tells me. They would visit Oran. The Grand Synagogue there (which I will link to shortly) has been turned into a mosque (true). She was last there about 15 years ago. She knew all the important centers of Jewish life in Algeria. I asked her if she knew Ghardaia in the Mzab. She definitely knew it. In fact come to think of it the syangogue in Oujda and Ghardaia have many similarities including the stained glass. The syangogue is abandoned but still stands I told her.
She began to set the table carefully placing plate upon bowl upon plate and then finishing off with a checkered red and white cloth napkin. We sat – 3 Jewish women – and me. Round matzah filled the table. We spoke about everything from Israel to food prices in America. They wanted me to tell them how much I made in the US and if I liked Obama. We ate salads, meatballs, telfas (a Passover quiche), lamb and peas. Needless to say – everything was delicious. We finished our meal with fruit, tea, and coffee. I went to bid them farewell and they asked me to come again for dinner.
I cant wait.