Soulika's Shrine, Fez, Morocco

Soulika’s shrine lies at the center of a Jewish Cemetery, the Beit Ha-Haim, in Fez, Morocco. It honors the eponymous female martyr who was executed in 1834 for refusing to renounce Judaism and convert to Islam. [1] For decades, the shrine has served as a site of pilgrimage and healing. [2] The blue mausoleum, which contains her remains, stands out amongst a sea of white graves.


Sol Hachuel

Sol Hachuel (“Sol HaTzaddikah” [The Righteous Sol] – Lalla Suleika [Holy Lady Suleika]), also known as Soulika, was born in Tangier, Morocco in 1817. [3] Years later, her family moved to Fez. It was there that she was publicly executed for apostasy in 1834. [4, 5] Since her execution, Soulika’s tale of martyrdom has been immortalized across Jewish, Arabic, and European traditions in the form of painting, film, literature, etc. While these accounts of her story vary in detail, the general narrative remains consistent: “She was a young Jewish woman who refused to give up her religion and, because of that refusal, was put to death.” [6] 


One of the earliest and most detailed European accounts of Soulika’s life is Eugenia Maria Romero’s El Martirio de la Jóven Hachuel, ó, La Heroina Hebrea (The Martyrdom of the Young Hachuel, or, The Hebrew Heroine) which was written and initially published in 1837, just three years after Soulika’s death. According to Romero, the heroine came from a family of modest economic background. [7, 8] She and her mother argued frequently, and when they did, Soulika would flee to a Muslim neighbor’s house. One day, this neighbor falsely reported to the governor that Soulika has converted to Islam. Soulika was arrested and, after denying the report (as well as many bribes), was imprisoned and, eventually, executed. [9] 

M. Rey’s Souvenirs d’un Voyage au Maroc provides a slightly different account of Soulika’s life, which he claims to be a transcription of the testimony of her younger brother, “Jousouah.” [10, 11] According to Jousouah’s account, Soulika came from a poor family. Her mother was largely incapacitated and physically abusive, so she often took refuge with her widowed Muslim neighbor who offered to adopt her. Soulika initially refused. The tension between Soulika and her mother culminated on the eve of an important holiday (most likely Passover) when Soulika fumbled “a vessel of lime for whitewash on the floor.” [12] As her mother approached her, Soulika fled to her neighbor and declared, “ ‘C’est toi qui seras ma mère, et ton Dieu sera la mien!’ ” [It is you who will be my mother and your God will be mine!]. [13, 14] The neighbor reported this to the governor who sent soldiers to apprehend Soulika. She soon retracted her words. Despite many bribes and threats, she refused to convert to Islam and was eventually executed before the public. According to Soulika’s brother, because she did not recite the shahāda, she never formally renounced Judaism or converted to Islam. 

Raphy Elmaleh, Morocco's only Jewish tour guide, gives yet another account. [15] According to Elmaleh, when the son of the Sultan saw Soulika through a window, he fell in love with her. The Sultan came to Soulika’s parents and asked if they would permit marriage between their children. Her parents denied the Sultan's request because it would require that Soulika converts to Islam. Two years later, the Sultan passed a law that ordered all Jews to convert to Islam or else be beheaded. Soulika refused to convert and, following her execution, her head was displayed on a wall in the Mellah. Later, a french family traded for Soulika’s remains and put them inside her shrine.

The Shrine

Soulika’s shrine lies at the center of the Jewish Cemetery, the Beit Ha-Haim in Fez, Morocco. [16] Originally buried in a different Jewish cemetery near the mellah, Soulika’s remains were transferred to the Beit Ha-Haim cemetery when the former was decommissioned to clear space for an expansion of the Royal Palace in 1884. [17] It is said that when Solica’s remains were being moved to her final resting place, the smell of myrrh filled the air; a smell associated with Abraham and, through his son, Issac, martyrdom. [18] A plaque on the side of the shrine honors Soulika’s life in Hebrew and French respectively. The French section translates to:

“Here lies Miss Solica Hatchuel, / born in Tangier in 1817 / refusing to enter into the Islamic religion / Arabs assassinated her  / in Fez in 1834 / uprooting her from her family. / The whole world regrets this / saintly child.” [17]

The Hebrew portion of the plaque translates to:

“The gravestone of the righteous Soliqa Haguel, a virgin maiden who  / greatly sanctified the Name of Heaven and died a martyr / in the glorious city of Fez in the year 5594 (1834) [and is] buried here. / May the Lord protect her. / May her merit protect us. / May it be God’s will.” [18]


Sometimes referred to as Hachuel “Sol HaTzaddikah” (The Righteous Sol), Soulika’s shrine is a known site of hillula (pilgrimage) where observers light candles and place them on the cemetery tombs. [19, 20] It is also regarded as a place of refuge and healing, particularly for barren women and sick children. [21] 

Fez, Morocco

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