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A Single Mother’s Month In Review

Proud Mom Of Brilliant Dynamic Girl

Classes started at the Jewish School in Casablanca and my girl learned songs about Rosh Hashana and Sukkot as well as “Shalom” which she proudly used on everyone: “Shalom Mommy!” “Shalom Mickael!” And before the start of shabbat she explained that G-d made the world in 6 days and on the 7th day G-d rested. I was happy that she learned that. I had not told her much about G-d before because I thought she was too young but I remember learning the same story as a much younger kid and it’s a very good metaphor to explain shabbat which I in fact like very much. One day the goal is to be completely shomer Shabbat and it’s starting with Shiyara, “Mommy it’s shabbat you can’t use the phone. Can I draw?” No.

Explaining A Broken Family Sucks

A lot has happened in the last few weeks including that for the first time my girl announced after a birthday party: “Mommy I want you to be with papa again. ” I was floored. She never said that to me before. “I want him to be your wife.” That made me laugh a little bit. “Tata Isa is not nice. She screams at him and he goes to his room sad. Will you marry him again? Please!” That part made me a little sad so I told her we would talk about it but I haven’t yet sat her down to explain that it isn’t possible.

Even the Best Families Are Complicated Too

Right before Simchat Torah I met an amazing family that took me in for the entire week of holy days. The father is a Rabbi and school principle who let me interview him for a news report I did. His family was so human and so relatable even in small things like the Rabbi’s daughter just got recently divorced and has a little girl. She returned home to her family from Israel after working months to leave her abusive husband who tried to forbid her from leaving the country. We had a lot in common in our experiences.  This family was so human and welcoming, kind and generous that it’s hard not to fall in love with them. They speak Moroccan at home with each other (a rarity here for people of a certain class whether Muslim or Jewish to speak anything other than French). Both his sons went to the best Yeshivas in England and one of them is now working as a shohet. Kippas under caps and white shirts, they go to synagogue daily and teach Torah once a week. At home they wear Morocan jalabas and sing prayers with gusto at the table and it makes me stare at them in awe of their courage to sing without second guessing themselves or caring about who listens or looks. They are confident and it’s attractive. They don’t touch women but are friendly. Each night at midnight or later they would walk me home the 7 blocks to my apartment and drop me off. One night Shiyara invited them up and they politely said next time because she won’t understand that under no circumstances would they come up to my house alone. One of the boys was married for a month but divorced for reasons I do not know and will not ask about. The first time I met him he was wearing a bloody apron and a long black beard. All I wanted to do was take his picture. On Simhat Torah he danced in the synagogue as the whiskey made the rounds and we drank. I pointed him out to my girlfriends saying, “I have a crush on the Rabbi’s son.” My two friends both stared at him. One scratched her head and the other started laughing. “You have unique taste!”

Violence On The Street

Sometimes in Morocco even if you are happy it’s quite often that someone interrupts your happiness in a very violent way as it so happened on the Shabbat before last when as I left synagogue and was on my way home with my daughter and another girl friend, a man spit at me and my daughter on the street. Here I was, in a beautiful pink dress with my beautiful daughter Shiyara also in a dress for Shabbat, and out of no where without any warning and for no reason he spit at us. I found out that 2 weeks before he punched a nanny walking with a 3 year old little boy who is the son of my friend and also Jewish. He then headbutted the next woman and a few months before that he threw a rock at the Kosher butcher store. They say he’s crazy and harmless but that says nothing coming from a police force that doesn’t have any 911 system or even a computer system and won’t come out of their office to you unless there is blood on the floor. Even if you were being raped, if there isn’t blood, the police considers it not important enough to come to your aide unless there is blood. I am not great at tuning things out and I would make a terrible Buddist because I turned around and yelled for all of the block to hear in Moroccan that he was scum and I would call the cops on him, that he was an asshole and I cursed him. It was a diatribe of the dirtiest curse words I knew. He walked as quickly as he could from me. I was livid. I asked the girl next to me, “Hello! Are you there? Where were you?” She said she was in shock and had a delayed reaction. The men that saw this were trying to pass it off like it was nothing because frankly I don’t think they knew what to do.

“DID YOU SEE WHAT HE DID!!” I screamed at them.

They said, “He’s crazy. Everyone knows this. Don’t worry about it. He’s insane.” They tried to smile and calm me down by saying he didn’t mean it. The mentality here is to let it go if you are a woman, a child or a poor person. You ignore it, because everything in the end is really just your fault.

Despite my deep distrust of the police here, I filed a police complaint that took me coming in a sitting with the police from 2:30pm until the end of the day and continued the next day until 12:30pm and it’s not over. I might have to petition the mayor to send him to the state hospital. (Morocco! Where teenagers who kiss are sent to prison and people who eat during Ramadan or smoke are also sent to prison but you can’t get a violent crazy into a mental hospital until he kills someone.)

Sexual Harassment

I left the city to go to a hilloula (pilgramage) to the tomb of tsaddik Rabbi David Ben Moshe in the Berber village near Ouarzazate that took 5 hours to reach and 2 hours of circular motions on small tiny roads that made me want to vomit. When I arrived I expected to find a spiritual place which I did at certain moments and I met the organizers who were angels but after the drinking started mixed with the Morocccan macho culture, things got out of hand. I shouldn’t have to bring a man with me to stop married men from chasing me around all night but that is what I had to do in between work.

To the credit of most of the men there, they were respectful and polite but there seems to always be that one aggressive male that won’t take No for an answer. There was a man who had a few too many and only got more rude as I politely took my distance from him and didn’t let him monopolize my time. I came to work not to speak to him. Plus has he looked in the mirror? Has he heard himself speak?

He ended up calling me names under his breath, trying to guilt me into engaging with him. He told people I wasn’t nice, basically whined like a baby because I didn’t flirt with him, an old married entitled disgusting jerk who told me about what a great guy he was and all the great things he did in his life. If you have to say it I don’t think it’s all that true.

After all night of this and his alcohol levels increasing I was actually feeling a mix of fear and anger about this man because it lasted all night and it was now 3am in the morning. The last event of my night was him violently hitting the man who I was talking to in the face which I felt was meant for me.  I was shocked and so was the man. But it doesn’t end there. When a man feels entitled he really can do anything and pass it off as normal. He actually tried to pass it off as a joke and had the nerve to scold him the man he hit by saying that the man should be checking my passport and ID before letting me film the event. I tried to stay professional but after he snapped my picture on his phone and made another insulting comment about the man I was talking to who also happened to be the organizer, I told him, “It’s You who should be very careful J. Very careful!”

I said it without rage but to anyone around it was clear I meant every word. The man turned his back and shuffled off. It’s times like these I am happy that Moroccans are constantly paranoid about the CIA and accusing me of working for them. I wish I did work for the CIA because I would send 7 modern plagues on his house. What makes me most upset is I should not have to bring a male keeper with him to work as a personal body guard. It upsets me.

A Rabbi Fleeing Justice In Israel

I left the next day before Shabbat but before leaving I discovered the reason why there were a ton of Russian-Israeli Jewish women dressed in Saudi Arabian dress there….yes in the niqab and some completely covered in ways I have never seen before which I have to admit creeped me out a bit. The Rabbe that has been running from Israeli authorities for charges of sexual abuse, Eliezer Berland, was there at the hilloula and now lives in Marrakech. People say it isn’t true and I understand why, but if he was innocent why would he be running from the law in Israel?

I grew up around powerful “righteous” men who abused girls and women like it was an Olympic sport and were aiming for gold, so I tend to believe these women and girls that have nothing to gain but death threats for speaking out, which is exactly the case for them now in Israel.

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