My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MARRAKECH, Morocco —Some of the musicians we heard on our visit to the Jewish quarter of Marrakech were young, some old, and they played instruments of an ancient type. They presented Andalusian music and sang Berber songs, often improvising as they went along.

The women then formed a circle in the courtyard, a few of them beat on a large tambourine, and all swayed and clapped in rhythm with the music. Occasionally two women would break out of line and dance to each other, or a man would step out and bow to a lady and they would dance together, never touching but moving in rhythm to each other.

Both men and women shake the upper parts of their bodies in a way which would make our rock `n' roll youngsters envious!

In their songs and instrumental music there is a strain of plaintive sadness not unlike that which I felt in Indian music.

The people are like Berbers. No one could tell they were Jews, but the restrictions under which they live make their faces sad, as are so many Jewish faces, no matter where they come from.

Under the Sultan and the protectorate, the Jews had some legal protection. But they were forbidden to enter into certain occupations, such as agriculture, so these Jews of the mountain villages were, for the most part, the go-betweens of the city and village--the intermediaries who bought and sold.

Now the government has established markets on regular days when people go from the cities to buy the wares, so the Jews of the villages can no longer earn a living.

The American Jewish charities keep them alive, but there is tension and most of them would like to leave Morocco and go to Israel.

Morocco's Jewish population numbers about 250,000. All the Jews who are better off live in the cities and probably will feel more secure as the new regime proves that its promise of equal justice for all people is a fact, that all people will be protected from sudden, fanatical uprisings, and that all will have equal rights and opportunities.

At present, Jewish families are not granted visas, and I think that a mass movement now would be unwise both for this country and for Israel.

I hope, however, the Moroccan government soon will recognize the need for accepting the freedom-of-movement principle for all of its people. Then, slowly and as the need arises, a few Jews may move. Later, if they still feel the urge, more may go. But it is hoped that many will remain, for they will strengthen the Moroccan economy and this is important in the world situation.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Marrakech (Morocco) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 6, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.