The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1

132 · Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman

the trouble to bring a mori [rabbi] to slaughter for us for a whole
week.... In the morning we ate milk products, samna, and in the
evening meat.^26

Likewise, Muslims ate in Jewish homes and participated in Jewish wed-
ding festivals.^27 All of the above clearly show how comfortable Jews felt
in the Muslim tribal society.
Observance of the Sabbath was the second Jewish religious principle
respected by Yemeni Muslims. The Arabs knew of the Sabbath both from
their contacts with Jews and from Muslim sources. For example, surat
al-baqara (The Cow) of the Quran^28 dictates that the Jews ought to ob-
serve the Sabbath and that whoever desecrates the Sabbath will become
a monkey. The Sabbath is seemingly perceived as a punishment for Jews
who rejected Islam, a perception which implies the existence of tension
toward them. Hence, along with the Muslims’ genuine desire that the
Jews observe their religion for the sake of the general well-being, the
Sabbath often became a way to monitor the Jews and control them. This
dialectic is apparent in the following examples. Haim Habshush, who
traveled in Yemen in 1870, tells of a Jew who at a time of drought joined
his fellow Muslim villagers in gathering locusts for food. He persisted in
this task even on the eve of the Sabbath and did not listen to his Muslim
neighbors, who asked him to stop. The tribesmen then brought him to
trial before one of their judges, and he was sentenced to a few months
imprisonment.^29 And Reuben Shar ̔abi (born in 1911 in the Bani Wah-
ban territory in Shar ̔ab district), tells of being rebuked on account of
the Sabbath by ̔Ali Qaid, the village shaykh. He recalls that one Friday
afternoon he was late in returning home from his commercial dealings.
He hurried toward the village, riding on his donkey, and reached home
a few minutes before the Sabbath began. But he recounts:

Before I managed to enter my home and unload the pack from
the donkey, Shaykh ̔Ali arrived in my house, angry and shouting
loudly: “Ya Rubein, ya yahudi, you desecrated the Sabbath!”... I
came to him and told him: “Honorable Shaykh, you are mistaken.
The Sabbath did not begin yet, as the sun has not set. There is at
least a quarter of an hour left until the Sabbath.” But the Shaykh in-
sisted: “I am not wrong, but you are wrong! The Sabbath enters be-
fore the sun sets. And you still have to care for the donkey and wash
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