Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
“Shalom, I am writing to you from Morocco. My name is Ophir Shamai and we are here on a mission of young people from the Negev town of Yeruham, under the auspices of the ‘Kulna’
organization. We are on an exciting journey of learning about our identity, culture, and history. One of our goals is to renovate the Jewish cemetery in Marrakesh. It was very emotional to fix and clean the ancient gravestones of our ancestors, and also to learn from their Torah.
The book of Exodus opens with a dramatic declaration: “And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; with Jacob, each man and his household came.” Our sages tell us that in all the years of exile, the children of Israel did not change their names, their language, or their dress. All the Jews in Egypt knew not only who their father was, but also the father of the father of their father – Yaakov Avinu. The deep connection of their souls – the knowledge that they were part of a long chain of holy people – is what ultimately motivated them to leave Egypt. And this is exactly what is happening to us here in Morocco: exposure to an impressive heritage of our Jewish identity. It sometimes seems to me that in our own “Exodus from Egypt” in this generation, as we made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, not all of our spiritual treasures were packed into our suitcases. Perhaps they actually were packed up, but then were disrespectfully removed when we arrived in Eretz Yisrael. An important part of our identity was erased and forgotten. It’s important not only for the body to make Aliya to Eretz Yisrael, but for the soul as well. Our task, that of the younger generation, is to bring all the holy sparks from all of our exiles to Eretz Yisrael.”