The wailing of Yemenite Jewish women, as preserved in the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel, is presented as a case study for analysis of and comparison with other existing wailing cultures. The article uses a model of identities to examine anthropological conventions that interpret death rituals as rites of transition and crisis. A well-known function of wailing—as a bridge between life and death—is decoded in view of the model. The gender dimension of wailing is examined by counterposing and juxtaposing feminine wailing to masculine wailing at death events. The article describes the relative contributions of men and women to the stability of their community and analyzes the unique characteristics of the psycho-social power of women's wailing.
The present issue is composed of independently submitted articles that share particular themes. Both Bar-On Cohen and Gamliel, in their thorough groundedness in the detailed empirical description of practice (martial arts and Yemenite Jewish women’s wailing, respectively) explore critically major conceptual theoretical concerns at the heart of contemporary anthropology.
The Influence of Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy
In March 1994, a protest led by the late Rabbi Uzi Meshulam burst onto the Israeli scene when the Rabbi and his followers barricaded themselves for 47 days in the town of Yehud. They demanded that a government committee be set up to investigate the disappearance of Yemenite children, who, the Rabbi charged, had been snatched from their parents in immigrant camps during the early years of Israeli statehood. In this article I present how the dualistic yet non-violent anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic ideology, which Meshulam had adopted, led to a violent confrontation between the Rabbi’s followers and the Israeli police. Despite the high profile of this clash at that time, very little was reported about the Rabbi’s worldview and beliefs. This article is intended to fill that gap.