He offered me strong, black coffee in a colorful cup

Israel is full of interesting personal stories from the past. As a real estate agent, I meet people in their homes from all corners of the world. When we sit and talk about their apartment for rent or sale, they sometimes start talking about where they lived before, a long, long time ago. 

I came to this home of Moshe some years ago, he wanted to sell his home. We sat down in the living room that was decorated with mosaics, lantern-style lights and strong colors in pillows and curtains. It was easy to see a Moroccan influence and it felt both magical and warm. He offered me strong, black coffee in a colorful cup and started to tell me the facts about his home; when it was built, how many m2, how many rooms etc. He also stated his gratefulness to the State of Israel, where he and his family found refuge and an opportunity to build their life. Then he told me what happened in his hometown Jerada in June 1948:

“I was only a small toddler when we came here from Morocco. For my parents, Morocco was their life. It had the largest Jewish community in the Arab world. Maybe it was in response to the establishment of the Jewish State and in solidarity with the Arabs fighting in Israel? The local population became very hostile towards the Jews. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a mob, armed with axes and knifes poured into the Jewish quarter of Jerada and started to attack the residents. It was a huge chaos and people were running everywhere, in all directions. In the turmoil, my parents and siblings ran away as a group, both parents thinking that the other parent brought me, a five month old baby in the crib.

After running for a while they realized their horrible mistake, but could not go back. The killing was ongoing. They had to make their way without me and ended up in the coastal city of Casablanca. They knew they had no future in their beloved Morocco, but my mother did not want to leave the country without her baby. She tried to go back many times to find me, but the area was too hostile.

After a few years in Casablanca, she found the courage to go back. She dressed up as an Arab women and went back to our former hometown. Our home was occupied by former Muslim neighbors, they just took over our house. They were not happy to see her. She asked if they possible knew what had happened to her baby son. We used to be friendly with this Muslim family. They had not seen any baby, but they knew that the rioters came from a specific village.

My mother traveled to this outback village and again started to ask in Arabic, if anybody knew of a baby, not born in the village. Finally she was pointed to a tent, a couple had taken care of a little baby boy from somewhere else in the country. On shaky legs she went to the tent and explained she had lost a boy a few years ago. He should be 2 1/2 years old by now. My mum looked around in the tent at the many children. The family was not cooperating and insisted all of them were their own. My mother started to cry; Moshe, Moshe! The children stood around her with big eyes. Then she said, “My son has a big birthmark on the back of his right leg, about the size of an egg.”

The parents faces froze. “It is true, we brought home a little baby from Jerada. He was all alone, everybody had ran away. It is him!” The mother of the tent pointed at a little boy with dark, curly hair.

My mother threw herself on the floor and looked at him, turned him around and there it was, the dark birthmark on his right leg. “My Moshe, you are alive!” My mother told me how she kissed me all over, but I did not know my own mother, so I started to cry. She was now told how they took me as their own. At the time, their children were all older than the baby and she did not know how to feed him, so she gave him camel milk. All my life my mother teased me about being brought up on camel milk.

— After my mother finally found me, we went back to the transit camp in Casablanca and from there we traveled to Israel, my parents kissing the ground when we arrived.”

A true story, more amazing then any fiction movie. It is a story shared by Jews from all Muslim countries. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “By the time of Israel’s independence, the number of Jews living in Arab countries were close to one million. They were forced to flee and leave everything behind. Hardly any Jews remain in those countries.” – We call the  expulsion of entire Jewish communities from Arab lands “The forgotten Exodus.”

What a colorful mosaic of people in Israel today, coming together in this tiny Land. Everybody has a story to tell, from a life left behind. When our grand children play together, they look like chocolate, mocha and vanilla. They are here to create the future story of Israel. That is the beauty of the Israeli family. Chocolate, mocha and vanilla go very well together, in taste and in color. We made it home where every Jew belongs.

About the Author
Born in Finland, Ruth Brunell lived in Australia for some time. She settled in Israel in 1996 with her husband and four daughters, and now lives in Jerusalem. Ruth has a variety of professions: cook, interior designer, and real estate agent.
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