Monday, February 11, 2008

Jewess Heroine - Sol Hachuel

There's a new and important book out: The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History by Andrew G. Bostom and here's its cover:-



As the author explains:

The cover art is a reproduction of Alfred Dehodencq's "Execution d'une juive au Maroc" ["Execution of a Moroccan Jewess"], painted in 1860. Dehodencq was a French painter (born April 23, 1822 in Paris; died in Paris January 2, 1882), known for his images of Spanish and Arab life, purportedly influenced by a "youthful obsession with the romantic writings of Byron and Chateaubriand". 1 Preferring color as a means of expression, Dehodencq's palette has been described as "rich, often gaudy", and his handling "robust and sketchlike". 2 Dramatic scenes of violence, despotism, and fanaticism dominate his portrayals of Morocco.

Dehodencq's "Execution of a Moroccan Jewess" is based upon the actual execution of a Jewess from Tangier, Morocco, Sol Hachuel, believed to have occurred in 1834. 3 Accused, falsely, of having become a Muslim, upon adamantly and steadfastly maintaining her Jewish faith ("A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die" 4), the 17 year-old Sol 5 was beheaded publicly for this contrived "apostasy" from Islam.
A detailed, near contemporary account of Sol Hachuel's heroic martyrdom--based on eyewitness interviews 6--was published in 1837 by Eugenio Maria Romero. The following is a summary of Romero's narrative. 7

The younger of two children of Chaim and Simcha Hachuel, Sol was described as a beautiful young woman. 8 Her father was a merchant of very modest means, but also a highly educated man who conducted Talmudic study groups in the Hachuel household. Through these community gatherings, Sol acquired enough Jewish religious instruction to develop an unyielding confidence in her own Judaic beliefs. Typical of families that were not prosperous, Sol's mother kept house, leaving her daughter practically to herself. Sol developed a friendship with a Muslim woman Tahra de Mesoodi. Apparently Tahra entertained the pious Muslim hope--a particularly important impetus under the code of Maliki Islamic Law predominant in Morocco--to convert infidels to Islam. 9 Romero elaborates: 10

It being a precept of the Alcoran [Qur'an], the Arabs consider the conversion of a heretic (for such they deem all those of a different faith) to their belief as a most meritorious act; they hesitate not at the means they employ to make such conquests, when opportunities offer. The artful friend, when in conversation with the young Jewess, but as if undesignedly, never failed to boast of the excellence of her religion, the benefits it offered to its professors, and the esteem those who embraced it acquired from all true believers; but the amiable and innocent Sol, 11 of a different disposition to her wily neighbor, listened to her only with pity, for firmly fixed in her belief, and an enthusiast of the laws in which she had been born, she attributed to excess of religious zeal, the constant eulogiums that the Mooress bestowed on the dogmas of her faith.

Based solely on Tahra's denunciation of Sol to the Basha Arbi Esudio--which included the false claim of Sol's conversion to, and subsequent reversion from, Islam--an allegation punishable by death (for apostasy) under Islamic Law--the Basha had Sol brought before him. 12 Romero includes the following note regarding the court of Tangier:

The Governors of tangier, when administering justice, sit at their doors, accompanied by their Secretaries. The soldiers, charged with the police and execution of their orders, are about the same place with drawn swords and sticks; the accused is placed kneeling before the Governor; in this mode, justice is executed...

Sol told the Basha forthrightly she had never intended to convert to Islam,
You have been deceived, Sir...I never pronounced such words: she [Tahra] proposed it [conversion] to me, but I did not consent. 13

Then, in the first of three iterations, Sol pronounced the memorable line which became her epitaph, "A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die." 14
The Basha, Arbi Esudio attempts to assure Sol's conversion to Islam by enticement and coercion. He offers her protection from parental interference, wealth (in the forms of silk and gold), and "happiness", but to no avail. Arbi Esudio then threatens the obstinate Sol for having adopted Islam, and "reverted" to Judaism:
I will load you with chains...I will have you torn piece-meal by wild beasts, you shall not see the light of day, you shall perish of hunger, and experience the rigor of my vengeance and indignation, in having provoked the anger of the Prophet. 15
Sol replies:

I will patiently bear the weight of your chains; I will give my limbs to be torn piece-meal by wild beasts; I will renounce for ever the light of day: I will perish of hunger: and when all the evils of life are accumulated on me by your orders, I will smile at your indignation, and the anger of your Prophet: since neither he , nor you have been able to overcome a weak female! It is clear that Heaven is not auspicious to making proselytes your faith. 16

A further enraged Arbi Esudio then declares:

Atrocious blasphemer!...you have profaned the name I revere; you are unworthy of my consideration; I will bury you in a secret dungeon. and smile when I see you drink of the cup of bitterness. Convey this Jewess to prison!...let her feel the effect of my vengeance, by being placed in the darkest cell! 17

Dispatched to a lightless dungeon, Sol was detained incommunicado, with an iron collar around her neck, and chains on both her hands and feet. Bribery alone secured her modest favors from the jailers. 18 Her utterly distraught parents acting in a manner that became customary for Moroccan Jews, devoid of political rights and security, appealed to a European diplomat to obtain Sol's release. 19 Don Jose Rico, 20 the Spanish vice-consul made a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful effort to free Sol.

The Basha ordered Sol to be sent to Fez to allow the Sultan to decide her fate. Arbi Esudio also required that her hapless parents pay $40.00 for Sol's transport to Fez (the imperial capital), as well as the fee for her execution. 21 Romero's account of these events includes the following details: 22

The Governor [Basha] summoned Haim Hachuel before him and communicated the mandate of the Emperor; at the same time telling him that his daughter would depart for the Court on the following morning, and that within two hours he must bring him forty dollars for the expense of the journey The trembling and afflicted parent bewailed this sentence as the height of his misfortune, but the ferocious tyrant showed not the least compassion; he declared the impossibility of procuring the money in so short a period; the order was repeated, and he was told that if it was brought a single minute beyond the time, he should receive 500 blows of the bastinado.

The unhappy Hebrew resigned himself to fulfill, as best he could, the command of the Governor; but on his knees entreated that, since the departure of his unfortunate daughter could not be avoided, he might be permitted to accompany her. "I prohibit under pain of death", answered the proud Arab, "that neither you nor any of your family, nor any Jew travel within ten leagues of this impious girl." Having pronounced this in a most haughty tone, he ordered from his presence the afflicted father.

Romero also notes: 23

...if a person is condemned to the bastinado, after having received it, he has to pay the executioner whatever he chooses to demand for inflicting it.
Fortunately the impoverished Chaim Hachuel received $40.00 from Don Jose Rico thus avoiding the brutal punishment of 500 blows of the bastinado for non-payment. Serels observes 24 in his 1991 analysis, "A Jew at this time had to pay even for his own death".

Romero subsequently describes how Sol was bound and transported by mule, to Fez: 25

The most obdurate heart would have felt moved at so unfeeling an act. Sol was suddenly seated on the mule; her feet fettered, and tied with a strong cord which fastened round her hands, hurting her delicate flesh, a thousand turns and twists around her body fastened by the same rope to the trappings of the beast.

In Fez, the Sultan decided to have the Cadi 26 prosecute and judge Sol. The Cadi summoned the Chahamim (Jewish sages), who (in conjunction with a concerted effort by the Jewish community) attempted to spare her life. 27 Informed by the Cadi that Sol would be beheaded if she did not profess Islam, and that the overall Jewish community might be endangered, the Chahamim tried to persuade Sol to convert. Sol rejected their advice, and accepted her martyrdom. Romero recounts the Cadi's reaction having overheard the discussions between the Chahamim and Sol: 28

...he dispatched them. Immediately he went to his desk, took out the papers containing the cause of the Jewess, wrote on it her contumacy, referring to her repeated blasphemy of the Prophet and his dogmas, and condemned her to be publicly beheaded.

Having refused even a pretense of conversion, Sol was condemned by the Sultan to beheading in a public square in Fez. Sol prayed and fasted as the day of her execution approached. Masses of Arabs congregated on the day of her execution held in the Soco (major market) of Fez, on market day. 29 Romero contrasts the anticipatory emotions of the Muslims, Jews, and Sol herself: 30

The Moors, whose religious fanaticism is indescribable, prepared, with their accustomed joy, to witness the horrid scene. The Jews of the city...were moved with the deepest sorrow; but they could do nothing to avert it [the execution]; they could only assemble, and be prepared to act according to circumstances...The troubled Sol spent the whole day in prayer and meditation; she refused food; and anxiously awaited the moment that would terminate her miserable existence.
On the day of her beheading, Sol was dragged to the execution site, where the executioner brandished his sword two or three times over her head. Sol was allowed to wash her hands, and recite the Shema prayer, as she requested. 31

Apparently, the Sultan had instructed that the executioners wound Sol (which was done), in the hope of her last minute conversion to Islam. However, upon seeing her own blood, Sol professed her innocence, and denounced her persecutors. With that utterance, she was beheaded. Impressed by the courage and sincerity of this Tangierian Jewess, Fez's Jewish community paid to have not only her corpse and head retrieved for burial, but also the blood stained earth, consistent with Jewish law. Sol Hachuel was buried, wrapped in linen cloth, in the Jewish cemetery of Fez, and subsequently bestowed the appellation Hasadiqua--the saintly. 32

Romero provides additional details which capture all these elements of the final execution day narrative: the fanaticism of the Muslim masses, the conduct of the executioners and their heroic victim, and the reaction of the Jewish community:
Compassion, mildness, grief, and every sentiment that could move the heart, were depicted on the countenance of the lovely victim; but pity is a feeling little known in Fez: the streets were crowded with Moors of all ages and sexes, who made the air resound with their discordant cries. "here comes", said they, "she who blasphemed the Prophet--death! death! to the impious wretch!" 33

These men [the executioners], hardened by cruelty, gave the order to march [Sol] to [her] death; they tied a strong rope round her neck, and commenced dragging her as if she were a beast. 34

[Sol] then raising her streaming eyes to heaven, she repeated with the utmost devotion, the Shema, which having concluded; kneeling and casting her eyes to the ground, she said to the executioner--"I have finished, dispose of my life!" 35

One of the executioners seizing the arms of the victim, bound them tightly behind her; then brandishing his scimitar in the air, holding her beautiful tresses, he slightly wounded her; in an instant, her bosom and clothes were covered with blood--"There is yet time", said he, "to become Mahometan, and save your life!" But turning toward him, she said, "Do not make me linger--behead me at once--for dying as I do, innocent of any crime, the God of Abraham will avenge my death!" These were her last words--the executioner raised his arm--it fell--the scimitar separated the head from the trunk--in an instant, the most constant of her sex, fell a bleeding, lifeless corpse--she ceased to exist.--Horrid spectacle! 36

The Jews had engaged some Moors to take up the corpse, and gather the earth that was spotted with her innocent blood, the moment the execution was over. They faithfully performed the charge, wrapping her mortal remains in a fine linen cloth, [and] delivered it to the Jews assembled in their cemetery, where they were digging a deep grave for her, adjoining to one in which reposed the ashes of a Sage of great reputation. The same day the Jewish martyr was interred amidst the tears and sobs of a numerous concourse of people who attended her obsequies...37

Sol Hachuel's martyrdom illustrates, starkly, the plight of Moroccan Jews--lower caste, non-citizen dhimmi pariahs--subject to the sacralized discrimination of Islamic Law. Leon Godard's 1860 travelogue Description et histoire du Maroc 38 characterized the prevailing mid-19th century conditions for Moroccan Jewry (noting their status as being "somewhat better" in Tangier 39):

...in the cities, the Jews live in separate quarters surrounded by high walls called the Mellah, or the salted earth, dry and cursed. They are locked in from sundown to sunrise and on Holidays, all day. They pay the Moorish guards who protect them by guarding the door of this Ghetto, rarely cleaned, where foul-smelling trash accumulates and where a strange population swarms. It is divided by Synagogues and ruled by the rabbis who have great authority. They are the ones who allocate the capitation tax that the government sets for each Mellah, and who make sure the poor are helped using the common goods. They have eight days to pay the tax; after that, and without warning the Mellah can be pillaged. They have to give gifts to the Emperor at the four Muslim holidays and when there is a happy event like a birth or a marriage, they have to entertain the imperial family.

According to the laws, the Jews cannot cultivate earth, -own land or houses outside the Mellah,- use buildings as security,- ride a horse in front of a town or even in the country other than on a saddle for a mule ,- or hit a Muslim, even to defend themselves except in their own house if it has been violated, -be a witness in front of a Court or speak in front of tribunals. If allowed to speak in front of a tribunal, they have to be squatting in front of the judge. They cannot raise a bid for food in a Muslim market, -or walk in some streets, in front of Mosques or Koubas, without holding their slippers in their hands,- or get married without the permission of the Sultan...

They have to dress only in black or dark color, -wear a black hat different than the turban and not to tie with more than one knot the black scarf holding their headgear ,- place to the right the opening of their Yallah or black or blue coat, so that the left arm is not free and the hood falls on the same side, - keep the black hat always visible, trying not to pull down the hood, - run to carry their dead to the cemetery, and be careful not to encounter a Muslim funeral...

David Littman compiled and translated primary source documents from the Alliance Israelite Universale's Moroccan archives covering the period between 1903-1912, some 70 to 80 years after the execution of Sol Hachuel. 40 Repeated eyewitness accounts depict graphically what Littman aptly characterizes as, "...the humiliation, misery and exposure to physical violence which was still the lot of the ordinary Moroccan Jew in the first decade of the twentiethcentury". 41 A confirmatory official report presented (by Jacob H. Schiff) to United States Secretary of State Elihu Root in November 1905, entitled, "Jewish Restrictions in Morocco, Especially in the Interior" stated bluntly, in the accompanying enclosure, " which restrictions, when read by an American, appear most grotesque". 42 Finally, Serels 43 provides this summary analysis of Moroccan Jewish behaviors in dealing with their oppressed status under Muslim rule, all of which are displayed in the tragic narrative of Hasadiqua, Sol Hachuel:

The Jews had four responses to their lack of political rights and security. First bribery; second prayer and fasting; third, appeal for foreign intervention and protection; fourth, silent resignation to the consequences.

Notes
* reproduced from the original painting in Paris, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme

1. Jane Munro. "Dehodencq, Alfred". Grove Art Online, http://www.groveart.com/shared/views/article.html/section=art.021845
Bibliographic sources for this online entry: G. Seailles: Alfred Dehodencq: L'Homme et l'artiste, Paris, 1910; V. Plat: Alfred Dehodencq, 1822-1882 (Dissertation, Paris, Ecole Louvre, 1977).
2. Ibid.
3. Eugenio Maria Romero. El martirio de joven Hachuel o la heroina Hebrea, Gibraltar, Imprinta Militar, 1837, published as an anonymous English translation, Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century: A Tale Founded on Fact, London, 1839.; Isidore Loeb. "A Jewish woman martyred in Morocco (1834), Archives Israelite, Part 1, Vol. XLI, no. 22, May 27, 1880, pp. 181-182; Part 2, Vol. XLI, no. 23, pp. 187-188; Part 3, Vol. XLI, no. 24, pp. 196-197. English translation by Michael J. Miller.; J.E. Budgett Meakin. "The Jews of Morocco", The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 4, No. 3 (April 1892), p. 376.; Romero, Loeb, and Meakin concur on the date of 1834 for Sol's execution, while J.J. Benjamin's Eight Years in Asia and Africa, From 1846 to 1855, (Hanover, 1863), p. 321, claims the execution took place in 1831. M. Mitchell Serels in his A History of the Jews of Tangier in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Sepher-Hermon Press, New York, 1991, p. 187 footnote 11, notes additional sources suggesting her execution may have occurred as early as 1830.
4. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, p. 19.
5. Elaborating on the same sources discussed by Serels in note 3 above, Sol's reported age at the time of her execution varies from 13 to 17 years old.
6. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, Author's Preface, p. v:
A casual accident brought to my notice, a fact worthy to be handed down to posterity. Enthusiastically I addressed myself to an eye-witness of the scene, and my heart being ever open to misfortune, I was desirous of offering humble tribute to virtue and heroism. The emotion caused by the recital of the sufferings of the youthful Hachuel, led me to cross the sea and visit the burning clime where her blood was shed. There speaking with ocular witnesses of the sad scene, I saw bitter tears flow from the eyes of her respectable parents...
7. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839; also Loeb. "A Jewish woman martyred in Morocco (1834)".
8. The mid-19th century chronicle of M. Leon Godard, Description et histoire du Maroc, Paris, 1860, p. 18, contains this reference to the pulchritude of Moroccan Jewesses from the perspective of European observers:
But the European artists who paid some attention to Moroccan Jewish women are tempted to say, with the officers of Holpherne: "How can we despise the Hebrew people when their women are so beautiful: Quis condemnat populum Hebraeorum qui tám decoras mulieres habent?". A sensualist can admire the radiance of their complexion, the regularity of their features, the fire of a dark eye and all the beauty of the Jewish characteristics in their purity...
9. Andrew Chouraqui. La Condition Juridique de L'Israelite Marocain. Paris, Alliance Israelite Universale, 1950, p. 53.
10. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, pp. 10-11.
11. Romero's anonymous English translator calls Sol "Phoebe", a direct translation of her Spanish name. Serels, A History of the Jews of Tangier, p. 187, note 14.
12. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, p. 17. And according to Maliki jurisprudence (and Islamic Law in general), the Sultan is Allah's representative. The Basha, in turn, represented the Sultan within the larger towns. The ruler of the smaller towns, tribes, and douars (Arabian "tent villages"), was the Kaid. The Kaid and the Basha had the right to judge civil, commercial or criminal matters. A Koranic judge or Cadi was appointed by the Sultan to adjudicate personal status matters. Chouraqui. La Condition Juridique de L'Israelite Marocain, pp. 117-119.
13. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, pp. 18-19.
14. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, p. 19.
15. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, p. 29.
16. Ibid. p.29
17. Ibid. pp. 29-30.
18. Ibid. p.44.
19. Ibid. p.45.
20. Serels, in A History of the Jews of Tangier, p. 188, note 31, maintains that diplomatic sources do not list a Don Jose Rico as vice-consul in Tangier, and suggests that the title may be honorific.
21. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, pp. 45-49.
22. Ibid. pp. 46-47.
23. Ibid. p. 46.
24. Serels, A History of the Jews of Tangier, p.9.
25. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, p.53.
26. Ibid. p.7. See note 12 above.
28. Ibid. p.83.
29. Ibid. pp.87-92.
30. Ibid. p. 86
31. "Hear, O Israel! The Lord or God, the Lord is One", Deuteronomy, vi. 4.
32. Serels, in A History of the Jews of Tangier, p. 10.
33. Jewish Heroine of the Nineteenth Century, 1839, pp. 89-90.
34. Ibid. p. 89.
35. Ibid. p. 91.
36. Ibid. p. 92.
37. Ibid. pp. 92-93.
38. Godard, Description et histoire du Maroc, pp. 16-17.
39. Serels explains that Tangier's history of European occupation and colonization in the 15th through 17th centuries had in the eyes of the Moroccan Sultans "already defiled" the city, so it was decided to confine the foreign embassies to Tangier, rather than allow these non-Muslims into the imperial capital of Fez. A History of the Jews of Tangier, pp. 1-2. Regardless, Meakin (circa 1892) confirmed that Jews were not confined to a mellah (walled, and locked ghetto) in Tangier, due he believed, to the "advantages afforded by the presence of so many foreigners", which conferred upon the Jews a "comparative immunity from the indignities inflicted further inland". "The Jews of Morocco", The Jewish Quarterly Review, p. 378.
40. David G. Littman. "Jews Under Muslim Rule--II: Morocco 1903-1912". The Wiener Library Bulletin, 1976, Vol. XXIX, pp. 3-19.
41. Littman, "Jews Under Muslim Rule--II: Morocco 1903-1912", p. 4.
42. Report to Secretary of State Elihu Report presented by Jacob H. Schiff, November 21, 1905, "Jewish Restrictions in Morocco, Especially in the Interior", from The American Jewish Yearbook, Philadelphia, 1906, pp. 94-98.
43. Serels, A History of the Jews of Tangier, p. 10.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Israel should make her moslem population read the history of the jews in arabe lands.. emile` zafrany born in casablanca morocco 1959

BenSaid said...

Was born in Algeria from a mixed jewish and Arab parents.. I remember and have seen lots of stupid things being thrown at some Jewish persons (specially the poor of the jewish poors) like daily slanders, scorns, and occasional beatings by the muslims....

Whoever said the golden age of jewish and muslim understanding is real, tell them it is a myth. The story Sol is well known. She was betrayed by self-righteous muslim friends... For one Sol there must have been 2 or 3 who gave in to the pressure and gave up jewishness for a life of peace and tranquility (under threat and coersion).... I beleive that my distant family was probably one of those woman who caved in ..... But you know, you cannot erase everything....even some part of you that you know are jewish...

zoloftea said...

I am a convert to Judaism from Catholicism. On my conversion, the rabbis told me the name I had chosen (Sol Hachuel) was not biblical. They sought another - and suggested "Simcha" - the mother of Sol Hachuel. I was glad to accept the name of Sol Hachuel's mother, because I was sure that the young martyr would have been thinking of her mother at the time of her death. I wanted that young woman to have a tiny chance of life through me - a convert. I think of that innocent and brave soul very often.

YMedad said...

I would presume that Sol was indeed influenced by local French/Arabic and Simcha is a lovely name. May you do good in your Judaism.