By Vardah Littmann
Photos by Meir Littmann.
The charming white house on the corner of Rechov Hamachtarot in Ramat Gan is a treasure chest of history and knowledge. Set up to show the public the rich heritage of Yemenite Jewry, it reveals the beauty of this fascinating segment of our people in a most interesting way.
It is claimed by some that the way the Teimanim (Yemenis) are the most authentic to the way Jews were during Temple times. It is told that they first arrived in Yemen as Jewish merchant marines, sent there by Shlomo Hamelech to prospect for gold and silver with which to adorn the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. Many years later, another influx occurred 42 years before the first Churban. Some 75,000 Jews, including kohanim, heeding Yirmiyahu’s warning, realized that disaster was imminent and moved with their families to Yemen. When Herod the Great ruled (37 BCE till 4 BCE, which was prior to the second Churban), he dispatched a brigade of Judeans to assist the Roman legions fighting in the region. These Judeans also settled in Yemen.
On going into the courtyard of Chadrei Teiman, the first exhibit shown is a replica of the way a well looked in Teiman. The leather pails drew up subterranean water.
Entering the house, one sees the floors are covered by many Persian carpets and that throw pillows line the walls. The tables have short legs, making them very low and near the ground. In Yemen the minhag of the Jews was to sit on low seating. This was to commemorate and remember the fact that we are in galus and have no Beis Hamikdash.
In the first room, fine-looking Yemenite clothing is displayed on a wall. Some of the pieces come from, and were actually worn in Teiman. A number of leggings, each with a different type of embroidery, are shown. Leggings were worn by ladies to cover up their legs for tznius purposes. An old-fashioned Singer sewing machine completes this section of the museum. In Yemen, by the time little girls reached six years old, they were proficient in sewing and needlework.
The next room shows how the little boys were sent to the mori (rebbi). From the time they were born, boys and girls wore a special bonnet that covered their whole head. Girls continued wearing this, but once the boys reached the age of three they were given a haircut that created simanim (peyos)for them and they now started learning in the midrash yeladim (cheder). As there weren’t many books, all the children squatted around one table. Each child saw the letters from whichever direction he was sitting. Till today, many Teimani men can read things upside-down or from any other angle.
The next room was made to simulate a genuine chassan-kallah room. This exhibit portrays a kallah complete with the tall Teimani headdress, and a chassan who is adorned with a special golden breastplate. The young bride, who could be as young as 12, moved into her in-laws’ home. She and her husband would live in this room until they had a number of children. Everything she might need — candlesticks, clothing and so on — was prepared for her in the room.
On the day of the wedding, a large amount of nuts, dried fruits and sweets were put in the room for the bridal pair to eat and then to give out to the children attending the wedding, to gladden the young ones. The relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law was very good, as the young gave their elders unbounded respect.
The next room shows the care given a new mother and her baby. For the first month the infant was wrapped up so he/she should still feel the warmth and safety of the womb. Huge ostrich eggs are hung around the room. The ostrich keeps a very close eye on its eggs, never letting them out of its sight. These eggs are to remind the yoledet to adopt the trait of this bird and never let her child out of her sight and care.
The last room contains the actual cooking and eating utensils that were used in Yemen. There is a grinding stone on which the women ground wheat. The paraphernalia that were used by the new Yemenite olim when they arrived in Israel in the ’50s are also displayed. It is both instructive and fascinating for today’s younger generation to view these basic cooking implements, such as primus stoves and wonder pots, which were the norm in those years and are now history.
Throughout the Chadrei Teiman many original photos from Yemen are on display.
Across the road from Chadrei Teiman is a large building with six Yemenite shuls that are filled with men going about their avodat Hashem, in this beautiful suburb of Ramat Gan—Ramat Amidar.
School and family groups, as well as individuals, are welcome to visit Chadrei Teiman at 24 Rechov Hamachtarot, Ramat Gan. One needs to make an appointment at (03) 677-5292. The visitor will learn many enthralling facts from the lecture and tour given by the museum’s curator, Rabbanit Korach. Rabbanit Korach also dresses kallot and their families in original Yemenite costumes for weddings.
To reach Chadrei Teiman: Travel on Kvish Geah from Jerusalem and turn into Bnei Brak at the Coca Cola. Follow the route of the 402 bus, but instead of turning right to get to Bnei Brak , turn left and keep going straight until you reach Rechov Hamachtarot in Ramat Amidar. Buses 60, 61, and 39 from the central bus station in Tel Aviv also reach this site.
Published in Hamodia