In Israel, Yemenite Wedding Customs Have Made a Comeback

Nov. 19 2018

In recent years, with the resurgence of interest among Israeli Mizraḥim in traditional folk customs and religious observance more generally, Yemenite Jews have revived the pre-wedding henna ceremony, in which the bride dons a traditional costume complete with an elaborate headdress and special jewelry, and her hands and those of her guests are smeared with henna. Malin Fezehai describes the ceremony. (Pictures and video can be found at the link below.)

By the design of the dress, the bride takes the shape of a triangle. “The shape is very central in the material culture of Yemen,” said Carmella Abdar, a professor of folk culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Triangles symbolize the woman’s fertility and are believed to have supernatural powers, but she said that in modern Israel, the ceremony has more to do with “ethnic identity than magical powers.”

In Yemen, there were many similarities between Muslim and Jewish brides. The practice of dyeing hands and feet has been used for centuries in India, Pakistan, Africa, and the Middle East; Jews adopted the tradition from their Muslim neighbors. Abdar said that Jewish jewelers in Yemen would make jewelry for both Muslims and Jews. They also added some distinctly Jewish touches, like the necklace-like labeh, worn below the chin, and stacked bracelets.

Toward the end of the [henna ceremony], the immediate family gathers on stage, and guests watch as the henna paste is mixed, speeches are made, and songs are sung to praise the bride. The bride applies the henna paste to the palms of her guests. Once dried and removed, the henna paste will leave an orange tint, showing that they have been to a celebration.

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More about: Israeli society, Jewish marriage, Religion & Holidays, Yemenite Jewry

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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Read more at The Hill

More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen