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Diah Cahena Definition

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Diah Cahena, also known as Dihya al-Kahina ( Dahia, Damia, Diah, Kahena,Cahena, A-Cahina, Cohen, Cohena) put herself at the head of an army of Jews, Christians and pagans in North Africa, fighting the invasion of Muslims some  time between  649 and 700. She called here troops "Lions of Africa and Judah". Initially, she had the support of Christians and pagans, but these deserted her after a initial victory. Unsuccessful in confronting the Muslim counter-attack, she engaged in a scorched-earth retreat. She has also been claimed as a non-Jewish "Moor":

Al-Kahina, described as possessing "dark skin, a mass of hair," was a Moorish freedom fighter, resistance leader and African patriot.  The term Moor, meaning scorched or black, was a designation applied to the Black populations of Northwest Africa.  An early Muslim scholar, in discussing the ethnicity of the Moorish women of North Africa, wrote simply that "their color is black."

Dahia al-Kahina directed the most determined resistance to the seventh century Arab invasions of North Africa.  About 690, al-Kahina, whose name means the 'priestess' or the 'prophetess,' assumed personal command of the African forces, and under her aggressive leadership, the Arabs were briefly forced to retreat.  The Arabs were relentless, however, and as the African plight deteriorated, our brave and audacious sister ordered a scorched earth policy.  It is said that the effects of this devastation can still be seen in the North African countryside.  In 701, however, after fierce resistance, the Africans were defeated.  Dahia al-Kahina took her own life, and sent her sons to the Arab camp with instructions that they adopt Islam and make common cause with the Arabs.  Ultimately, these men participated in invading Europe and the subjugation of Spain and Portugal.  With the death of Dahia al-Kahina, however, ended a magnificent and heroic endeavor to preserve Africa for the Africans.

The account does not explain how Diah al Kahina or Diah Cahena came to have a Hebrew name or why she called her troops Lions of Africa and Judah. Very probably she was both African and Jewish.

Ami Isseroff

May 19, 2011


Synonyms and alternate spellings: 

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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