Bridging Time, Distance and Mistrust, With Music

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Ms. Elkayam’s grandparents left Morocco for Israel, greater than 2,000 miles away, within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, by no means to return. They joined an exodus of lots of of hundreds of Jews, most of them drawn to the brand new state of Israel, that left only some thousand nonetheless in Morocco.

She grew up in Netivot, a comparatively poor city of Sephardic Jews in southern Israel. Their language, music and meals survived in such locations — till her mother and father despatched her to boarding faculty when she was 14, Ms. Elkayam stated, she didn’t know any Ashkenazi Jews — however have pale with time.

Ms. Elkayam was very near her father’s mom, who left Tinghir, an Amazigh village within the Atlas Mountains, in 1956. Sephardic immigrants struggled for years in Israel, and Ms. Elkayam stated her grandmother lived inside her recollections of dwelling, by no means absolutely studying Hebrew or adapting to her new setting. She saved the rhythms of her pastoral life in Morocco, waking at 5 a.m., making bread day-after-day and socializing with different Moroccan exiles.

“If it weren’t for the religion and faith and the recollections, she wouldn’t have survived,” Ms. Elkayam stated. “She lived like she was nonetheless in Tinghir. She had a neighbor she spoke Amazigh with. My grandmother wasn’t a cheerful particular person, however she was all the time singing.”

Ms. Elkayam’s mother and father, academics who had been born in Morocco however left after they had been younger, made their first journey again in 1996. She joked that they introduced again nothing however photos of the cemeteries Jewish vacationers go to to hint their household histories.

“I by no means stopped listening to about Morocco,” she stated. “We talked about Morocco on a regular basis. Jewish immigrants from Morocco had quite a lot of troubles and difficulties. That’s why Morocco was all the time current of their recollections.”

That longing and sense of displacement, which Ms. Elkayam inherited, is a continuing theme in her work, as is a seek for her personal identification. She has been working onerous on bettering the Moroccan Arabic she sings in, and her music movies alternate photos of Morocco and Israel.

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