The Mellah or Jewish quarter in Fez: the name comes from 'salt'
Should we take stories of Jews salting decapitated heads in Morocco with a pinch of salt? Not likely, say two experts.
Further to my post on the parallels between humiliated black maids and humiliated Jews, here is some more detail on that most horrible of Moroccan Jewish chores, salting the decapitated heads of executed rebels for public exposition.
Andrew Bostom in his book The Legacy of Islamic antisemitism (p.46) says that this humiliating practice - which could be enforced even on the Jewish Sabbath - persisted through the late nineteenth century.
Here is one episode, as described by Eliezer Bashan: "In 1872 the sultan succeeded in quelling a Berber revolt and 48 captives were condemned to death. In October 1872 on the order of the Sultan, they were dispatched to Rabat for beheading. Their decapitated heads were to be exposed on the gates of the town for three days. since the heads were to be sent to Fez, Jewish ritual slaughterers (Shohetim) were forced to salt them and hang them for exposure on the Sabbath. Despite threats by the governor of Rabat the Jews refused to do so. He then ordered soldiers to enter the homes of those who refused and drag them outside. After they were flogged, the Jews complied and performed the task and the heads of the rebels were exposed to the public."
In his book Il etait une fois le Maroc David Bensoussan (p.90)confirms that the term Mellah originated from the salting by Jews of heads decapitated by Muslims. Bensoussan quotes Rabbi Youssef Ben Naim as his source. " If I had to list all the abuses against the Jews of Morocco, I wouldn't find enough parchment," the rabbi wrote.
"The hanging of the heads on spikes was a task reserved for the Jews in order to humiliate the dead, since they were being hung by abject persons (the Jews). It was also customary for the Jews to drag the corpses off for burial, because they thought it would dishonour the Gentiles if the beast were buried by their own hands. May G-d put an end to the degradation of Israel."
NB In her book Islam and dhimmitude: where civilisations collide, Bat Ye'or writes that Jews had to carry out the mutilation of thieves in Tunisia, while Christians served as hangmen. In Yemen and Morocco, the salting of enemies' heads included removal of the brains. (p102)