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The Mellah

by Sam Hackel-Butt (Age: 28)
copyright 08-29-2005

Age Rating: 10 +

The Mellah

Fez, Morocco. My mama and I learned of the massive slaughter that took part today through our neighbor, who’s sister was one of the 250 murdered for being Jewish. Under the Roman Catholic rule, we were nothing but low life Jews. My mama had spent many of her years hiding in the basement of a house, sewing clothing to earn a little extra money and had bad arthritis in her back and hands. She refused me to help her to make her work go faster, because she wanted me to focus on school and get an education. She wanted me to study the Torah and the history of our people, because despite everything, she felt Judaism was the best thing in the world.

My name is Attia. I am the only child in my small family, and live in the Mellah in a small house. We share a house with another family, and I have to share my room with their daughter, Ariel, who is six years older then I. The Mellah became over crowded, forcing families to merge in one house. The government is praised by most of our neighbors, for allowing us shelter from the rain of Arabic raids. I am one of the younger occupants of the block, being twelve, and just Bat Mitzvah’ed in the small synagogue down the street. My mama was so proud. Even though it wasn’t more than a month ago, I can still remember how happy she was when I read from the Torah, and cried as the Rabbi blessed me. But that was before today.

Our neighbor told us the slaughter occurred in the area where my pa worked for a delivery service. Mama was devastated. She was too fearful to cry. I was too shocked to speak. We both stared down the street past the cars that hadn’t been used at all except to provide shade when small girls came out to draw on the sidewalks. I believe we both were searching for the body of my pa, walking up the sidewalk, tired and hungry. But he didn’t show up that night, or the next. Mama feared he was dead.

After a week of silent meals and forced small talk between the two of us, the telephone rang. It was one of those old big black ones without the dial pad and the long coiling cord. I remember Ariel answered it, and called my mama to the phone. When she returned to our room where she was aiding me in my homework, I asked who it was.
“It was a lady from a clinic,” she answered simply, sitting back down on the floor next to me.
“A lady from a clinic?”
“Yes Attia.”

Mama spoke on the phone for hours, whispering nervously, as if there were an Arab next to her, trying to hear her conversation. Ariels parents were sitting in the next room, speaking to each other over the paper Ariel's dad was reading. Mama began to cry into the phone after a pause, and covered her face with her hand. She was hunched over the small table the phone sat on in the shadows I cast from standing in the doorway to the room, which cast the light. I heard my mama pray and beg for God for mercy. Mama later told me that some of the 250 Jews survived the slaughter, being mistaken for dead. Pa was one of them, deeply wounded, and bleeding and bleeding in the clinic.

Mama didn’t speak for the rest of the night. As she sat in the bath, the rest of us sat around the television. It was this small travel one in black and white and poor reception, but we treated it more as a radio then a TV. It was just past sunset and it was time for the evening news. I didn’t pay much attention to the happenings of the day as I found myself thinking of my pa. He had been living in the Mellah for twenty years or so living humbly with his parents and five younger siblings a few streets over. Her parents’ marriage was arranged through the Synagogue to make sure that Judaism survived another day in Fez. The murders of people whose only crime was being born Jewish was at it’s highest a year or two after they were married, and were lucky to be in the neighborhood that was made into a Mellah. It was their blessing, as it’s our curse today, being in an over populated Mellah, being poor, and oppressed. But, it could be worse.

“How could it be worse?” a voice in my head questioned.
“God is still listening. Pa is still alive, and heard mama’s prayers. In the end, that’s all we have, isn’t it?” I replied, hugging my knees to my chest, and closing my eyes, thankful that someone was listening, and caring for the Jewish people enough to spare the life of a few from the slaughter.

A few terms
-Mellah is simmilar to a Ghetto which housed Jews during WW2.
-Bat Mitzvah: When a girl becomes a woman in the Jewish faith at the age of 12

**This was written as an assignment for English. We had to take an event in the past that had to do with opression, and write like it happened again in the future. I took the topic of the opression of the Jews in Morocco.**

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        08-04-2006     BJ Niktabe        

With everything going on in the middle east right now, this hits home. You did an excellent job, writing in first person. I hope you got a good grade on this!

One thing I had a question about:

In the sixth paragraph, you wrote, "Her parents’ marriage was arranged through the Synagogue..." Are you speaking Attia's parents? Should it be "My parents' marriage...?" I was confused there.


        08-30-2005     Anthony Lane Stahlhut        

It was a terrible time and they still happen today. Why do they feel they must kill to have their way. Its hard enough to just live. There is nothing wrong with being Jewish! or Christian, Buddhist or any other religion/faith, but you don't have to kill one another. Good story! Anthony

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