Raphy Elmaleh visits the town of Arazan, outside Taroudant in southern Morocco, to show an old synagogue he helped restore. When Elmaleh first discovered the site in the late 1980s, the synagogue was still being looked after by Harim, a local Amazigh (Berber) who kept the building’s key safe for decades. Inside the synagogue was a pile of hay, as well as Hebrew writing and an old ark for holding Torah scrolls. Elmaleh would eventually return to the synagogue to lead the process of restoring the building.
In this video, Elmaleh goes inside the locked compound where the synagogue sits. He shows the unusual key and door lock that secure the synagogue, and he explains how he restored the sanctuary and the mikveh (ritual bath). He also introduces viewers to Harim, the old guardian, who still remembers the Hebrew prayers of his Jewish neighbors 45 years after they left. Harim recalls the names of Jews who lived next to the synagogue, pointing out the rubble of their former homes. At the end of the clip, Elmaleh drives alongside the town’s Jewish cemetery, which is today used as farmland, and recounts the story of how he handled one extremist in Arazan, who tried to stop the restoration of the synagogue.
- Ifrane d’Anti-Atlas (Oufrane)
A visit to the ancient synagogue in the town of Ifrane d’Anti-Atlas (Oufrane) in southern Morocco. According to legend, a band of Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem headed west, eventually arriving at this oasis at the foot of a sloping mountain along the edge of the Sahara desert. Having experienced the magnificent splendor of Jerusalem, they are said to have created an independent Jewish realm and built a mini-temple of their own. That legendary building still stands, a testament to the 2,000 year-old Amazigh (Berber) Jewish culture that somehow flourished amidst the raw power of the desert.After the Jewish community left en masse in the 1950s, the synagogue was locked and began to decay — only to be restored in 1999. But the symbolic depiction of the Ten Commandments (evoking the original tablets stored in Jerusalem’s Temple) that once sat above the Torah ark have mysteriously vanished.