Yemenite Art in Israel

Yemenite Art in Israel

I am in a workshop in Artist’s colony at old Jaffa and in front of me is an 8th generation silversmith from a Yemenite Jewish family, deeply engrossed in creating a masterpiece from sterling silver. Holding the delicate tools his hands work on a fine piece of jewelry.
That’s Ben Zion David. His handmade ethnic traditional Yemenite filigree jewelry and Judaica has loads of history to it.

Yemenite Art in Israel

Although making jewelry from gold or goldsmithing (if that is a word) goes back generations among the Jewish community in Yemen, most Yemenites were stripped of their ability to continue their work when they arrived in Israel. The few who remained in the profession watched as their work lost its meaning in Israeli-tzabar culture.

Like many who came from Yemen, the patriarchs of the family were not allowed to bring their tools to Israel. The women’s jewelry was buried in the sands of Aden. Those who did bring their tools and jewelry did not get them back upon alighting from the plane. Many Yemenite immigrants feel the lack of those tools led to their desperate situation upon arriving in Israel. These goldsmiths were used to the social mobility that accompanied this profession.
In Israel, in the transit camps for Jewish immigrants and later in permanent towns, they were forced to work in agriculture and construction area. Hunger makes one do everything, many were not able to break from this route and never returned to their original profession.

Very few people from Yemen were able to bring their tools along with them by concealing and continued their work in Israel. But whether they were independent or employed, these goldsmiths were resigned to adapt to the reality. Thus, it lost its symbolic connection to the culture which created it.
If somebody wore the original crafted jewelry or embroidered pants, it was considered primitive.

Ben Zion David

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Ben Zion David

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Coming back to Ben-Zion David’s workshop where you can find handcrafted 925 sterling silver tribal antique jewelry combining traditional craftsmanship and integrating modern fashion trends with ancient arabesque look.

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Entering Ben-Zion David’s workshop is an experience which promises a welcoming surprise. The collection includes vintage Yemenite style jewelry inlaid with semi-precious stones and roman glass & coins, earrings, necklaces, pins & pendants, bracelets, rings, and Judaica from Israel.
He is one of the very few Yemenite filigree silversmiths today and his works evoke great interest and demand. The Gallery displays his unique Judaica pieces and stunning handmade silver jewelry. The disappearing secrets of Yemenite filigree are revealed.

The workshop is also open to public and adjacent to it is the Museum of Yemenite Culture and Art established by Ben Zion David. It which preserves his cultural heritage. The complex is located within an 18th-century Ottoman building.
The visit provides a unique experience .Yemeni coffee and dates are offered to all visitors. A short video is also available for viewing. Visitors can even participate in workshops and master classes … weaving strands of silver, Yemenite embroidery, grinding spices or basket weaving, by appointment.
Photo Credit :- Shraddha Gupta

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39 thoughts on “Yemenite Art in Israel

  1. Loved this post. Incidentally I just returned from Yemen and had been visiting some old Jeweish Yemeni villages. I had been wondering about the fate of the occupants when stumbled upon your post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. You are welcome Nisha. Yemen had been another awesome eye opening experience. Strangely, civil troubles had reached their peak during my visit, yet not once did I or any other foreign travelers who were there, feel threatened or in danger. It’s a stunning country, beautifully diverse and with a magnificent history. You will love it.

  3. At first I thought “Oh that’s a lovely place to get a wee gift for my other half” then realised I won’t get far with a backpacker’s budget 🙂 Very fascinating story to read.

  4. The historical start to the post really helps to view the art of silversmithing/goldsmithing done by the descendants of these first Yemenites to immigrate to Israel with such respect. The art itself, of course, takes skill, but the desire and passion to continue this artisan work even when all tides seem against you are noteworthy.

  5. I’m not surprised to find out he’s much in demand – just as I’m sure the photo’s don’t do the jewelry justice. It would be incredible to own a piece of jewelry that has such history.

  6. Very interesting. I saw some of this art in Yemen itself when I visited, even the embroidered clothes that are so intricate and beautiful and it was magnificent

  7. What an interesting story! The jewellery is simply stunning as well. What kind of people buy it and do people buy it to wear or more as a keepsake and piece of history?

  8. Wow, the jewelry is gorgeous! It’s sad how so many weren’t able to continue in the profession after moving to Israel. Glad to hear that there are at least some people continuing the tradition! This looks like an interesting stop–always love learning more about crafts like this!

    1. Thank you.
      The jewelry is delicate piece of art. Yes, shifting homes, changing countries, changes a lot in us…. Our entire life changes because of that.

  9. What a loss to all jewellery lovers that these people could not continue with their amazing skills in this area. It would be a treat for jewellery to visit the gallery and see this amazing crafted pieces of art

  10. That’s some excellent craftsmanship they have there. Israel has always been a melting pot of middle-eastern art and the traditional, powerful culture shows.

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