The encounter: The boy in the picture is actually my own son, who needed a haircut. I took him to the neighborhood barbershop around the corner and interviewed and photographed Max as he cut my son’s hair. I did the interview a while ago but hadn’t transcribed it yet. When I interviewed Muhammad Abu Rachel, a barber from Nazareth, I realized Max Amzalag could be his Jewish alter ego.
What are you doing here right now?
I'm taking off some of the volume of this boy's hair, to give it shape.
What is your occupation?
I am a hairdresser. My brother and I have had this shop for almost forty years.
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m Israeli... an Israeli Jew. I’m not religious, but I’m traditional.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I'm married, with three kids. I have two sons – one is 21, the other is 27– and my daughter is 28.
Where is your family from?
I was born in Morocco, in Casablanca. We left when I was six...partially because of Zionism, but mostly because in the 1960s the majority of Jews in Morocco left the country. There was this rush of emigration, and everyone went after everybody else. Some emigrated to Israel and others went to Canada. Very few people stayed behind in Morocco. The only ones who stayed were those who had a business they couldn’t leave. We immigrated to Israel because my father's parents had already moved here in the 1950s. My mother's family had gone to Canada, so it was a hard decision. I have lots of family in Montreal. We almost decided to go there. But I'm glad I ended up here. This is a beautiful country!
I visited Morocco again in 1989. It was a very special experience. I still have an uncle there: my father's brother. We had a good life in Morocco, and my parents had many Arab friends. But they didn’t stay in touch, and it’s been fifty years since we left. Everything has changed.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I'm not going to say that we'll have peace. There won't be peace. Every year or so we have a war; but in between the wars, we live well.