For the past week I was immersed in a program exploring food and eating within Judaism. Many of the texts we studied encouraged consciousness of the source of the food, intentionality around eating, or different dietary restrictions. Yet almost all the texts implicitly assumed that a deeply powerful human connection is built through the act of sharing a meal. This age-old insight sharpened my anticipation and my excitement for the adventure I will begin next week: I am going to Morocco! The country is completely foreign, the culture quite different, and the people brand new, but the knowledge that all these barriers can fall to the wayside by sharing a simple meal is thrilling. I cannot wait to begin meeting, encountering and building relationships. And besides, the food is supposed to be delicious.
So who am I? My name is Eli Philip, and I am currently a junior at Brandeis University, studying Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. I just wrapped up my third semester learning Arabic, and am looking forward (a bit nervously) to take my skills to the next level and begin learning and actually speaking the Moroccan dialect. My passion for the region and its cultures and peoples probably began before I was even born. My entire family – including grandparents, aunts, uncles and many cousins – is from Israel, and I spent the first ten years of my life living there, where our next-door neighbors were Moroccan Jews. The Middle East is an integral part of who I am, and keeps drawing me back to further explore the region. The opportunity to not just pass through, but to be fully absorbed in Moroccan life, seemed like the perfect way to add color and depth to my existing connections to the Middle East.
Since my family moved from Israel to Philadelphia 12 years ago, we’ve traveled throughout the United States. In that time, I managed to visit 45 states, most recently on a road trip with a couple friends through the Deep South. I am looking forward to continue traveling and having adventures during my four months in Morocco. I know the country is beautiful, and has both human and natural wonders that are unmatched – and you can be sure I will write about them here. Other than traveling, my passion is spending time in the outdoors, especially hiking and camping. Nature is invigorating in its own right, but since the natural world has a significant influence on culture and lifestyle, it also provides a unique window to the lives of the people of a particular area. Like generations of Moroccans, I plan to traverse the mountains, wander the deserts and lounge on the coasts, reveling in the natural treasures and seeing the impression they left on the people who share it.
Living in Rabat, at least for the first several weeks, is bound to be challenging. Though I am confident I could communicate using only hand gestures, I know that surmounting the language barrier will open the door to much more substantial relationships. I am certain that as my language skills improve, so will my experiences, and as a result, so will these blog posts! So even though I am nervous now about navigating this new culture, I am looking forward to this challenge, and to exploring Morocco with you all!
Next time from Rabat!