After the festivities of New Year's Eve, on the first day of the new year, my family and I like to watch an old classic movie together. One of my all-time favorites is Casablanca. Set during the height of the Holocaust, Casablanca tells the story of fallible people who see the greater good, and choose to be a part of it.
Rick's Cafe, the hub of activity in the film, still stands in Casablanca, a waterfront town in Morocco. In the film, Humphrey Bogart, who plays Rick, makes mention of the threat of being sent to a concentration camp. That was no vague reference to Germany. The pro-fascist French Vichy government established concentration camps throughout Africa, and one in particular in Morocco.
The Italian government also established concentration camps. In fact, even though Tunisia was the only Arab land actually occupied by Nazis, more than 100 concentration camps stood in Arab lands.
As time goes by, we've accepted the idea that Arabs and Jews have always hated one another and always will. But that is not the whole truth.
In the spring of 1943, near the mountain of Tunisia, a group of about 60 Jewish men working in forced labor escaped their captors in the heat of a battle. Not knowing where they were or who they could trust, they took a chance at the nearest shelter. It was a farm belonging to a Muslim nobleman, Si Ali Sakkat. Si Ali Sakkat was suddenly confronted with a moral dilemma. He chose to be part of a greater good. He gave refuge to all 60 Jews, and cared for them in his home.
Joseph Naccache, a Jewish Holocaust survivor now living in Paris, tells the story of his Tunisian neighbor, Abdul Jalil, who extended his home to Jews.
Abdul Jalil's son explains what his father taught him. "He hid Mr. Naccache, because Muslims and Israelites-- 'the Jews' as you call them--they were almost like brothers. Like brothers. Each had their own religion, but we used to live like brothers. For us, it's an honor. Above all, a Jew or a Christian, or a Muslim, is a human being, part of humanity."
When we look for good, we will find it, even through fallible people in dark times. Look for goodness in the coming year, and choose to be part of the greater good.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave. PreciousHolidays@yahoo.com
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