Friday, May 25, 2018

Hamsas aren't just for Mizrahi Jews – and a new exhibit proudly displays just that

By Eness Elias
Samah Shihadi's human hamsa. Credit Shai Ben Ephraim
The palm-shaped amulet known as the hamsa is a significant icon in Israeli culture. More than just warding off the evil eye, the hamsa symbolizes a culture among Mizrahi Jews (from the Middle East and North Africa) that was almost extinguished but is now celebrated anew. Until now, superstitious beliefs attributed to the Mizrahi communities, the hamsa among them, were used to belittle an entire society for being primitive. Even today, those who wear a hamsa seemed to be marking themselves. Now a new exhibit has opened at the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem that tries to look at the hamsa differently, through artistic and aesthetic interpretations. What are its origins? What path has it taken in the State of Israel? And is the hamsa truly apolitical? [More]
A work by jeweler Anat Golan at the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem. Credit: Shai Ben Ephraim
A pilgrim sporting a Hamsa hand tattoo on her back walks during her pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio, in Sanlucar de Barrameda on May 16, 2018. AFP PHOTO / CRISTINA QUICLER