Also known as Lalla Sol Ha-Tzaddika; Solika la Sainte; Solica Hatchouel.
CLASSIFICATION: Jewish saint.
Lalla Solica is the single most famous and widely venerated female Jewish saint. Executed for refusing to repudiate her faith, in death she trascends all boundaries. She is venerated by those of all spiritual affiliations including Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others. Men as well as women seek her blessings and assistance. She is no longer a local saint; people travel from all corners of the world to visit her grave shrine in Fez, Morocco.
Sol Hatchouel was born in Tangier in 1817, the younger of two children of a family of modest means. Her father was a merchant, but also a very educated man. Bible-study groups were held regularly in the Hatchouel home. Solica developed a friendship with Tahra de Mesoodi, a neighboring Muslim woman. Her arrest was based solely on testimony from Tahra, who told local authorities that Solica had converted to Islam but then repudiated it – an act of apostasy punishable by death. Tahra’s testimony may have been intended maliciously, as some believe, or she may sincerely have wished to save Solica’s soul.
Perhaps the facts of Solica’s case were not considered quite romantic enough for a folk saint. Although contemporary accounts of her arrest and execution exist, various legends have also emerged in which her arrest is triggered by a frustrated suitor. In one, Solica refused a proposal of marriage from a Muslim man, who then told authorities that she had converted to Islam but reneged. Alternatively, she caught the eye of the sultan’s son, who wanted her to convert so that they could marry, but she refused. Perhaps to force her hand, he had Solica accused and imprisoned.
Solica was arrested and brought before the governor of Tangier. She vociferously and repeatedly denied the accusation, instead suggesting that Tahra was mistaken. It was a case of one woman’s word against another’s. In the context of their society, Tahra’s testimony was given more weight.
Solica was then sent to Fez to appear before the sultan, where she again denied all charges. Her parents were ordered to pay for her transport to Fez, but could not afford the fee. They appealed to the Spanish vice-consul to intervene in the case. He made efforts on Solica’s behalf, but to no avail, although he did pay her transport fee, the equivalent of forty dollars.
Between her arrest and her execution, Solica was detained incommunicado in a lightless dungeon with an iron collar around her neck and chains on her hands and feet. She was transported to Fez in fetters, riding on a mule. Her beauty, bravery, and demeanor touched many hearts, which was a predicament for the government. Solica was a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl. The government was not eager to execute her. They pleaded with her to admit that she had converted to Islam and rejoin the faith. She refused. The sultan allegedly offered to marry her if only she would swear allegiance to Islam. Her parents begged her to save herself. Despite being advised otherwise by the sultan, his son, her parents, and even her rabbi, she preferred to die rather than repudiate her own religion. She was beheaded in Fez in 1834.
The Jewish community of Fez paid a ransom for Solica’s head and body and the bloodstained earth from her execution site. They built her a special tomb, from which she proceeded to perform miracles, especially on behalf of children.
ICONOGRAPHY: Lalla Solica inspired French artist Alfred Dehodencq’s 1860 painting “Execution of a Moroccan Jewess,” which is housed in the MusÃ©e d’Art et d’Histoire du JudaÃ¯sme in Paris.
SACRED SITE: Lalla Solica is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Fez near two other saints. Local legend suggests that the Shekhina – the female presence of God – descends upon their graves every Friday night.
OFFERINGS: Light candles in her memory; read psalms.