Jewish History

There are many legends detailing the story of how the Jews came to settle in Yemen.  Some believe that the Jews arrived in Yemen after receiving an order from King Solomon to search for gold and silver for the construction of the Temple, in 900 BCE.  However, according to Yemenite tradition, it is believed that the Jews migrated to Yemen when they heard of the impending destruction of the First Temple in 629 BCE.  Despite disagreement about when the Jews arrived in Yemen, there is no question about their long and illustrious history.

By the 900’s, Islam rose to power and allowed Jews freedom of religion in exchange for a poll tax. Jews were treated like second-class citizens and viewed as pariahs.  In 1679 a large portion of the Jewish community was expelled from the region, only to be asked to return a year later when the economy in Yemen was suffering and the Jews had craftsmen and artisan skills which were needed.  By 1700 there was resurgence in Jewish life in Yemen.

1882 marked the first wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine when conditions for the Jews started to worsen.  An ancient Islamic law enforced in 1922, required all Jewish orphans under the age of 12 to be forcibly converted to Islam.  Then in 1947 when the UN partition of Palestine was announced, a violent anti-Jewish pogrom spread through Aden, killing an estimated 82 Jews and destroying nearly of the Jewish shops, four synagogues, and over 200 homes.  At this point the Jewish community became paralyzed by the loss.  Therefore from 1949-50 nearly the entire Jewish Yemenite community was airlifted to Israel via Operation Magic Carpet.  Civil war in 1962 prohibited any remaining Jews from leaving Yemen, although a few managed to escape anyway. By 2005 there were less than 200 Jews living in Yemen.