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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Read more at New York Times

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy