Jewish Yemenite Expulsion reflected the experiences of people of Jewish origin around the world at the time in the 20th century. Like many other harmful experiences of Jews before this period, this happened after years of building of hatred against this extremely religious community. To provide a clear picture of this expulsion, it is integral that background information on the circumstances leading to their removal is given.
During the first half of the 20th century, the Jewish went through the worst experience ever recorded not only in the history of people with Jewish identity but also in that of the entire human race. It is considered the worst because it entailed extensive hostility and persecution of the Jewish people in many parts of the world. One poignant example of hostility towards the Jewish people happened during the reign of Adolf Hitler between 1934 and1945. Hitler is well-known to have orchestrated the slaughter of an estimated 6 million people of Jewish origin by the time he committed suicide in 1945 in what came to be known as the Jewish Holocaust. Although significant holocaust deaths occurred in Germany, a majority of the deaths took place in the eastern parts of Europe which were then occupied by wayward Germany. Many historians consider the Jewish holocaust as the worst human tragedy ever befell a particular group of people in the modern era of human existence. These activities led to the creation of the state of Israel.
The declaration of independence of Israel sparked a war with the Arab World. The Arab nations saw Israel as an invader of Palestinian land and aggressor against Muslims nations in the region. At this time, it was estimated that more than 800, 000 Jews lived in Arab nations spread across the Middle East and North Africa (Ahroni 83). After the Arab countries discovered that they could not subjugate Israel through military action, they resorted to the persecution of the Jews who had lived in these countries for several centuries. The retaliatory measures led to the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, and Yemen. By the end of the persecution, thousands of Jewish had been killed and other thousands uprooted from their homes. Today, about 8,500 people of Jewish origin living in the Arab World (Prosor; Israel Embassy). No other region in the Arab World where the Jews experienced the worst persecution than in Yemen.
The Jewish Yemen Experience
The departure of the Jewish from Yemen is not an event that took place as a one-off event in the 20th century. Rather previous records indicate that the Jewish migration out of Yemen had begun earlier than the period highlighted in the previous sections of this paper. However, the Jewish Yemenite expulsion denotes the anti-Semitic attacks that Jewish people in Yemen experienced after the SWW which forced them to leave the country and never to return. This is one of the experiences that highlight the cruel treatment of people of the Jewish identity in the 20th century.
The story of the settlement of the Jewish people in Yemen dates back to several centuries. Some narratives indicate that Jewish settlement in Yemen dates back to the days of the Biblical King Solomon while others suggest that the Jewish started settling in Yemen at around the beginning of the second century. According to the Jewish traditions, the Jewish settlement in Yemen began during after the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. The story of Jewish presence in Yemen is even more complicated due to limited scholarship that has been done by the Jewish community regarding their settlement in the current day Yemen. However, recent archeological evidence has provided more insight into the settlement of the Jewish people in Yemen (Tobi 1-2). Understanding the settlement of the Jews in Yemen is critical in this paper in the sense that it provides background information about the factors that contributed to the expulsion of this highly religious community from Yemen.
Archeological evidence and academic literature suggest that the Jewish people began living in Yemen in the second century. For more a thousand years, this community maintained great religious practices and maintained close ties with their descendants in the Land of Israel. In fact, some evidence suggests that the close ties involved transporting bones of corpses to the Land of Israel. What is relevant, however, regarding their expulsion from Yemen is that they maintained their distinct customs and religion in the new settlements (Tobi 1-3). The distinct nature of the Jewish customs and religion in Yemen and the arrival of Islam in the Arab world intensified the perception that the Jews were a different group of people in Yemen. The new identity created a favorable environment for persecution in the subsequent years. It is critical to note that the Jewish in Yemen had adopted some aspects of Muslim culture after hundreds of years of association.
Islam began spreading in Yemen in 630, a period that captures the time of Prophet Muhammad. At the time, the Jews had lived in the country for several centuries and lived in different parts of Yemen in tribal settlements that totaled about 1200. About 15 percent of the Jews lived in towns, and most of the urban Jews predominantly lived in Sanaa (Klorman). In other words, their settlements were scattered because they had not experienced hostility. However, the arrival of Islam in the mentioned period would change the lives of the Jews in Yemen, a legacy that is visible in the country even today.
The notable rule that sow the seeds of persecution was that of the Yemenite Kingdom known as Himyar Kingdom which was founded in the second century BC and survived way up to the 6th century AD. Subsequent leadership in Yemen officially recognized the Jewish community as one of the protected minority groups in Yemen (Tobi 2-3). Through legislation, they were granted various freedoms and rights including assurance for religious liberty. Further, the protection of the Jews' rights was extended to cover personal security and property albeit on the condition that they recognize Muslim political and social arrangement as the superior ways of life in Yemen. Moreover, the Jewish people were required to adhere to a number of discriminatory laws and practices. In the rural and tribal areas, the Islamic leaders ruled using patronage and customary laws which often ignored a number of the sharia regulations which discriminated against Jews (Klorman; Tobi 4-11). Despite these political and social difficulties, the lives of the Jews in Yemen were stable as a majority of these non-indigenous group thrived in businesses which sustained them for centuries. However, new geopolitical arrangements in Asia and Europe changed the lives of Jewish Yemenites forever. Notably, the rise of the Ottoman Empire changed the political and economic organization of Yemen which, in turn, affected the lives of the Jews in the country negatively. However, when the Ottoman Empire took over control of Yemen in 1872, it opened the country to the outside world (Klorman). Due to the hostile environment, the Jewish started moving out of Yemen.
The Jewish Expulsion Experience
At the turn of the 19th century, it has been estimated that about 30, 000 Jews lived in Yemen. At the time, a majority had moved from the rural and tribal areas after being pushed by the predominately Muslim tribes and lived majorly in towns. The government did not institute deliberate efforts to expel the Jews out of Yemen during this period; the difficult conditions to which the Jewish people were exposed made a number of them leave the country for Palestine and the United States. This trend would continue for most of the 20th century even after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948(Tobi1). Although there was no direct participation of the Yemen government in the departure of the Jews from Yemen at the time, this migration can be regarded as an expulsion because deliberate efforts were made to create difficult conditions in Yemen for the Jews to survive and prosper. However, it was after the end of the SWW that the lives of Jewish Yemenites worsened to unprecedented levels.
In November 1947, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution which led to the expiration of the British Mandate of Palestine. The passage of the resolution practically ended the British control of Palestine and paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel. This not only provoked a war with Arab nations but also resulted in persecution and expulsion of Jews in the Arab lands, including Yemen (The Learning Network). For example, the Aden riots remain as one of the most memorable events that triggered the expulsion of the Jews from Yemen. Three days after the passage of the UN resolutions, riots broke out in the town of Aden where a large community of Jews lived. The rioters, the indigenous Arab population, killed and maimed the Jews living in the town. Within three days, 87 Jews had been killed; at least 70 were seriously injured, though several deaths and injuries also occurred on the side of Arab communities. This horrified the Jewish community in Aden who later migrated to the newly created state of Israel while others immigrated to London and the United States (Goldsmith and Ansbacher). Evidently, their departure from Aden was a forced movement from a town they had lived for over a thousand years.
Another aftermath of the Aden riots is the destruction of property. For many centuries, the Jewish community in Aden had thrived in business. For the 129 years that the British occupied Aden and Palestine, the community's success in trading activities expanded significantly (Ahroni 79). This manifestation of economic progress was tarnished during the riots; businesses and homes belonging to the Jewish community in the town were looted and destroyed (Goldsmith and Ansbacher). By targeting the businesses and homes of the Jewish people, the local Arabs expected to put pressure on the community to leave the town. Indeed, subsequent anti-Jewish activities in the town resulted in their departure in numbers to Israel and other friendly nations.
Besides, creating fear among members of the Jewish community living in the town, the Aden killings further alerted the British about the tense situation in the town in so far as the safety and security of the Jewish people were concerned. In 1949, a joint operation between the British and the Israel forces, dubbed Operation Magic Carpet (OMC) was launched. It was a secretive operation that airlifted the Jewish population from Aden to Israel. Planes made several trips to the town picking people, and by the end of the exercise, over 50, 000 Jews had been successfully settled in Israel (Ahroni 30-37). It is critical to note that the Imam of Yemen facilitated the evacuation though this information was kept secret until the operation was deemed successful according to initial plans of the British and the Israelis. This was the first deliberate effort made to get the Jews out of Yemen and represent the largest 'haul' of Jews out of Yemen in the forceful migration history.
The OMC achieved considerable success in airlifting Jews from Yemen to Israel. However, a significant number of Jewish who lived in towns such as Sana, Beda, and Dhamar had remained behind. Therefore, new efforts were initiated to encourage all Jews in the other cities of Yemen to move to the strategic town of Aden for convenient evacuation out of Yemen. Meanwhile, anti-British sentiments were growing in the town of Aden. The clamor further heightened this for independence among nationalists in the country. In many towns where Jews had lived for more than a thousand years, Jewish people were attacked, and their business looted. These events forced many of them to leave their resid...
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