Page 72 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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MISHAEL MASWARI CASPI
The Creative Writing of the
Yemenite Jews
IN
EVALUATING
t h e
c r e a t iv e
work o f the Yemenite Jews, we
have to begin with a consideration o f the relationship between
the literary products of the Yemenite Jews and those o f the Jew­
ish world outside the Yemen. From this prospective we can exam­
ine the development o f the literature o f the Yemenite Jews ac­
cording to two separate periods: 1) from the start o f creative writ­
ing in the Yemen up to the end o f the 15th century, and 2) from
the 16th century until the beginning o f the 20th century. This
division takes into account the spiritual connection o f the Yemen­
ite Jews with the other Jewish communities situated initially in the
Babylonian and Palestinian centers and subsequently in the Jew­
ish communities o f Spain, when the latter became the leading
centers of influence in the Diaspora. The notion that the Yemen­
ite Jews lived in relative isolation was generally accepted by schol­
ars of the subject for a long time. In recent years, however, infor­
mation and documents have been uncovered which show that the
Jews of Yemen corresponded with other Jewish communities, es­
pecially those situated in Egypt, Palestine and Babylonia. At a
later period, lines of communication were established also with
the Jews of Europe .1
The Hebrew poetry o f the Jewish poets in Spain not only
penetrated and influenced the schools of poetry of o ther Jewish
communities, but was also accorded a place in the prayerbooks of
these communities. This poetry also reached Yemen and it main­
tained its hold there until the 16th century. During this period
Yemenite Jews produced nothing unique and followed the mod­
els o f the Hebrew Spanish school. Daniel Fayyumi at the begin­
ning of the 12th century, Rabbi Zechariah b. Saadya in the 13th
1
Jerusalem of Lithuania,
Leizer Ran (ed.), New York, 1974, vol. 2, 340.
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