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The Hand of Divine Justice by Therese (Zrihen) Dvir.

Step under the hot Moroccan sun and into the ordeal of one family as they remain haunted by the sins of another. The modest Miriam and Mardoché Marciano are a devoted and happy couple stained by an ugly past with the aristocratic Sarfatis, a notorious connection recognized by the entire Jewish community in Marrakech – except the Marcianos’ own children. When their eldest son, Solomon, seeks the source of frequent and cruel town gossip, the past resurfaces to compete with the present.

A tragic event forces the two families to eventually come together, and the Sarfatis begin to take an interest in Solomon. After learning the truth about his parents’ early history, Solomon must decide whether to remain defensive of this past or submit to the increasing importance of the Sarfatis in his life. Amid success and suffering, the two families experience the painful contention between loyalty and sacrifice. Based on true events, and infused with Judaic history and culture, The Hand of Divine Justice beckons with passion that is at times savage and uncertain, but ultimately forgiving and sincere.

The stage is set in pre World War 2, Marrakech, Morocco, an exotic place even today. At the time, there was a very large Jewish community congregated there behind walled ramparts. It was a ghetto in dictionary terms but without the connotations of Nazi persecution that we usually assign to the definition. The Jews were gathered together there for economic, religious and cultural reasons of their own free will. Some were exceedingly rich but there was also a yawning economic and social divide. The extremes in living standards stretched from the very rich to the very poor even to starvation levels. Hard to believe maybe, but true nevertheless.

The book based on a true story, is nonetheless dramatic because of it. It is set in a not too distant generation to the current one where social and moral values were entirely different to ours now and it can only be understood in those terms. It doesn’t read like a biography, it’s too intimate and honest.

Personal histories are interesting to a narrow audience generally but not with this one. It has all the elements of a complicated human story of money, power, love and betrayal on a very wide canvas and all of it, true. One of the major players is still alive, still traumatically affected by the events, still unable to absolve himself fully for his part in them.

Human beings are odd creatures and what affects one badly leaves the other unscathed. This story is one where all players could not help but be affected and this could be said of all three generations of the family, most still living.

Basically the saga starts when a pair of twins are orphaned and then live under atrocious conditions that see them even begging in the streets just for food to fill their stomachs. This was just a survival measure when people actually died of starvation. Miriam the girl orphan, at an early age had a yen for education but in following her dream fell prey to a rich older sexual predator.

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Il était une fois...Marrakech la juive,

version hébraïque, fait partie dorénavant du cursus scolaire - recommandé aux professeurs d'histoire par le Ministère de l'éducation Nationale Israélienne.

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