The History of the Yemeni Jews 2nd in a series [Archives:1999/41/Reportage]

October 11 1999

By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
& Mohammed bin Sallam
Yemen Times
Due to many troubles Jews faced by the Migration Centers, they were compelled to migrate from Yemen in a clandestine way. During 1881-1882 about 200 people migrated from Sana’a and the districts around. In 1885 about 450 people migrated. The first Jew who ever reached Yafa was in 1890. The migrated Jews of Yemen worked with the Jews of Russia in Yafa where economic prospects used to be better than those in Jerusalem. Although, they took up different jobs, they were very much interested in the technical work.

In 1907 some of 200 people migrated from S’adah and the districts around. In 1908 about 2500 migrated and scattered in Jerusalem and Yafa. This group started ploughing lands. They worked with the Arabs under the supervision of Rabin. The process of migration continued from 1923 to 1931 during which about 2500 people reached Palestine and inhabited cities especially Tel Aviv. Some of them worked in trade and construction’s work. During (1929-1948) around 15838 Jews from Yemen reached Palestine. It is said that this migration was planned by the Zionist movement. The overall number of the migrated Jews from Yemen from 1922 to 1\3\1950 reached about 58436 people within the framework of the planned migration. Other sources do also endorse these numbers for they reveal that the immigration of the Jews of Yemen to Palestine took 
place during the period (1923-1934), and their number reached about 19221 people. These numbers are also supported by the Zionist sources for it is revealed that the migration process of the Jews of Yemen to Palestine took place during (1917-1948) during the period of the British Colonization in Aden. These sources reveal that their number reached about 15360 people, which is rated to 3.8% of the total migration number that took place before 1948.
Migrations from Yemen to Palestine at that time were called “Magic Carpet”. A rough estimate of the overall expenditure involved was around $4, 500,000. The number of the Yemeni Jews reaching Palestine had reached 112,670 in 1920.
The Zionist movement paid $500 for each Yemeni Jew leaving Yemen, $1000 for each one coming from the Eastern African Arab Countriesand $500 for each one coming from the then Soviet Union.
The last migration process of the Jews of Yemen took place on September 24, 1950 as two planes landed on Al-Lad in Palestine carrying 577 Jews from Aden airport, 200 from Djibouti airport and 200 from Asmara Airport, the capital of Eritrea. It is said that these 200 Jews traveling from Asmara had traveled from Yemen shores through catamarans seeking migration. The migration period and the “Magic Carpet” was bound to be over as the Yemeni people realized that it was a potentially terrorist campaign aimed at the Jews scattered in different Yemeni districts including villages as well as towns.

The migration process of the Jews forebode danger and the Yemenis felt that there was a popular will stronger than that of Imam Ahmad living in Taiz. This popular will was crystallized into the Jews Congregation Migration Center in Taiz. Besides, it is reported that about 300 Jews migrated from Nagran. These Jews were recommended by the King of Sudi Arabia to stay in Yemen. However, Imam Ahmad did not heed this request and allowed the jews to migrate to Aden and then to Palestine.
Features of the Migration Process:
We can note that migration of the Jews of Yemen had the following features:
1) The first migration of Jews from Yemen did not include those who were old.
2) When the Jews of Yemen traveled to Palestine, they transferred with them some of the Yemeni traditions, conventions that were part of the Yemeni culture.
3) The Jews preserved the social traditions and ways of life which were transferred with them to Palestine.
4) The Jews of Yemen were very much influenced by the Yemeni people in the sense that they transferred many Yemeni facets including those of food such as “Saltah, Holbah”, planting and chewing Qat and even the way of construction of houses.
The huge number of the Yemeni Jews in Israel was stronger than the Zionist congregation. The Jewish Agency was chaired by David Bin, leader of the Israeli Laborer Party and the first President of the Interim Government in the Zionist existence that lasted from 14\5\1948 to 10\3\1949. This government tried to impose discriminatory partisan laws over the migrated Jews, the Jews of Yemen included. However, the Jews of Yemen were represented by one representative in the Interim Council of the country which contained 38 members. This Council constituted the top authority of the new order which existed after the declaration of Israel Country as an independent country on the Arab Palestine lands on 15\5\1948. This Council consisted of 14 members of the Zionist Executive Social Council, 11 members of the Executive Jewish Agency and 12 members from other parties and communities.
Hayeem Wise man, the chairman of the elected Council, was member No 38. He was also one out of the 12 elected members who represented different parties. He was a representative of the Jews of Yemen though they were opposed to the existing parties dominated by the Laborer Party which was represented by 12 members in the Council. This party used to have six ministers in the Interim Government, besides the Prime Minister who used to hold the Defense Ministry. The Jews of Yemen held a seat out of 120 seats in the Kenisit “Parliament”. The Labor Party got 46 seats as a result of the January 1948 elections in which the Jews of Yemen had 3399 votes which was 1.2% out of the total number of the 415260 legal votes, that is, 95.545% out of the overall total. The Jews of Yemen had faced a lot of difficulties as a result of identifying the Jews as the Arab Jews and Ashkenazis as “non-Arab Jews”. The Jews of Yemen suffered from the despotism of Ashkenazis. They were very sad for they could not be given the same treatment they used to have in Yemen. They were ostracized in separate surrounding camps so as not to allow them to mix with the “Elite Corps” represented by Ashkenazis. Within this environment of racism, the Jews of Yemen started pining for the “Promised Land”. They remembered how they fooled into believing that religious trick. All these feelings made them got united in the settlement camp. This also made them feel a big void that they still feel till now.
Many years have been passed and the Jews of Yemen are still ostracized in closed districts. Some of these districts are known as the Yemeni districts which are close to Karyan Ana and Rosha Ayeen. Some other Jews became homeless and as a result joined criminal gangs. It has been found that the Zionism was practiced from the beginning of the migration process so as to build a strong work force. Lands were confiscated from their Arab owners and delivered to the Jews of Yemen and Egypt. What is clear over the years is that the Zionist project had never had at any time a real man work force that could form a constant base. This had been very clear during the aftermath of the aggression of June 1967 when there was a popular trend to avoid such jobs such as agriculture and construction. This made the Zionist leadership feel that they were in danger. For the more lands which were cultivated by Arabs, the more their situation was to be like South Africa; Ashkenazis’ situation would inevitably be like the situation of the whites in South Africa. So as to prevent such a consequence, the Jews of Yemen were distributed into the following four settlement groups which were called Al-Kipotssat:
1) The National Al-Kipots founded in 1927
2) The United Al-Kipots founded in 1927
3) The Settlement Union Group founded in 1951 having a total Yemeni membership of 30,000.
4) The religious Al-Kipots founded in 1935
The source of influence of the Jews of Yemen:
The Jews of Yemen constituted a strong force that could never be ignored among the settlements in Palestine. The fruits of their organizations were first felt in 1923. Chief among these organizations are the following:
1) Al-Rabin Council for the Jews of Yemen
2) Yemeni Women’s Organization
3) The Yemeni Youth Organization
4) Sons Organization
5) The American Committee to for repatriation of the Jews of Yemen. It is related to the Jewish Agency in all its activities.
The groups of the Jews of Yemen were the only Eastern groups in Palestine that were successful in Kenisit first and second elections through their congregation which all along remained independent. They were represented by one member as mentioned above. The Yemeni Jews congregation could force the governmental institutions and organizations fulfill some of their demands. They could also participate in the regular elections of Kenisit. However, the dominating force of Ashkenazis stood as a stumbling block for the Jews of Yemen to achieve positive results. The Kenisit second elections that took place in 1973 after the war of October 6, was marked by the participation of the Jews of Yemen through an independent group called the Yemeni Group. However, they could not capture the seats as expected due to the dominance of Ashkenazis who are still having a strong hold over inhabitants of these settlements. They believe that they could have equal status with different people in different countries; However, they could not feel the same with Ashkenazis, their own people. In order to put an end to their suffering, they tried to integrate with the Israel House Group and some other Israeli denominations. They both forged an alliance in 1977 elections. This organization brought together the Jews of Yemen who according to some estimates reached 250,000 at that time. However, new estimates show that their number has since increased and reached 450,000. Estimates also show that they live in miserable conditions. Though they got integrated with different denominations from Poland, Roman, Russia, Iraqi, Ethiopia, yet the Jews of Yemen remain the poorest among all of them till now.
At the beginning of their settlement there, they accepted their situation silently. However, the racial policy exercised by the Israeli policy has created a strong resentment among the Jews of Yemen who remain at the bottom of the social ladder. They have not found any other alternative and so far they have been thinking of solutions even if they may have to have a counter immigration from Israel.
The Jews of Yemen, like other Jews from the East, are living today in miserable conditions due to different reasons. Chief among them is their feeling of inferiority and inability to integrate in the Israeli society which has proved to be full of malice and hatred even towards their own people.
We, however, feel that we are very proud of those few Jews who fell victim of the old religious trick during the immigration process and preferred to stay in Yemen. We hope that they would be given more attention as well as care hereafter.