We spent Shabbat in her villa with her family in a pastoral area of Eretz Yisrael and she’s full of joy and vitality. She and her husband celebrate Saturday night Melaveh Malka with singing, tambourines, and bongo drums.
She described the good relations Jews enjoyed with their Muslim neighbors.
But when the Jews chased out the antisemitic British and established a country of their own, the Arab propaganda machine started up against all Jews everywhere.
Like other Moroccan Jews I've met, Yael emphasized that crimes against Moroccan Jews were committed by Muslim strangers, and not by the Muslims they knew and lived with (unlike in Europe, where pogroms and Nazi collaboration were carried out by non-Jewish "friends" and neighbors). And she also stressed Moroccan Jewry's unwavering belief that Morocco's royal family opposed the antisemitic outbreaks, but couldn't always stop the riled-up masses.
Here, I’ll tell the story in Yael’s own words as best I remember:
I was six years old and it was one of our last Rosh Hashanahs in Morocco. My father was a tailor by trade and a chazzan [cantor] by love, a profession which he upheld free of charge.
That Rosh Hashanah, my father made me a brand new coat in my favorite color—techeilet like the sky, a color I still adore and love to wear!
It was beautiful. Sky-blue velvet trimmed with white fur and beautifully made by my abba—especially for me! I couldn’t wait to wear it!
I just felt that my abba loved me so much!
But that was the time when the Arabs started acting up. Their mosques and radios incited them against us.
Rosh Hashanah arrived and I was dancing with the anticipation of wearing my new coat, wrapped in my father’s love and the beauty of the coat.
But my mother said, “Yael! Don’t you dare go outside in that coat! It’s not safe anymore. You wait until the men come and then you’ll go with them to the beit haknesset [synagogue]. Don’t you go out wearing that coat!”
Yet I couldn’t wait. And you know how six-year-olds are…I told myself, I won’t actually go outside on the street; I’ll just wait on the steps. That’s not really outside the home. The steps are part of the home.
Then I decided that I won’t wear the coat; I won’t be going out in my coat. I’ll just put it over my arm. And that way, I won’t be disobeying my mother.
So very quietly, I snuck out the door with my beloved coat draped over my arm and I waited on the steps for the men to come and take me to the beit haknesset.
And just then—before I could even realize what was happening—an Arab ran up to me and just ripped the coat off my arm!
And as I watched him race off into the darkness, I couldn’t move.
I, a little girl, could not go running after an Arab man to get my coat back.
And I couldn’t leave the doorstep because it was too dangerous to go out in the street.
Yet I couldn't even stay where I was because that was dangerous too! I mean, look at what just happened on my own doorstep!
But I also couldn’t go back inside my home and face my mother...especially when she warned me against doing exactly what I’d done.
And what could I possibly say to my abba?
I couldn't go, but I couldn't stay either.
I’ll never forget being this helpless little girl standing outside on the doorstep of my home, frozen in place with no place at all.
(I know, I know…it makes you want to storm over to Morocco and shout: GIVE THAT LITTLE JEWISH GIRL HER COAT BACK!)
No one died, no one was even bruised or even cursed, but there’s something about these very human stories that tear at your heart.
But There’s Still a Happy End!
But the beginning of the marriage saw no children. After 4 years of infertility, the Lubavitcher Rebbe came to Yael’s husband in a dream and promised them a son within a year.
And so it was. Within a year, their first son was born followed by a daughter three years later, and then no more.
Interestingly, neither Yael nor her husband shared any connection with Lubavitcher Chassidus or the Lubavitcher Rebbe other than the general esteem in which Yael and her husband held all tzaddikim. The Lubavitcher Rebbe's appearance occurred completely out of the blue.
When the dream’s message was fulfilled, Yael and her husband became Chabadnikim.
May all Jews everywhere merit to embrace all our chagim in peace.