Divorce, separation, and widowhood produce great psychological stress for Palestinian women in Israel. Very often family support is a set of demands seeking to regulate and reshape their conduct. This article is based on a study conducted between 2007 and 2011 with twenty-four divorced, separated, and widowed Palestinian single mothers in Israel. In contrast to claims in most existing scholarship, all of the women turned to nonfamilial sources of support to deal with family and community regulation, restrictions, and stigmatization and to acquire resources. Level of surveillance and regulation was most highly associated with socioeconomic class. The poorer the women, the fewer their choices and the less freedom they had to determine their lives and their children’s lives. The women interviewed disproportionately reported turning to outsiders, such as psychologists, spiritualists, and feminist activists, for “expressive” support.
During the nineteenth century, the number of Jews in Jerusalem soared, including Jews in the North African Jewish community, which witnessed a significant growth spurt. Within the Jewish community, the number of widows, both young and old, was significant—approximately one-third of all adult Jews. This paper focuses on the spatial organization and residential patterns of Maghrebi Jewish widows and their social significance in nineteenth-century Jerusalem. Although many widows lived with their families, for other widows, without family in the city, living with family was not an option and they lived alone. By sharing rented quarters with other widows, some sought companionship as well as to ease the financial burden; others had to rely on communal support in shelters and endowed rooms. Each of these solutions reflected communal and religious norms regarding women in general, and widows in particular, ranging from marginalization and rejection to sincere concern and action.
Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World