Haim "El Muallim" Farhi

Excerpts from pages (116 to 134) of:
“The Awakening of the Jewish World”
Written by: Elie Levi Abou Asal
Published in Cairo in Arabic - 1934
Translated from the Arabic by Abe Mourad

“The Awakening of
the Jewish World”

Elie Levi Abou Asal

Born in Damascus in mid 18th century from a prominent family, devout and loyal to the Ottoman government. His father had one of the highest positions in the government of Ahmad El-Gazzar. El-Gazzar was a cruel and ruthless brutal person. Accumulated his wealth from corruption and pillaging.

The Arab dignitaries during this time handed over their affairs to be run by some members of the Jewish community for their experience and wisdom, led by Shaul Farhi.

Shaul had four sons: Haim, Soliman, Rafael and Mousa and one daughter. He chose his eldest son and trained him to run the State’s affairs. A fact that triggered people to plot and conspire against him. He was tried for wrong doings and a very hefty fine was imposed against him. When he couldn’t pay the fine he was sentenced to be jailed. His sister hurried to Istanbul to plea his innocence. The sentence against him was reversed and he was declared innocent. It was declared that the accusation resulted from envy and jealousy. Haim Farhi gained extensive experience during his stay in Istanbul and remained loyal to Ottoman rulers. Ahmad El-Gazzar when realised how that man “Haim Farhi” became influential and high ranking in the Ottoman state, he appointed him a minister in charge of his affairs.

The Jews in Acco at that time numbered only 36 families, while there were 1000 in Jerusalem and numerous in Jaffa, Tiberias and Hebron.

Under the rule of Ahmad Al-Gazzar, Haim Farhi played an important role and had influence among the local Jews to the extent that Napoleon pleaded for the Jews to support him in achieving his aspirations in the region. Haim Farhi gained a lot of experience and knowledge in dealing with the plots behind the curtains.

During this period, the French armies under Napoleon swept most of the land and threatened Jerusalem and realised the importance of Acco. But Haim Farhi resisted and defended bravely what he considered the Jewish people’s usurped land.

Haim Farhi was treacherously betrayed by Ahmad Al-Gazzar. The cruel, spiteful and malicious Al-Gazzar betrayed the faithful Farhi. He ordered his executioner to gouge one of Haim’s eyes. This barbaric act didn’t deter Farhi’s will from continuing serving that assassin, and he used to cover his gouged eye with the edge of his turban.

The armies of Napoleon advanced in the Holy Land and relied on the Jewish cooperation by promising them to restore the Kingdom Of Judah. On 25 Dec 1799 the city of Gaza fell to Napoleon’s army followed by Ramleh. Napoleon relied on the cooperation of Farhi to conquer Acco. Farhi however defended Acco fiercely and Napoleon’s Palestinian campaign failed totally. When Ahmad Al-Gazzar died in 1808, Farhi organised for this murderer a glamorous funeral. The accomplished linguist Nahum Sokolow (1859-1936) wrote: “That Jew Haim Farhi applied all the tolerance of Christianity towards that despicable murderer who persecuted and tortured him”. Soliman Pasha, who replaced Ahmad Al-Gazar, kept Haim Farhi in his noble position for 16 consecutive prosperous years.

The Assassination of Haim Farhi

In 1824 Soliman Pasha died and his son Abdullah replaced him in the State of Acco. During his rule, Haim Farhi was treacherously assassinated. Abdullah inherited all the bloodthirsty tendencies from Al-Gazzar. He instigated his assassination by urging the head of the Police to do so, by trapping him in isolation and slaughtered him like sheep and throwing his body in the sea. All of Acco grieved for his loss. His family pleaded without success to recover his body to give him a proper burial. Professor Schultz who lived in a nearby suburb in the city told us that Haim Farhi was assassinated on 4th August 1824 and all his properties were confiscated. His family in Acco was left penniless. His widow died after short period grieving for her loss.

Two of Haim Farhi’s brothers: Soliman and Rafael, who resided in Damascus, organised a campaign by forming a group consisting of strong young men to fight Abdullah Pasha and exact revenge. This was the first time in centuries that a team of Jews organised a military campaign to fight those who betrayed and attacked them.

Courage to exact revenge for Haim Farhi

It was strange that the Pashas, rulers of Damascus joined the enthusiastic group under the leadership of the two brothers. The encircled Acco was about to fall. But one of the spies infiltrated among the attacking force, and instilled fatal poison in the food of the head of the campaign, Soliman, causing the force to fail in achieving its objective.

The last living member of this great family was Rafael. Rafael occupied in Damascus the position of Vizier (Minister) in 1820. Father John Wilson visited the Farhi family and praised its members. The Farhi family owned prestigious banking and commercial businesses in Damascus. The value of their business reached millions of pounds. Father Wilson was impressed by the valuable library which was filled with Jewish books, and with the impressive behaviour and appearance of the women of that family.

The fate of Rafael Farhi also resulted from betrayal by false accusation.

The prestigious Farhi family was grieved and will be remembered for its association with Palestine and the famous Campaign of Napoleon.

Excerpts from chapters in the book:
“The Awakening of the Jewish World”
Written by: Elie Levi Abou Asal
Published in Cairo in Arabic - 1934

Translated from the Arabic by
Abe Mourad (Australia)
September 2008