Abstract

The article discusses the phenomenon of Jewish conversion to Islam in Yemen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mainly in the tribal-rural areas where the majority of the Jews lived. This phenomenon is explained against the background of political, social, and economic developments: the intervention in Yemen of outside forces; the penetration of the world economy; and the weakening of Jewish institutions. Religious conversion is presented as a familiar and tempting phenomenon in Jewish life. Social considerations are put forward as the main reasons for Islamization, whereas the role of religious conviction is seen as insignificant. The article also deals with the symbolic meanings of the conversion ceremony and with its practical implications—in the convert's community of origin and in his or her new community. This article is based on oral history, on personal interviews with Yemeni Jews now living in Israel, and on written sources such as letters, memoirs, itinerary books, and legal writings on issues resulting from conversion.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2028
Print ISSN
0021-6704
Pages
pp. 89-118
Launched on MUSE
2008-06-14
Open Access
No
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