Jews of Yemen - Settlements and Economy

The Jews of Yemen are said to have lived in about a thousand different localities, some in cities such as Sanʿa (the capital), Dhamar, and Amran, but mostly in small villages throughout the land. Whether in small rural settlements or the cities, most Yemenite Jews were artisans, producing the goods needed by the Arab farmers and nobles. They engaged in a wide range of manual trades, including blacksmithing, silver-smithing, tailoring, pottery, charcoal making, soap making, masonry, stonecutting, carpentry, building, milling, baking, and candy making. Certain skilled men acted as scribes, producing the scrolls containing the Five Books of Moses (Torah), as well as other religious works and amulets. Some Jews worked as porters, donkey drivers, peddlers, shopkeepers, and traders. Although Yemen was an agrarian society, few Jews actually farmed. Some did own land, which they leased to Arab farmers, and some owned livestock in partnership with their Muslim neighbors. The Jews might be treated as a pariah group and were sometimes forced to do work considered degrading to Muslims, such as cleaning latrines and sewers, removing carrion and manure from the streets, or burying non-Muslim travelers who died in Yemen.

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