Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Solica Hatchouel, Jewish Martyr In Old Morocco

On her tomb in Fez, Morocco, beneath an elaborate Hebrew inscription, there is an epitaph in French for the martyred Mademoiselle Hatchouel (1817-34).  Her forename appears as Solica, although it appears in some sources in briefer form as Sol ("sunshine").

Frederick David Mocatta (1825-1905), scion of a prominent Sephardi family of bullion brokers whose members were at the heart of Jewish communal leadership in England, was told her story in detail in 1858 when he was visiting Morocco.

In the course of a letter written that July, which was published over two issues of the Jewish Chronicle  (7 and 13 August), he rather inexplicably gives her forename as Luna ("moon").

Here's what he wrote about her (13 August 1858), with no further comment from me:

'In the year 1834 there resided in Tangier a Jewish family named Hatchuel [sic], the eldest daughter of which was a lovely girl of 16.  Her mother was a woman of violent temper, and poor Luna (for such was our heroine's name) led a very unhappy life. One day when Luna had received more harsh words from her mother than she could bear, she sought refuge and advice from an old Moorish nurse who lived near, and the woman begged her to abjure her faith, embrace Mohammedanism, and thus separate herself from her shrewish mother for ever.

Long and earnestly poor Luna refused to listen to her adviser, till at last the Moorish woman, incensed at her obstinate firmness, closed the doors on her victim, and rushed into the presence of the cadi (judge) stating that a Hebrew maiden had voluntarily embraced Islamism, but was now endeavouring to relapse into Judaism, and abjure her new faith, and that no fear of punishment could ever induce her to do so.

Still the Moorish woman kept firm to her declaration, and as the oath of a Moslem is thought in that country of far more value than that of a Jew, her testimony prevailed, and poor Luna was sentenced either to embrace the Mussulman faith, or to be taken before the Imam (high priest) of Fez, for trial before the religious court of the capital.  Thus, by a painful journey of many days the unfortunate maiden was carried to Fez, and there brought before the Imam, who, after a solemn trial, condemned her to death, unless within a stated time she would abjure the religion of her fathers.

During the trial it chanced that one of the sons of the Sultan [of Morocco] caught sight of the fair Jewess, and struck by her great beauty, artless youth, and her unhappy position, he resolved to save her at all costs, to acquire the Hebrew maiden for his harem.  Thus, therefore, he represented the case in glowing terms to his father and begged him to grant a pardon; but the Emperor replied that absolute Sultan as he was, he still was powerless to revoke the edicts of the religious judge, and that unless the maiden would recant her faith the law must take its course.

In despair, this prince entreated Luna to embrace the Mohammedan faith, and sought by brilliant promises on the one side, and by the picture of death on the other, to cause her to change her resolution, but to no avail.  Luna declared that she would rather yield up her life to her Creator in all its maiden freshness, than live on in luxury, in the shame of apostasy.  And thus, the fatal day drew nigh, and the hour of her doom approached, but the Hebrew maiden remained unchanged in her resolve, and only sought the more to prepare her for her approaching end.

The sad story draws to a close, for on the appointed morn the maiden was dragged from her cell, and the barbarous steel severed her head from her fair shoulders, and Luna Hatchuel [sic] had sealed her constancy with her life's blood.

This sad history I heard from persons who had known the heroine, and from some, too, who had the honor of being related to her, and as their versions differed in many minor particulars, I have chosen that narrative which if not the most romantic at any rate appears to be the most probable.

Luna's tomb is at Fez, and Jews venerating her memory as that of a saint, make pilgrimages to her burial-place to carry away the dust from around it, which dust (my informant seriously told me), has the power of curing the sick, and healing the wounds.

A Spanish gentleman, who visited Tangier a few years ago, composed a tragedy upon this story, which he called "La heroica Hebrea," and which is often played at the theatre of Gibraltar.  A French artist [Alfred Dehodencq, 1822-82; detail from painting above], too, who resides in Tangier, has also made it the subject of a very clever picture.'

10 comments:

  1. One might consider this story to be romantic and fanciful, but similar narratives can be found today. No doubt some still involve Jews, but a great many now involve Christians as a perusal of the website of 'Barnabas Fund' will show. Sadly, it is a well documented stratagem. Her faithfulness is exemplary and will be accounted as righteousness. Many have weakened, which is why some Bedouin and Palestinian Arabs are actually of Jewish origin! We live in dark times, but as one our oldest Anglo-Saxon poems states," That too did pass; so shall this".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting commnt, Ian.
    The Barnabas Fund surely deserves more attention.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ms Anson thanks for your informative well researched articles. I enjoy reading this site and appreciate the work which goes into maintaining it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've since become aware of this most interesting blog by Yisrael Medad:

    http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2008/02/jewess-heroine-sol-hachuel.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice one, Daphne - I will link soon
    Bataween

    ReplyDelete
  6. Not as good as Yisrael's blog, though, bataween. But it does show how it was being reported a generation or so after the event.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Link here - finally!

    http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2011/08/sols-martyrdom-in-fez-as-reported-20.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. A more detailed account about Sol Hatchouel may be found in Wikipedia, where some of the details are a bit different! I first came across this story from a family member who had later emigrated to Canada and claimed that all the Jews from Fez knew of this hebrew martyr. I was working as a volunteer in the Diaspora museum in Tel Aviv at the time.

    ReplyDelete