The Jewish history of Yemen is said to date back to King Solomon, who sent merchants out to find gold to build the Temple. But there are other versions as well, and Yemenite tradition suggests that Jews arrived in 629 BCE, after Jeremiah predicted the Temple’s destruction four decades in advance. Regardless of the exact timing, Jewish arrival and existence in Yemen has an incredible history. Yemeni Jews are much different culturally from other Jewish communities in the Muslim world, as Yemen’s rulers attempted to isolate the country from the rest of the world. The development of local Jewish culture reflected this detachment, with their fashion and culture sharing many commonalities with Sunni Muslims.

By the 7th century, Yemen came under Muslim rule, and Jews went from being equals to dhimmis, or second-class citizens. They were required to pay a tax levied against all non-Muslims, despite promises of freedom, and they could not build their homes taller than Muslim ones. But the political climate in the region was unstable, and Yemenite Jews experienced some relief when the Turks took over in 1547, connecting the Yemenite community with other Jews in the Ottoman Empire. In 1679, Zeydis took over Yemen and expelled part of the Jewish community to a city by the Red Sea, and many died as a result of starvation and disease. However, the economic effects led to a reversal a year later.

Jews made jewelry and designed beautiful daggers and rings for Muslims. Jews could be put to death for having these items, yet they were the ones producing them. Most jewelry was made by Jews. Jewish skills as craftsmen and artisans were imperative to the economy.

Under Turkish rule once again in the late 19th century, Jews could practice their religion and maintain contact with fellow Jews in the empire. Jewish immigration from Yemen to Palestine was also allowed.

In 1947, a pogrom devastated the city of Aden. 82 Jews were killed and many homes and businesses were destroyed, paralyzing the Jewish community economically. Following the creation of the state of Israel, the vast majority of Jews in Yemen were airlifted as part of Operation Magic Carpet and taken to the Jewish state. The population continued to leave as the political situation for Jews in Yemen never improved, and in 2021, some moved to the United Arab Emirates.

Jewish History



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