Jews of the Middle East - Economic-Ecological Position



In the Middle East, Jews were generally differentiated from their neighbors by partial or full occupational specialization. Some rural Jews were cultivators, but many Jews—even in rural areas—were engaged in other occupations, although other groups might also be involved in this same work. For example, in the Middle Ages, Jews as well as other peoples were traders and artisans, and, in modern times, both Jews and Armenians have specialized in the working of precious metals. Thus, whereas Jewish communities might be associated with a particular occupation or trade, it does not mean that they alone engaged in that activitity. Still, some Jewish communities were marked by a trend toward occupational uniformity, exhibited by the silversmiths of Habban in South Yemen or the residents in a weaver's village near the northern Yemeni coast. These occupational roles had important implications for community life. For example, in communities where Jewish men specialized in itinerant occupations—such as peddling or rural artisanry—the men often had to spend much time apart from their wives and families.


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