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In TINGHIR-JERUSALEM, filmmaker and historian Kamal Hachkar goes in search of a community that has vanished - and confronts fundamental questions of his own identity in the process.
A Berber Muslim born in Tinghir, Morocco and raised in France, Hachkar says 'the only thing that I was sure of is that I came from elsewhere.' While he would return to Tinghir every summer with his family, it would be years before he discovered that the town once had a thriving Jewish community. By the mid-1960s though, they, along with the other 250,000 Jews of Morocco, had left for Israel.
They were not driven out by rising Islamism or even political enmity over the Arab-Israeli wars that followed the founding of the state of Israel. Instead, they were the targets of a successful Zionist campaign that extolled the virtues of life in Israel and encouraged emigration. Fifty years later, their history has been largely forgotten in their homeland.
Hachkar sets off in search of that history. He travels to Israel, seeking out those who emigrated from Tinghir and their descendants - some of whom identify as Israeli, while others still firmly see themselves as Moroccan. The fluidity of identity is captured through language, as participants in the film seamlessly shift back and forth between languages - speaking Arabic, Berber and French.
What he discovers in conversations over old family photos and while listening to the stories of the Jews who left Tinghir - and the Muslims who remain - is a history of close co-operation between communities. They shared a common identity as Berbers, and lived in a town where 'the muezzin's call would mingle with that of the morning Jewish prayer.' In encounter after encounter, his interlocutors speak wistfully of the past - Muslims expressing sadness over the departure of their neighbours, and Jews wondering if that departure was worthwhile.
The Jews who left Tinghir did so willingly. Most saw themselves as fulfilling the Biblical teachings to return to the Holy Land. But in going to Israel was their period of exile ending... or was a new one beginning?