'Here's your dinner, Jews': Yemenite-Jewish lamentation in Israel as a commemoration of shame

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Abstract

A covert reason for the decline of ritual wailing among Yemenite-Jewish women in Israel is the community's memory of its stay in Yemen as a period of 'exile' manifested in dhimmi status. According to respondents' oral history, Jewish lamentation was exploited by members of the majority Muslim population to compel Jews - mostly men - to wail in honor of Muslim dead. The article makes its main contribution by revealing this historical episode and analyzing the standing of women's lamentation in the context of religio-political tension. The respondents' narrative reveals that although the wailers mitigated the humiliating effects of this spectacle, the appropriation of their community custom impaired Jewish men's gender status and ability to perform religious differentiation. This, coupled with changes caused by their relocation to Israel, has made women's lament the commemoration of a practice that evokes shame among members of this community, abetting its decline in the past decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-71
Number of pages26
JournalReligion
Volume44
Issue number1
Early online dateNov 2013
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this article was funded by the Budget and Planning Committee of the Israel Council for Higher Education, the Research Gamlielity of the University of Haifa, and the Lady Davis fellowships of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Keywords

  • Arab-Jewish relations
  • death rituals
  • dhimmi
  • gender
  • immigration
  • religious differentiation
  • wailing

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