Bridging Time, Distance and Mistrust, With Music

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Bridging Time, Distance and Distrust, With Music

A recent documentary “In Your Eyes I See My Country” on Moroccan State Television, which has been shown at festivals in Marrakech and elsewhere, accompanies Ms. Elkayam and Mr. Cohen, her husband, on a trip to Morocco, including visits to their grandparents’ hometowns . It shows Moroccans hugging her, clasping her hand, and even telling her that they remember their grandparents’ names.

Being an Arabic-speaking Jew in both Israel and Morocco means living with complex, sometimes conflicting, expectations, said Aomar Boum, an anthropologist at the University of California in Los Angeles who specializes in Jewish-Muslim relations. It is clear in the film that Ms. Elkayam “carries a heavy weight,” he said. “It’s just the music that connects the dots.”

The film, due to be shown next month at the Miami Jewish Film Festival, shows her and Mr. Cohen performing for a largely Muslim audience. He ends up spending days in his family’s former village, where he dresses in traditional Moroccan clothes and fellow countrymen welcome him like a brother.

Kamal Hachkar, the Moroccan director of the film, said: “What touched me most about Neta is that I quickly understood that she was singing to repair the wounds of exile.” The documentary, he added, “is a way to face the death of the great story that separated our parents and grandparents, and that our generation can create connections through music that is a real common territory and melting pot for Jews and Muslims . “

The political context is inevitable.

“Singing in Arabic is a political statement,” Ms. Elkayam said. “We want to be part of this area, we want to use language to get in touch with our neighbors. It’s not just about remembering the past. “