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

Citation:

Klorman, E.B. 2006. “Women Resisting Men: Inheritance and Disinheritance in the Yemenite Jewish Community in Mandatory Palestine.” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, no. 11, 126–41.

Author: E.B. Klorman

Abstract:

Yemenite 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. 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.

Annotation:

Quotes:

“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.” (127)

“Efforts by Yemenite Jewish men to take over family property in Palestine corresponded with the traditional practice they brought with them from Yemen. Until the middle of the twentieth century, Yemen's legal system was based on the Shari'a (Muslim religious law). While civil and family matters pertaining to a specific religious community were under the jurisdiction of its own religious law, dissatisfied plaintiffs could always appeal to the Muslim court. In matters of inheritance, Jewish law is unfavorable to women: A daughter inherits from her father only if he has no sons, and a wife does not inherit from her husband, though she is entitled to be supported by his estate as long as she does not remarry. Though some Jewish communities adopted regulations that improved women's inheritance rights, the Yemenite Jewish community did not. In contrast, Muslim law is more favorable to women. Generally speaking, it stipulates that female heirs receive a share equal to one half of that of their male co-heirs. As a result of this disagreement between the two legal systems. Jewish women, mainly in the towns, sometimes appealed to the Muslim court for a more favorable ruling.” (127)

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Religion, Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories, Yemen

Year: 2006

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