As a kid, I grew up in North Africa as a Jewish woman. Morocco was owned by France for nearly 40 years and I was born during that timeline. Growing up, all the schools were heavily France-influenced because of their imperialization. Most of the topics we learned about were about France and we even had to learn French. I made the most out of that. Once we gained our independence, everything felt foreign. Morocco soon became an Arabic country. In high school, we had an hour a day dedicated to learning Arabic and English. Jobs didn’t provide enough money for people anymore so people began to leave and migrate to places that offered them better job opportunities and a better life for their families. Europeans went back to France, Arabs emigrated to Spain or France, and Jews went to Israel and France.
“When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.” I would hear my parents say.
My husband and I had the option to go to France or Israel but I chose the United States because my husband earned a job contract there so we seized the opportunity. I often saw films about the American lifestyle and listened to American music. By the time I was leaving, we had no family left in Morocco. My parents and my sister left three months before us to France and the rest of my siblings emigrated to Israel which made it difficult to go our separate ways because growing up with my siblings was a fun experience. I am the second oldest of seven of my siblings. There are 21 years between my youngest brother and I. My mom got married at 14 and we lived a good life though there were a lot of us.
My husband’s parents passed away when he was young so we had to take his grandmother who had raised him his whole life with us as we emigrated. We arrived in America in 1969 and came to San Francisco, California. We were helped by Jewish people. They paid for our hotel and then paid for our apartment in San Francisco two weeks later. My husband refused their further assistance because we believed that they should help other refugees. I had a one-year-old daughter at the time and we didn’t speak English well. Though we were taught English in Morocco, I had forgotten most of it. My only option was to learn English from television and the environment around me. I stayed in our apartment and took care of my daughter and my husband’s grandmother while my husband worked. But I loved living in San Francisco because the people were hippy with unique styles and friendly. People in Morocco dressed very formally in suits back then. I loved how the people on the streets smiled at you even if they didn’t know you. The amount of freedom in America surprised me. In Morocco, you weren’t allowed to say anything bad about the country or the government. If you were to say “The government is corrupted,” you would be jailed. There was a big difference between freedom and democracy in the United States than in Morocco.
I went back to Morocco 20 years ago to visit for the first time since I left. They didn’t take good care of the streets as there were dirt and potholes everywhere. There were teenagers refusing to go to school and stealing from stores. People would be scared because of that. I was disappointed that a lot had changed. I went to visit for the second time 5 years ago and it had gotten better. Where I grew up in Casablanca, everything had become modern. The houses, the stores, the buildings. Moroccans had better jobs and went to school to become educated which satisfied me.
I lived in San Francisco for 4 and a half years. My husband soon owned a dental lab that provided enough money for us to move somewhere bigger for our growing family. I eventually moved to the peninsula and had two more children.
Now I live in Foster City, California with my son. I stay at home to take care of him. I’m grateful that I got to make a living in the United States and live my life peacefully.