The Hamsa in Jewish Religion

What is the Hamsa?
Hamsa is Arabic for five. Other names for Hamsa are the “hand of Fatima” or “hand of Miriam”. It is a charm that enjoys much popularity in the East and Africa. It can often be found adorning jewelry or walls of houses as it is believed that it defends those who wear it or own it from the evil eye.

What is the evil eye?
The evil eye is a concept that is found in many different cultures and refers to a look that has the power to cause misfortune to the person it is directed at. Often, it is believed that if people look at someone enviously this can cause bad luck for that someone. Also, if someone looks upon someone with dislike or hate this too can cause a bad eye for the person being disliked/hated.

What is the source of the Hamsa?
There is archaeological evidence that proves that the Hamsa predates the monotheistic religions. It can be found universally as a sign of protection in many different cultures and religions. There are different theories that relate the Hamsa to ancient deities.

How Did the Hamsa makes it’s way into the Jewish religion?
The Hamsa is a symbol that is widely known in Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities. The reason these communities adopted the Hamsa is believed to be related to the fact that they lived in the Islamic world and were influenced by their neighbors in the same way that Christians living in such countries were too.

What different forms of Hamsa exist?
There are countless designs of Hamsa on the market today, ranging from the traditional to the more modern designs in which the original hand shape can barely be identified. There are also many, many Hamsas that contain eye symbols and this is surely related to the idea of warning off the evil eye.

How has the use of the Hamsa changed in the history of the State of Israel?
When the State of Israel was established the use of the Hamsa was looked down upon as it was associated with “backwardness” by the dominant Western Ashkenazic stream. In recent years there has been a renewed awakening of interest in roots for Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews, leading to a pride in folklore and customs associated with them. Therefore, the Hamsa has once again become fashionable and is a symbol that has been adopted by all kinds of people in Israeli society. It can be seen often on jewelry, in homes, on greeting cards, on tiles etc.

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