Changing Health and Changing Culture: The Yemenite Jews in Israel

By Michael A. Weingarten | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

GETTING TO KNOW THE COMMUNITY

I have had the good fortune and historic privilege to serve as physician to a unique group of people for the last twelve years. My practice is in Rosh Haayin, in central Israel, where 13,000 Yemenite Jewish immigrants live. This is a small but very special part of the greater story of the ingathering of the Jews from all corners of the world after the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. These people came from a distant land that was not only underdeveloped but that also had kept itself deliberately isolated from the rest of the world and from technical progress as a matter of principle. Its Jews were doubly isolated, from their Moslem neighbours within the country and from the rest of the Jewish Diaspora throughout the world. Almost an entire community came to Israel en masse between 1948 and 1951. This was a social experience of a very special sort, to move a whole ethnic community across a vast geographical distance and an even vaster cultural distance in a single short operation. Rosh Haayin is the largest settlement of these immigrants, and very few other people live there with them. It is said to be the largest settlement of Yemenite Jews anywhere in the world at any time in history, for in Yemen the Jews were scattered in many small communities throughout the country. Inter-ethnic marriage is now so common, constituting around 30% of all marriages, that soon we shall no longer have the opportunity of studying this group. The traditional Yemenite neighbourhoods throughout Israel are also experiencing an exchange of populations-many of the young and successful are moving out and joining the upward social spiral, and newcomers, who are not part of the Yemenite community, are replacing them. The time to tell their story is now.

As the anthropologists would say, I have been a "participant observer of the process of cultural transition." I see the process and tell the story from my own perspective, as a Jewish doctor who moved from England to Israel in order to

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Changing Health and Changing Culture: The Yemenite Jews in Israel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgements iv
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Identity 13
  • 3 - Social Life 25
  • 4 - The Physical Environment 51
  • 5 - Plagues and Pestilence 59
  • 6 - Diseases of Civilization 69
  • 7 - The Health of the Community 87
  • 8 - Medical Illness and the Use of Medical Help 105
  • 9 - Conclusion 133
  • Notes 135
  • Terms 153
  • References 155
  • Index 183
  • About the Author *
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