Born in Morocco in 1929, Yamima Avital moved to Israel at the age of 20. What followed was fairly ordinary, university studies, marriage, widowhood in her mid-thirties. Yamima then started gaining a reputation as a heeler and a counsellor. In the late 80s she started an institute dedicated to teaching called Ma’ayan. Her influence crossed all boundaries and extended to both secular Israelis, entranced by her new agey groove, and Religious Israelis mesmerized by her spirituality. “In the memorial book printed a year after her death, rabbis who knew her – Sephardi and Ashkenazi, Bratslav and Chabad, religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox – call her a tzaddeket: a righteous and holy woman, endowed with unique spiritual powers.” Yamima was recognized as the latest in a long line of Jewish female seers.
Damaging or not, in the new Israel, where the old religious-secular polarity has perhaps softened for a considerable swathe of the population, Yamima’s unique fusion of psychological and spiritual language, and the form of religiosity they imply, have struck a deep chord. During the first wave of return to Judaism in the 1970s and ’80s, the model of return was of a sudden conversion accompanied by rejection of one’s previous, secular identity (c.f. Uri Zohar). Returning to Judaism by studying Yamima seems to be a far more gradual process. With her emphasis on relationships rather than prohibitions, personal growth as opposed to sin, and emotions rather than theology, Yamima’s text speaks to a post-ideological Israel, but one that is hankering as never before for psychological healing and spiritual illumination.
Read the full article in Haaretz. No, really. She’s no Madonna, but she is the real thing.