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Yemeni Jews From Creation to The Magic Carpet Operation
  Written By: Shaker Khalid (FOR THE YEMEN POST)
  Article Date:
January 05, 2009

 

 

According to many historical sources, Yemeni Jews have been living in the country peacefully for hundreds of years.

Even after the immigration of thousands of Yemeni Jews to Israel in the wake of the establishment of the Jewish state in a journey known as "the wind carpet operation or the magic carpet operation, the remainder of Yemeni Jews stayed away from political and social frictions with locals in the country.

The fourth Saada war was one of the major changes in the life of Yemeni Jews when confrontations between government troops and Houthi rebels renewed after, according to official sources, Houthi rebels displaced Jews in the Al-Salim area in the northern province of Saada.

The incident triggered different reactions, most important of which were statements by the Israeli Foreign ministry expressing concerns of Israel over threats to the Jewish minority in Yemen.

The statements said that Israel looks seriously into the safety of Jews in Yemen.

But Yemen said the statements were senseless as Yemeni Jews are nationals who must be protected under Yemeni effective laws and constitution. A Foreign ministry high-ranking diplomat said protection of Yemeni Jews is the responsibility of Yemen, and  a foreign country can't be involved in such a matter.

The capital Sana'a then hosted the remaining Jewish families in Saada.

In December11, 2008, the issue of Yemeni Jews entered a new juncture as a Jew was murdered in the district of Raida in Amran province by a local. Reports said religious reasons were behind the murder.

Informed sources said that after the incident, a Jewish delegation met President Ali Abdullah Saleh and explained to him intimidations they stared to experience recently.

According to the sources, President Saleh responded to Jews' complaints ordering relevant authorities to allocate a land plot and YR 2 million for every Jewish family in Sana'a. This to take place as soon as Jews sell their properties in Amran and relocate to Sana'a where they will build them new houses in a special area.

 

Will such incidents write the final story of Yemeni Jews?

Although the Jewish community in Yemen is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world as several sources maintain that Judaism in Yemen started in ancient ages, before the era of Prophet Suleiman, a study on the Jewish political, economic and social conditions suggests opinions over when Jews first came to Yemen remain  legend-enveloped assumptions.

The study, which was conducted by researcher Camellia Abu Jabal says of the main legends of Yemeni Jews, is that they belong to those Jews who accompanied the Sheba queen after she returned from a visit to King Suleiman.

The existence of Jews in Yemen is also believed to date back to the time of trade projects of king Suleiman and his ally Eheram, king of Sour, early in the 10th century B.C.

Another opinion suggests the first emergence of Jews in Yemen was aftermath of the collapse of the first Jewish temple in 586 and the second temple when Jewish groups immigrated to the north of the Arab Peninsula.

According to the study, early in the third century A.C. there were some rich Jewish groups among Yemen's population which succeeded to make tribes in the south of the Arab peninsula convert into Judaism, the move helped the spread of the religion in Yemen over the next centuries, particularly in the era of the Himyari king Taban Asa'ad Abu Karb.

The study also says a movement emerged in 1667 A.C. in the Anodal region, which was called in the name of a Turkish Jew Shebtai Zeifi, who claimed he was the awaited savior of Jews.

The movement attracted many supporters from Jewish communities worldwide. In Yemen, for instance, when Jews heard about the movement, they rebelled against the rule in the country with the leader of the Yemeni Jewish community along with others expressing their support for the movement.

Yemeni Jews then sang and danced in streets armed with the Pentateuch.  But later, they were very sad when they knew the Jew savior converted into Islam.

Inspired by the movement, large numbers of Yemeni Jews tried to travel to Palestine but Yemeni authorities resisted such plans and killed the mastermind, chief rabbi in Sana'a Suleiman Al-Jamal.

Historical events revealed that responding to Yemeni authorities measures; several Jewish leaders devoted themselves to serve Othmanis, who ruled Yemen in that time, the move angered Yemeni authorities which therefore imposed sanctions on Jews.

The study says the sanctions were not as some historians claim as Superior Hostility, but as a result of assistance provided by Jewish leaders for the Othmani rule.

The study indicates that the forms of the integration of Jews in the Yemeni society were an objective process as Jews were part of the society.

If Yemeni Jews were sometimes persecuted, the study says, harassments were due to sabotage policies foreign Jew heralds exercised in Yemen with support from colonial states with the aim to move Jews from their mother country, Yemen.

According to the study, there are speculations over the number of Yemeni Jews living in Yemen since the 19th century until the exodus immigration of thousands of Yemeni Jews to Palestine in the wake of the formation of the Jewish state.

Despite early marriage among Yemeni Jews and the high rates of fertility, all estimates of the number of Yemeni Jews do not exceed 50,000.

Jews lived across Yemen without exceptions, but rich Jews preferred to live in Yemen's large cities.

After the creation of the Israeli state, Jews organized the immigration of Jews from around the world to Israel.

And the study of Camellia Abu Jabal says, Yemeni Jews immigrated to Israel in three stages. The third stage which took place after several agreements with south sultans provided Imam Ahmed with the opportunity to sign indirectly a final agreement with Israeli envoys.

The study says ' Israeli authorities declined to disclose the details of the agreement with Imam Ahmed. Only one sentence by the Imam when he wrote on the margin of a request of Yemeni Jews early in 1949 addressing Jews "No Deterrent".

The study cited Zionist sources as saying "Israel is, therefore, grateful for the Imam because he didn't hinder the exit of many Yemeni Jews.

Regarding the magic carpet operation, researcher Shekhtman says the operation cost $ 4,500,000, $100 per person.

Almost 430 air trips transported over 47,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel.