A life journey from Casablanca to Jerusalem, Sinai, Texas and Spain

A nostalgic journey back through the time when there was a vibrant Jewish community in Morocco.

 Looking For Home: Memoirs of a Sephardic Jew From Morocco (photo credit: Courtesy)
Looking For Home: Memoirs of a Sephardic Jew From Morocco
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Jewish traditions have evolved into many different customs all over the world. One place that has had a rich tapestry of Jewish customs over the past centuries is Morocco. In his autobiographical book, Looking for Home: Memoirs of a Sephardic Jew from Morocco, Robert Ben-Nun Benayoun shares many of his family’s history and traditions with us.
While reading this book, we are taken on a nostalgic journey back through the time when there was a vibrant Jewish community in Morocco. The customs and traditions of Benayoun’s childhood in Casablanca make for interesting reading. And there are plenty of memories of fascinating characters that populate his life story.
After Benayoun left Morocco at the age of 15 on his own, his story continues in the State of Israel when he was a teenager living in a youth village in the countryside exploring life and girls, finishing high school and then struggling to make his way in the military as a “lone soldier,” at which point he changed his surname to the more Israeli name of “Ben-Nun.”
In the middle of his service, he finds himself immersed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and shares his many experiences of that unsettling time with us.
One of Ben-Nun’s most treasured times of his life were the years he spent living and guiding in the Sinai Desert. It was a time of intense freedom roaming this desert wilderness and communing with nature and the local Bedouin tribes.
Being in the Sinai in those days was an epic adventure that anyone who shared those experiences has been marked for life with the beauty and majesty of it all.
After meeting his future wife, Deborah, a native Texan, his story of migration continues to Texas and Canada and back to Texas again.
Along the way we read about spending time on Texas ranches, continuing his guiding activities by organizing “Jews in Canoes” trips with his friends and raising two great sons.
The final chapter deals with his increasing attachment to a small town in the south of Spain where he and his siblings, who are scattered over several different countries, recreate a place for their family to reconnect.
While this book is clearly not written by a professional author, and the style is more stream of consciousness than smooth prose, it is nonetheless an immensely readable, absorbing and entertaining book.■
The writer is former chair of the Austin Jewish Book Festival in Austin, Texas, and former director of the Festival of Arts, Books & Culture in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Looking For Home: Memoirs of a Sephardic Jew From Morocco
Robert Ben-Nun Benayoun
Positive Imaging, LLC, 2020
422 pages; $19.95
Available via Amazon