"What Am I? Your Slave?"

The Yemenite women are on the bottom rung in their society.

The Yemenite women are on the bottom rung in their society. Within the home, too, they do not participate in the men's conversations or in the communal chewing of qat. The young women wear black scarves under which their hair peeks out. Unmarried girls smooth their curly hair down with shiny gel. All the young women in Ushiyot wear skirts, mostly long ones that sweep the floor, Gush Emunim-style. But on the main street, outside the enclave of their community, some are seen wearing pants and occasionally there are flashes of modernity, almost hidden from the eye, that perhaps presage change. Here there is a bitter look, there a statement like, "What am I? Your slave?"

In Yemen, women never left the house, never studied and never worked outside the home. Here things have changed radically. It is the women who go out to work and come in contact with the Israeli way of life. Therefore, even though the double burden of earning a living and raising children falls on them, there are those who succeed in understanding the local reality better than the men.

"My mother changed here," says B. "She speaks Hebrew better than I do, she gets along and she isn't pressuring me to get married. She wants me to learn a profession first."

B., who has passed the age of 20, is considered an old maid, but she is not the only one in such a situation today. She represents the beginning of a new phenomenon - the postponement of the age of marriage among women, out of choice. "Yemen," she says, "is not such a good place for women."

Currently B. is working at a factory. She has a driver's license and is now completing her matriculation exams. She is frustrated by the years she wasted in a seminary for girls in Bnei Brak, but is looking ahead.