Yemin Orde Youth Village is currently home to 115 French-Jewish youth, many of North African descent, whose families moved to Israel from Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Nice, and Toulouse. For the past two years, the French teens have organized French Day at the Village, sharing their culture, food, music and more with their new friends from other countries.
This year’s French Day featured a production of a student written and produced show: “Israel is My Home.” The Village’s gymnasium/basketball court was converted into a theater with a painted backdrop of skyscrapers and leafy trees reflecting both France and Israel.
Everyone was treated to two short plays, one about the upcoming Passover seder and the other about Mimouna, the festival in which Jews of North African heritage bring the Passover holiday to a close. To act out Mimouna, everyone got involved: the singers and dancers donned fezzes and white jalabiyas (traditional long garments worn in North African countries), and even staff member, Yossi Zohar, took on the role of a Moroccan elder and accompanied our actors on the darbuka (small goblet-shaped drum). At the conclusion of French Day, the teens reappeared on stage wrapped in Israeli flags as they whirled and twirled around the stage.
French-Jewish Youth at Yemin Orde
The evening’s songs, plays, and skits were delivered in French, Hebrew and Moroccan Arabic. The mix of languages and cultural, even culinary, references—as one sketch put it, “couscous, not croissants”—expressed the teenagers’ engagement with a complicated three-fold identity.
David Ouaki, French Program Coordinator, said, “The show was authentic. It came from them. The children have their own customs and traditions and Zionism. They ask to be a part of Israel, but they have difficulty integrating so we must help them.”
This evening of special moments concluded with the performers asking the audience to rise and sing HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Everyone stood, put their arms around each other’s shoulders or waists, and sang while swaying side to side. And then they and their sons and daughters proudly belted out La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France.