‘Inappropriate’ Voices from the Past: Contextualizing Narratives from the First Group Tour of Olim from Northern Morocco to Their Former Hometowns

in European Journal of Jewish Studies
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This study is based on the analysis of some rare audio recordings from the first organized group tour of olim (Jewish immigrants in Israel) from northern Morocco, to their former hometowns in Morocco. The tour was organized in 1987 by mabat, the principal émigré association of northern Moroccans in Israel during the 1980s. I compare this ‘free-style’-oral audio source with related printed-edited narratives, written by mabat before and after the tour, showing an evolving tension between two forms of narration: the expected ethnic-oriented narration among individuals travelling together as mabat members; and other ‘extra-ethnic’ narratives, encompassing contrasting spontaneous recollections from their childhood in Morocco. The conclusions reveal the often organized nature of vocally expressed ethnic voices; and the dynamic social environments that such voices represent, both before and after aliyah (immigration). The study offers a methodological and theoretical contribution to scholarship on ethnicity formation in Israel.

‘Inappropriate’ Voices from the Past: Contextualizing Narratives from the First Group Tour of Olim from Northern Morocco to Their Former Hometowns

in European Journal of Jewish Studies




See Shlomo Deshen and Moshe ShokeidThe Predicament of Homecoming: Cultural and Social Life of North African Immigrants in Israel (Ithaca: Cornell University Press1974); Shlomo Deshen and Moshe Shokeid The Generation of Transition; Continuity and Change among North Africa Immigrants in Israel (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute 1999) [Hebrew]. Both pointed out the clash of Moroccan traditions with Zionist modernity. Others adopted a postcolonial stance. See for example Yehouda Shenhav The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism Religion and Ethnicity (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2006); Sami Shalom-Chetrit The Mizrahi Struggle in Israel: Between Oppression and Liberation Identification and Alternative 1948–2003 (Tel-Aviv: Am-Oved 2004) [Hebrew]. For further discussions see i.e. Yaron Tsur “Carnival Fears: Moroccan Immigrants and the Ethnic Problem in the Young State of Israel” Journal of Israeli History 18 (1997): 93–103.


See Aviad Moreno“De-Westernizing Morocco: Pre-Migration Colonial History and the Ethnic-Oriented Self Representation of Tangier’s Natives in Israel,” Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History 4 (2012): 67–85; Aviad Moreno Ethnicity in Motion: Social Networks in the Emigration of Jews from Northern Morocco to Venezuela and Israel 1860–2010 (Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 2014).


Elbaz“ ‘Exile from Within’ ” 213–215; Tsur “The Israeli Historiography” 246; As’ad Ghanem Ethnic Politics in Israel: The Margins and the Ashkenazi Centre (London: Routledge 2010) 63–76.


Mitchell M. SerelsA History of the Jews of Tangier in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New-York: Sepher-Hermon Press1991) 177.


Moreno“Ethnicity in Motion” 65; see below several reflections in interviews.


Yaakov Bentolila“The Study of Moroccan Judeo-Spanish (Hakitia),” El Presente: Studies in Sephardic Culture 1 (2007): 160.


Moreno“De-westernizing Morocco” 67–85.


Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Stephen SharotEthnicity Religion and Class in Israeli Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1991) 65 71; Seymour Spilerman and Jack Habib “Development Towns in Israel: The Role of Community in Creating Ethnic Disparities in Labor Force Characteristics” American Journal of Sociology 81 (1976): 789.


Reuven Shabat“Learning is Never Boring,” Etrog—Education Journal (2008) [Hebrew] http://www.itu.org.il/?CategoryID=1461&ArticleID=12590 (last accessed January 8 2011).


See Yaakov BentolilaThe Sociophonology of Hebrew as Spoken in a Rural Settlement of Moroccan Jews in the Negev (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University1983) [Hebrew]; Yaakov Bentolila “Le composant hébraïque dans le judéo-espagnol marocain” in: Judeo-Romance Languages eds. Isaac Benabu and Joseph Sermoneta (Jerusalem: Misgav Yerushalayim; Hebrew University 1985) 27–40. For more on similar professional-biographical transformations in related fields see Tamar Alexander-Frizer The Heart is a Mirror: The Sephardic Folktale (Detroit: Wayne State University Press 2007) 569–576. I thank Prof. Tamar Alexander-Frizer for kindly enlightening me with her comments regarding this phenomenon.




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