They Came from Casablanca

In Casablanca, young Joshua Dadon was doing pretty well for himself; the "Mellah" is behind us.

Cartoon 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cartoon 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In Casablanca, young Joshua Dadon was doing pretty well for himself. At 27, he was a patron, employing four men in the small shoemaking establishment which he operated in the “mellah,” the teeming quarter where 50,000 of the city’s 80,000 Jews live.
After work, he would cross Place de France, the huge square which separates the alley-cat ghetto from the boulevards and skyscrapers of the new city. There he lived in a comfortably furnished apartment in the centre of town and enjoyed whatever night life tense Casablanca had to offer.
In January 1955, Joshua ended his carefree bachelor existence. He married pretty young Josephine and five days later the newlyweds said goodbye to their family and friends and left for Israel.
I called on Joshua several weeks ago at his neat but modest cottage in his moshav. Looking at his gnarled, soil-clotted fingers clasped before him, I wondered why he had chosen to change his way of life so completely. Joshua’s answer came quickly. “I wanted never again to hear the words ‘dirty Jew.’” He said the first thing he did when he disembarked at Haifa port was to kiss the ground. The first thing Josephine did when they came to the new moshav in the brown, rolling waste at the southern fringe of the Jerusalem Corridor was to sit down and cry.
“It was difficult for her,” Joshua explains. “She is from a wealthy family with servants and used to comfort. In the beginning we had to get our water from a well a kilometre away. There was no electricity.”
He looked at the wires protruding from the walls and the ceiling. “There is still no electricity but there will be in a couple of months. And now there is water. We are laying down a pipe, and soon there will be water even for irrigation.”
In the year and a half they have been here, he says, Josephine has come to love the land and never thinks of going back to Morocco.
“Sometimes we go up to Jerusalem and when we walk past the Government buildings, she tells me that they are ours, not French or Arab. It is our country.”
Eight months ago, the immigrant couple had their first child, a handsome sabra they have called Albert.
Jewish Agency instructors at the moshav say that Joshua is one of the hardest working members of the moshav. He works with a wonderfully cheerful spirit but not with any special devotion. If he had any money, he would like to go to the city and open up some sort of shop. But on the wage of IL 5 a day the Agency pays him, he cannot hope to do it. For little Albert, however, Joshua has plans. “He will go to school and learn bookkeeping. I don’t want him to have to work like I do.” But, by the time Albert grows up, the instructor says, the moshav will be different. He would not be a paid hired hand but a farmer, whose prosperity will depend largely on his own initiative.
Beneath the glass table top in the Dadons’ kitchen, alongside white doilies, are picture postcard views of Casablanca. Joshua looks at them and grins. “You know, in ‘Casa,’ I was positively white and never wore a hat for fear of damaging the wave in my hair.” He runs a hand over his sun-darkened face and sweaty tousled hair. “I have had to forget the cinemas and cafes. But I thank God I am here.”
Domestic LetterboxThe season of the nettles (asparagus of the poor) has begun. The tender leaves of nettles are free for the taking in the gardens and fields all over the countryside. The nutritional value, mineral and vitamin content of nettles is much higher than that of lettuce.
Nettles are eaten cooked or as salads in New Zealand and Australia, as well as in various countries in Asia. Wash them well and prepare salads with leafy vegetables.