JOSEPH BEN ISRAEL (late 16th–early 17th centuries), the most prominent among the poets of the town Mashtā who molded Yemenite Jewish poetry into its religious, national, and mystic character. Joseph was the earliest member of the group and the predecessor of his younger contemporary, shalem shabazi . (According to legend, he was of the same town and was the latter's relative.) His works consist of about 150 poems and piyyutim in Hebrew and Arabic (most of them are extant in manuscript). Their contents deal with religious subjects and are marked by sublime emotion, flowing style, and power of expression. He developed the category of poems which open with Mi Nishkani ("Who Has Kissed Me"). Superficially, these are sensual love poems, but in reality they are fiery allegoric religious poems characterized by supplications and "embraces" of the bride (the Jewish People) for her husband, the bridegroom (God). He wrote about 25 graceful piyyutim and seliḥot. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A.Z. Idelsohn and H. Torczyner (eds.), Shirei Teiman (1930), 45–64; Kafaḥ in: Ha-Ẓofeh (Jan. 18, 1957). (Yehuda Ratzaby)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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