Women Resisting Men: Inheritance and Disinheritance in the Yemenite Jewish Community in Mandatory Palestine
Abstract

Yemenite1 Jewish women immigrated to Palestine mostly from the rural-tribal areas of Yemen, where both Muslim and Jewish women usually did not inherit property. In Palestine the situation was different, especially following the British Mandate inheritance regulations of 1923, which stipulated that females and males had equal inheritance rights. Similarly, starting in the mid-1930s, the JNF began to sign tenancy contracts in the agricultural settlements (moshvei 'ovdim), including the Yemenite moshav Elyashiv, with both husband and wife. The Yemenite Jewish community did not easily adapt to these significant changes, and women had to struggle to implement their lawful inheritance and ownership rights. Analyzing a number of representative cases in which women resisted attempts to disinherit them, this article presents Yemenite Jewish women as adamant subjects acting to advance their interests by employing various means. It argues that their initiatives were largely rooted in a tradition of independent conduct brought with them from Yemen. They negotiated with the JNF, used the services of lawyers, initiated lawsuits, sought the help of their political representatives, and engaged male acquaintances to act on their behalf. Their endeavors to retain property are viewed as an example of their search for economic independence and an expression of their adaptation to the social and legal conditions in Jewish Palestine. The article also expands on the attitudes of the relevant yishuv institutions toward these women. The study is based mainly on previously unstudied letters and other documents assembled from different archives.


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