I attended an event held at Concordia University in Montreal, with a presentation of the film ‘Tinghir-Jerusalem: Echoes from the Mellah (Tinghir-Jérusalem: Les échos du Mellah, 2013), by Moroccan-French filmmaker Kamal Hachkar.


The film was just splendid, raw, with heartbreaking moments to lively and humorous conversations. It is the voices of both Jewish and Muslim Berber men and women and their past memories, almost as if trapped for decades in tightly capped bottles. They were now being released, freed, through this film, and as questions still remain for some, so do the sincere longing for the peaceful coexistence of the once community of Tinghir, Morocco.

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The documentary is of the journey – which began in France and then between Morocco and Israel – the filmmaker took when he wanted to learn more about his native land of Tinghir, Morocco, and soon in his research, found there was once a Jewish Berber community that lived side by side with the Muslim Berber people – and his own family.

At one point in the film, this part in Israel, Hachkar knocks on the wrong door inside of a building looking for the interviewee he was supposed to meet, but another woman instead answers the door. She politely directs him to the building where he could meet the person he was looking for, but perhaps because of her accent or dialect, he asks her if she’s Moroccan and she concedes that she is. He tells her he’s also from Morocco and she smiles politely. He then proceeds to add he is Muslim, and then everything changes in her tone and demeanour...

It starts by her blowing him a kiss and then goes on to say the following:

“Good people [about Moroccan Muslims]! Good people!!
We, we love peace. We love peace between us [Muslims and Jews].
You heard me? That Arabs and Jews live together. We lived together. And here now, here, he kills him and he kills him.... Why? Why all that? You, go live with your children and I’ll go live with mine. Why fight all our lives over this land? It’s a sin! For a land! We have to live together, in peace, together, Jews and Muslims. Why all this tension, why? The land won’t move. And people are dying because of this? It is a sin! It’s a land! How much is it worth? We can all live on it, you and I."

It was such a moving moment in the film; sweet, funny and sincere.

Throughout the film, all who were interviewed from the older population of Tinghir that are Muslim, all the way to Jerusalem where Hachkar managed to find Jewish Berbers who left Tinghir decades ago, everyone had only kind things to say about the other and their once-neighbors. Everyone reminisced with such sadness for the longing of those days and the ease of how things once were.

I invite you to watch the documentary on YouTube (I think it is only available currently with French subtitles), but there are many articles on the subject if interested in learning more.

The event itself, as mentioned earlier, was held at Concordia University; it was in the evening and had no direct association with the school. The attendees of the event were people that were interested on the subject, and the crowd was a mixture of Jews, Muslims, Berbers and as multicultural as the city of Montreal.

It was a great learning experience as the film taught us not only about a piece of history, but how coexistence is possible. It touched us emotionally and raised our awareness on the issue; it made us empathetic toward the cause. And that’s a powerful thing.

I mention this fact because not so long ago, Concordia University and McGill University (also in Montreal), were both affected by the BDS movement.

About academic boycotts: BDS is supposed to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation. The movement, however, at least in the context of school campuses, only causes division, tension and even increases hatred on campuses. Academia’s purpose is to educate, encourage dialogue, exchange and share information, and where conflict resolution is taught. Not to build walls – but to build bridges.

A University hosting events such as the one I attended, open to all, where something meaningful and peaceful is endorsed, a dialogue is promoted, an advocacy for a cause is fostered, that’s a powerful influence, and it’s called education.

Education needn’t always be formal; it can also be through the arts. And I learned a lot through this film.





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