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  • Writer's pictureHarel Dadon

The boy from Casablanca who was chosen to save the holy books and became an artist who charmed the w

Moshe Morris Dadon has had a unique talent since childhood, and later became one of the most famous names in the art of micrography, reaching as far as the British royal family. With 63 letters per square centimeter, the former police investigator managed to tell the story of IDF martyrs, Moroccan Jews - and the city of Safed. "It was planted in his heart."

When the boy Moshe Morris Dadon reached the age of six he was among the few children in his community, endowed with exceptional ability to write in tiny letters, while demonstrating impressive stability in writing movements and extraordinary patience. Over the years he developed his skill and talent and became one of the most famous artists in the Jewish world in the field of micrography.

It is a unique Jewish art of writing, in which the decoration is created by tiny writing on the contours of the desired shape.

Last week, Dadon passed away at the age of 78. His works are scattered in many places around the globe, from the homes of world leaders to the apartments of people who visited the Old City of Safed, entered his gallery and were captivated by the charm of his special paintings.

He was born in the Moroccan city of Casablanca to Sarah and Avraham Dadon, who raised six children. He attended Alliance School and after school attended Talmud Torah.

Near the establishment of the State of Israel, and with increasing hostility to the Jewish community, the awakening of Moroccan nationalism and the outbreak of hostilities and pogroms in several cities in Morocco, the Jewish community in Casablanca began to fear the harassment that was expected to occur.

The teachers in the Talmud HaTorah began to prepare for the day when it would be forbidden to study Jewish holy books and decided to train a number of children to write the Holy Scriptures in tiny letters whose writing sequence across different contours would actually become paintings. The choice of children for this craft was made because they are not subject to the laws and laws that apply before writing scripture to older people; A scribe is bound by laws and laws such as immersion in the mikveh before any writing, certain hours during which it is permissible to write and more.

The main inspiration for the writing of the document came from the boy Moshe Morris from his uncle, Rabbi Hanania Peretz, who was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca.

Enlist in the army with Hebrew of holiness

The training process was tough and rigorous. Thus, for example, the children were immersed in ice water and then required to write. In this test the stability of the writing hand was examined. The ten children who underwent the training even wrote two very small Torah scrolls. Eight years ago, Dadon went with his family on a trip to Morocco, which also included an attempt to trace the two Torah scrolls he wrote as a child with his friends, but the books were not found.

In 1961, a large wave of immigrants from Morocco began seeking to reach Israel. In 1962, the Dadon family decided to fulfill the Zionist dream. They set sail from Morocco to Bari, Italy, and after a month of waiting, they sailed with other immigrants on the ship "Perminia", which arrived in the port of Haifa.

The family, the keeper of tradition, wanted to come to Safed, a holy city where Jews have lived and created throughout the generations and due to its proximity to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron. Moshe Morris, who was at the age of enlistment in the army, enlisted shortly afterwards. His daughter, Etty, says he later recounted that period as a difficult period for him.

"He was fluent in Arabic and French. The Hebrew he spoke was sacred Hebrew, not the 'Sabrian' Hebrew they spoke," she said. "In a short time he had to get used to the language, the mentality and the military framework." Her father also told her about the trauma he experienced as a young soldier; One of his unit mates drowned while the soldiers bathed in the sea. "It was a very difficult event that really shook him."

The family says that their father's personality was strong and he was endowed with mental and mental resilience. "He had power and strength and charisma," the daughter said. She said, "These qualities we did not exaggerate by him, he radiated it in his inner peace. In his silence he conveyed to us a lot of strength, patience and love."

After being discharged from regular service, he returned to Safed and enlisted in the police. After a training process as a researcher, he was stationed at the Safed District Headquarters of the Canaan Police. The service in the police allowed him to express qualities of down to detail, patience, composure and meticulousness and also constituted for him a stable employment framework. This was necessary for him to be able to cultivate at the same time the hobby of painting in the technique of micrography.

The family remembers him painting every night and sleeping for a few hours, before going to work for the police.

His family said that "as a police investigator he was recognized as a thorough, quiet and in-depth investigator." An orderly album retains the awards of excellence he received and newspaper clippings in which he recounts crimes he was an accomplice in deciphering.

The period of the late 1960s and early 1970s is remembered as a period of terrorist infiltration on the northern border. Dadon participated in a number of chases and clashes and recalled harsh scenes of terrorist attacks in localities and northern roads.

One of the notable criminal cases that Dadon participated in their investigation was a violent incident in which two young men tried to rape three tourists from the Netherlands, in 1975. Two Galilee residents picked up three hitchhikers and tried to rape them in a grove near Moshav Hazon, threatening them with a knife. A member of the nearby moshav heard the women screaming, came to their aid, and in the ensuing confrontation fired his pistol and wounded one of the attackers, who later died of his wounds.

Dadon was credited with collecting the findings at the scene, which later helped convict the defendant of attempted rape and imprisonment for seven years.

In 1981 he was discharged from police service and began devoting all his time to art. Near the synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Caro in the Old City, there was already a gallery he had established with his wife, Hava.

The couple married in Safed in 1964 and over the years they had three sons and a daughter; Hagai, Etty, Snir and Harel.

Now that all his time was devoted to creation, Dadon went and perfected his art. The son, Harel, who worked with his father at the gallery, says he had a mathematical formula according to which he worked. He would count the letters in the text that was designed to make up the drawing and by the number of letters he divided the elements of the work. Each square inch had a 63-letter slot.

According to the son, the painting was done with a free and stable hand and without any help of a magnifying glass or other aids. "He had a trained and stable hand, very hard self-discipline and great patience. There were paintings on which the work took very long periods. He painted the Book of Psalms in a work that lasted a year and a half," said son Harel. One of his most famous works is "Fiddler on the Roof" which consists of the text of the Book of Songs. This piece has become a worldwide bestseller.

Over the years he has held many exhibitions abroad and the gallery in Safed has become well-known. His paintings have become famous and bought by a large public around the world. Avigdor Kahalani, David Levy and many others. He was also often asked to paint portraits of IDF casualties.

Many times his paintings were given as a gift or souvenir, and on one occasion the Jewish community in England chose to give a painting of Dadon Kashi to Prince Charles.

Throughout his years, he persevered in painting the special landscapes and alleys of Safed and thus expressed his love for the city. "He had a great love for the city, he loved the old city very much for its alleys, galleries and synagogues," Etty said. "The city was planted in his heart and he felt a kind of ambassador or messenger of hers."

Moshe Dadon was laid to rest in the Safed cemetery last Friday. His family promised that even after his death the gallery would continue to operate and their father's spirit would continue to reside in the alleys of the city he loved so much.


Translated from Hebrew

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