Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yemenite Jewish flight led to loss of dress heritage

When the Jews left Yemen, they also abandoned part of their identity - their opulent, traditional bridal garments and jewellery whose style varied from community to community. Ofri Ilani writes in Haaretz:

"In 1949, tens of thousands of Jews from all over Yemen gathered in the southern city of Aden and waited there two months for planes that would take them to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Many of them brought with them from their homes their families' traditional bridal garments and valuable jewelry. But as they were about to board the plane, many found that they could not bring these items to Israel due to their weight. And so when the Yemenite Jews came to Israel, they left behind their local traditional garments.

"People said they just took off the garments, left them in bath houses and were left wearing lighter garments," says Dr. Carmela Abder, a folklore researcher who specializes in the culture of Yemenite Jewry. "But even if the reasons for removing the garments were technical, I see it as a kind of stripping of identity. A woman in Yemen had a very deep attachment to this garb, and she was familiar with each and every detail of her jewelry and clothing. And suddenly they were willing to part with the dresses and jewels that they were so attached to."

None of this prevented Yemenite bridal jewelry from becoming a kind of Israeli brand, one of the symbols of the fulfillment of the ideology of the ingathering of the exiles. Yemenite embroidery and jewelry went through a process of preservation and change at the hands of commercial and ideological groups, and of the Yemenite community as well. According to Dr. Abder, in the Israeli melting pot, the variety of regional traditions was replaced by a uniform item that became most identified with the community: the splendid bridal garb of Sana'a, the capital of Yemen.

Read article in full

The photo shows the famous Yemenite singer Ofra Haza in traditional bridal garb

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