Thursday, June 7th, 2012...10:16 am
Morocco: Post #6
Sunday 4, June (a.k.a Shayna’s Birthday) began with our departure from Marrakesh. After a long nap on the bus, we arrived in Casablanca where we visited the only Jewish museum in the Arab world. Our amazing tour guide Rafi played a significant role in the unearthing of many of the artifacts we saw and the restoration of many important and historic Jewish sights throughout Morocco that were featured in the exhibits. We were really impressed with the wealth of information we found at the museum and easily could have spent much more time exploring the exhibits, but unfortunately we were on a tight schedule.
After leaving the museum, we visited the second high school in the Alliance school system, which has all Jewish students. We ate lunch and talked with the students in their canteen, although many of them didn’t speak English so well. With typical teenage attitudes, some of the students were engrossed in texting while one boy tried to convince Rachel to eat couscous with her hands. At first we were a bit frustrated with all this, but then we realized that we probably would have done the same thing if we were fourteen. Obviously, as cliché as it is kids all over the world really aren’t that different. On the other hand, these kids were more dedicated to Jewish custom than any of us ever were. The lengthy prayers recited daily after lunch really impressed us and we were again reminded of the strength of the Moroccan Jewish community, especially in Casablanca.
From the high school, we drove to El Jadida, a coastal port and resort town about an hour away from Casablanca, where we immediately began our work restoring a Jewish cemetery. Most of us had no idea what to expect from this experience, and we were put to work painting and patching the outer wall along with clearing a large pile of gravel and sanding the main door. Although most of us aren’t used to this type of manual labor, we enjoyed our experience and spent a large portion of the day singing and dancing to pass the time and keep our energy up. By the end of the day we had finished one side of the entire wall and felt quite accomplished. As always, our hard work ended with a cup of Moroccan tea along with homemade crepes and pastries baked that day by the sister of the cemetery’s guardian.
We returned to the hotel excited to shower and clean the paint and cement off of our bodies. Despite the lack of water pressure, we pushed through and headed down to our group check-in by the hotel’s pool. Here, many of us discussed the physical work we had that completed that day in comparison to the previous work we’d been doing, which involved mainly unseen products in the form of social connections and learning. After we struggled with this idea, we headed in for a dinner of warm soup and bread, fish, and of course, birthday cake!!! Over the day, we had tried to sing happy birthday to Shayna in the six languages that our groups can speak (English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian), and completed this task after dinner. Thanks to Simone, who picked out the dessert, the cake was absolutely delicious and despite being full from a great dinner, we ate it all anyway.
After a long day, many of us didn’t have much energy left, but we all hung out together to celebrate Shayna’s birthday. After an hour or so we decided to retire to bed as we had a long day of work ahead of us tomorrow. I’m sure that we were all amazed that in one day we managed to tour three cities, renovate and entire wall, and still keep our spirits up. We certainly felt that we had left a mark with the work that we had done that day, and were excited to further continue our renovations on the cemetery the next morning.
Julie and Rachel