Jews of Yemen - History and Cultural Relations



It is not clear when the Jews first settled in southwestern Arabia, but they were certainly there by the sixth century of the Christian era. They comprise part of the Jewish dispersion (diaspora) from ancient Palestine (the Land of Israel) after the Roman conquest and may have been settlers derived directly from there or more indirectly from Babylonia (Iraq) and Egypt. Local converts may have augmented their numbers. Although geographically and socially remote from most of the rest of the Jewish world, they managed to maintain some links, through letters and occasional travelers, with other Jewish communities, especially those of North Africa and the Middle East. Their religious life remained virtually identical, in its major elements, to that of Jews in the rest of the world. On the other hand, although they lived in close proximity to their Muslim Arab neighbors and shared many aspects of daily life, economy, and material culture with them, they remained quite distinct from them. This was particularly the case with their religious beliefs, practices, and organization, as well as their arts and expressive culture. The Jews were categorized under Muslim law as dhimmi, a group tolerated and permitted to practice its own religion, but liable to special taxes, without political or legal rights, under the control of Muslim "patrons," and subject to special laws keeping them in a clearly inferior position to Muslims. Their history within Yemen is largely the story of better or worse times, depending upon their treatment by various indigenous Shiite Muslim rulers or the Ottoman Turkish powers that fought with the former for control. In their great exodus of 1949-1950, Jews virtually disappeared from Yemen.

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Grace B. Wade-Jones
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Jan 15, 2017 @ 2:14 pm
I would like to know the relationship between the Jews of Yemen and the Kanuri people, who also came from Yemen.

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