A flourishing and tranquil Jewish community, numbering several thousand souls, in the heart of the African desert, surrounded on all sides by savage and semi-civilized Moor and Berber tribes, is the discovery of M. Rene Leblond, French consul at Akka in Southern Morocco, declares Pierre Van Paassen, staff correspondent of the New York “Evening World,” in Paris correspondence to ta?t paper.
M. Leblond descended on the outskirts of the Jewish settlement when his plane, forming part of a map-making expedition in the Sahara desert, strayed from its companions, developed engine trouble and was forced to come to earth. The Jews informed him that their settlement bore the name of Alouna and that he was at ##at point a ten-day journey by caravan from the proverbially inattainable Timbuctoo.
Recalling the experiences of several other French aviators who were forced to land in hostile desert territory recently and who were taken prisoner by the Bedouin tribes, to be released only upon payment of heavy rapsom money. M. Leblond states in his report that he was extremely apprehensive lest a similar fate, or worse, befall him at the hands of the crowds, of white-gowned people that he observed below. He goes on to say in his report, registered with the Geographical Society of France, that his surprise was more than agreeable when, upon reaching terra firma, the folks surrounded his crippled airplane and by all manner of signs and tokens indicated that he was a welcome visitor and an houored guest.
M. Lehlond was taken to the home of the oldest inhabitant, a venerable patriarch, who hade him welcome with ancient ceremonial, proceeding even to wash his feet in the traditional Hebrew fashion, as mentioned frequently in the Scriptures. He was given the best room in the lowly dwelling and was invited to rest and eat before anyone was permitted to enter into conversation with him.
The Jews spoke an Arabic dialect and some of the ancient ones had a smattering of French, archaic and mixed with Moroccan words. The first thing they told M. Leblond was that they considered themselves French subjects and proteges. They were hazy as to the name of the ruling monarch in France, reports the Consul, but reports of a gigantic war had penetrated to them by way of Berbers from South Morocco The last white man they had seen, according to the testimony of the oldest inhabitants, had been a visitor, an explorer in 1866. Since that day no traveler from Europe had been in their midst.
By dint of diligent questioning, M. Leblond learned that the Jews hailed from North Morocco, but that their fathers, under pressure of persecution, had left Mediterranean shores many years ago. The intention of the fathers had been to travel “by way of Egypt” to Palestine and settle there.
Hostile tribes, disease, hunger, poverty and other vicissitudes had interfered with the ancestoral project of reaching the Promised Land, and they had remained in the desert. But the Jews assured him that they never had abandoned hope altogether of continuing their interrupted migration some day and of ulitmately residing in the land “that flows with milk and honey.”
Although the Jews spoke Arabic they used Hebrew lettering in their script. Their ritual service had under gone not the slightest modification, they assured the Consul and their brethern in Israel would immediately recognize them by the ancient usages kept in honor amongst them.
The French Consul was led out to inspect a pile of stones, erected a short distance from the settlement, where lay buried the man they called the Great Mordechai, the leader who had conducted their fathers so far into the desert on the way to Palestine, when the plague overtook the tribe and courage to proceed on the journey failed them. Mordechai died about the year 1858. In subsequent years the Jews had on several occasions sent out spies and reconnoitering parties, but none of these emissaries had returned from their expeditions, which had for their object the mapping out of the road alread. Discouraged by constant failure, the threats of roving desert tribes had finally forced them to conclude alliances with the Arab bands and to enter into commerce with them.
The Consul was able to direct one of the contributing causes of the failure of the Jews to travel in a direct line to Palestine, when he was shown old maps and charts on which their father had traced the route of march. These maps were defective. Leaving the Mediterrancan they had tried to circumvent Algiers, where the hositlity of the Arabs was known, after that they had gone astray in the desert by following too southerly a track.
M. Leblond’s report states further that the Jews were courteous and highly civilized. Their features were bronzed to a degree that they might almost be taken for colored people. They wore white, flowing garments. lined with wool in the manner of mountain Berbers in the Atlas region. Most of the men were heavily bearded and spend their days between sheep herding, camel raising and the study of ancient Hebraic books that they had carried with them. There were several Talmudic commentators amongst them.
In the presence of M. Leblond they hoisted the French tri-color, which he had carried in his plane and a great celebration was held in the evening at which hundreds of beautiful young girls staged a symbolic dance. M. Leblond reports that he was able to repair his plane after three days’ sojourn in the Jewish settlement and that he proposes to go back to the Jews within a few weeks.