TEMA, JOURNAL OF JUDEO-YEMENITE STUDIES, No. 11, 2011, was published and includes my article: The Ostriches Pentateuch, Rada? (South Yemen) End of the Twelfth Century. (Pictures from the article available here).
Ostriches are found in three Hebrew illuminated Bibles from Yemen. Each was scribed and painted in a different town: Rada’ (רדאע), south Yemen, Aden and Sanaa. The fact that three different Jewish scribes in three different places in Yemen made the same art decision to paint ostriches in an Hebrew Pentateuch, clearly suggests that the idea of ostriches was important to Jews of Yemen. It is therefore not surprising that the earliest Jewish art program showing ostriches, known today, is in an Hebrew Bible. The focus and the aim of this article are to understand why.
It should be noted that only a few Hebrew illuminated Bibles from Yemen have survived and those from the twelfth and thirteen centuries were not researched yet. Although it is documented in the Lutzki catalog, which is the inside catalog of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, (henceforth JTS), its art program was never researched.
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As part of The International Conference on Jews of Yemen: Identity and Heritage, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, State of Israel, 18-19 October 2010, I gave a lecture on: ‘Do we have the Shalom Shabazi Pentateuch? Its Art program‘.
Baessler-Archiv, volume 57, 2009, was published and pp. 75-101 includes my article: The Scorpion.
The phenomenon of pilgrimage to Taizz, south west Yemen, to the grave of the Jewish and Yemenite Poet Shalom (Salim) al-Shabazi (1619-1680+) is well known. However, the scorpion in that context has been less scrutinized. I wish to focus on the phenomenon of pilgrimage to his grave, by Jews and Muslims, from the point of view of art history. The target is to shed light on the scorpion as a symbol of fertility. The basis is the belief that visiting his grave will cure infertility. While being there, the appearance of an alive scorpion was considered a sign of cure.
The scorpion will be shown in four new types of Jewish jewels, from the Jewish community at Ga bir al-azabקאע ביר אלעזב outside Sanaa, dating to the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, as well as, its origin in Jewish and Islamic art and belief.
From 1882 till 1950 Jews of Yemen made ‘Aliyah’ (come back) to Israel. This had turn Israel, to the only place in the world, to research phenomena of Jews of Yemen, in real time, of its still happening in Yemen, including jewels. The Scorpion is the main iconography of four types of jewels brought into Israel, yet, still in use in the Jewish community at Ga bir al-azab קאע ביר אלעזב outside Sanaa in parallel time: Labbah (s.), Lazem (s.), Khoratah (s.) and Aqrabe (s.).
All the four are new types dated to 19th and 20th centuries, not known in the 18th century in Sanaa. There is no scorpion at all in Jewish iconography in the Jewish community at Ga bir al-azab קאע ביר אלעזב in the 18th century, except only from one type of jewel dated to the end of the 18th century/the beginning of the 19th century, of which I named “Humat al-aqrab”(s.) – “Scorpion’s Venom” (http://www.oraberger.co.il/phd/).
This paper is concerned with the scorpion in the above mentioned new types of Jewish jewels. At the essence of its existence lie three questions. First, whose scorpion is it? Second, is the scorpion a new iconography in Yemen? Third, what is the art formula of the scorpion and what we can conclude out of that?
As part of Seminar for Arabian Studies (SAS) 2009, I presented two posters regarding Hebrew illuminated Bibles from Yemen. I also participated in the special workshop ‘The Development of Arabic as a Written Language’ and consulted with them regarding a problem in Arabic writing in ‘carpet pages’ in Hebrew illuminated Bibles from Yemen.
See more info at my conferences page.
My Ph.D. dissertation is the first in Israel on Jewish jewels in Yemen in the 18th century. I decided to publish it under the Attribution-Share Alike license. It can be download by clicking on its title: The Jewellery of the Jewish Bride in San’a as a cultural and Artistic Message – The 18th century. The synopsis is in English (pp.1-29) and the dissertation is in Hebrew (pp.30-348).