Synagogue_Zeidman2
Synagogue in the mellah of Fez, Morocco: Photo by Michelle Zeidman

As Deep Travel compiles an anthology of writings by our wonderful workshop alumni, we have enjoyed sharing some of their work here on our blog. This time, we have a beautiful vignette by Michelle Zeidman, who joined us on a workshop in Morocco. You’ll be able to find this and work by over 40 contributors in the finished anthology in August. Join us at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA for the book launch on August 7 at 7 pm.

Finding Home

Michelle Zeidman

I glide in my long skirt down a dark, tight alley. I pass a lilac-colored playground with painted tires and a blue slide. I arrive at an ancient door with a heavy brass ring. I clank the knocker three times, and my call is returned by a tumble of footsteps falling down a worn cobblestone path.

Inside: beige, water-stained walls. Underfoot: green and white tiles in a herringbone pattern. I smell mold and damp and centuries of prayer. In a dark alcove, I see a plush, red velvet Torah cover embroidered with musty gold thread and Hebrew characters I cannot read. I feel sad and wobbly in this place. I wish my grandfather where here to guide me through the history. Instead, it’s a Moroccan man in a heavy wool coat who opens the door, motions me around the vacant synagogue, and leaves me to absorb the past.

Jews have long left Fez’s mellah—its historic Jewish quarter. It’s now inhabited by Muslims whose homes overlook the Jewish cemetery and abut this old synagogue. In Fez, like so many other places, Jews have been persecuted. It’s in our blood to be driven out of our homes, made to be “other,” and unwelcome in places that were once ours.

Still, I feel well received here in Morocco, and every Salaam is returned: by the man on the train who pauses from watching me paint to silently observe the call to prayer, by the new friend who dresses me in her finest takchita, and by the fat lady in dirty undies who scrubs me raw with mud in the public hammam—or bathhouse.

Morocco wraps me in its nest of twisty alleyways and orange trees. It beckons me with its carefully laid zellij tiles and countless feral cats. It calls me home to a land I’m not from, to an abandoned synagogue with signs I cannot understand, to a locale apart from time, to a place my grandpa’s spirit lurks. I am once again connected to my roots.

 

MICHELLE ZEIDMAN is an artist, writer, and avid traveler. Her adventures have taken her to 26 countries and counting. Michelle has snorkeled with humpback whales, flown her paraglider in the Himalayas, studied tropical ecology in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, and hiked hundreds of miles of trails across six continents. She has Masters degrees in Urban Planning (MUP) and Public Administration (MPA), and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. Her art and jewelry can be viewed at ModernNatureArt.com.

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