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|Ofra Haza • Yisrael Yeshayahu • Boaz Mauda • Shahar Zubari • Amnon Yitzhak • Sandy Bar • Achinoam Nini|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Israel c. 300,000
|Related ethnic groups|
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|Jews and Judaism|
Yemenite Jews (Hebrew: תֵּימָנִים, Standard Temanim Tiberian Têmānîm; singular תֵּימָנִי, Standard Temani Tiberian Têmānî) are those Jews who live, or whose recent ancestors lived, in Yemen (תֵּימָן, Standard Teman Tiberian Têmān; "far south"). Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. Most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, with some others in the United States, and fewer elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Yemen, mostly elderly.
Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that marks them out as separate from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and other Jewish groups. It is debatable[by whom?] whether they should be described as "Mizrahi Jews", as most other Mizrahi groups have over the last few centuries undergone a process of total or partial assimilation to Sephardic culture and liturgy. (While the Shami sub-group of Yemenite Jews did adopt a Sephardic-influenced rite, this was for theological reasons and did not reflect a demographic or cultural shift).
One local Yemenite Jewish tradition dates the earliest settlement of Jews in the Arabian Peninsula to the time of King Solomon. One explanation is that King Solomon sent Jewish merchant marines to Yemen to prospect for gold and silver with which to adorn the Temple in Jerusalem. In 1881, the French vice consulate in Yemen wrote to the leaders of the Alliance in France, that he read a book of the Arab historian Abu-Alfada, that the Jews of Yemen settled in the area in 1451 BC. Another legend places Jewish craftsmen in the region as requested by Bilqis, the Queen of Saba (Sheba). The Beta Israel or Chabashim (Jews in nearby Ethiopia) have a sister legend of their origins that places the Queen of Sheba as married to King Solomon. Parts of Yemen, Eritrea and Ethiopia at that time were jointly ruled by Sheba, possibly with its capital in Yemen.
The Sanaite Jews have a legend that their ancestors settled in Yemen forty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple. It is said that under the prophet Jeremiah some 75,000 Jews, including priests and Levites, traveled to Yemen. The Jews of Habban in southern Yemen have a legend that they are the descendants of Judeans who settled in the area before the destruction of the Second Temple. These Judeans supposedly belonged to a brigade dispatched by Herod the Great to assist the Roman legions fighting in the region.
Another legend states that when Ezra commanded the Jews to return to Jerusalem they disobeyed, whereupon he pronounced a ban upon them. According to this legend, as a punishment for this hasty action Ezra was denied burial in Israel. As a result of this local tradition, which can not be validated historically, it is said that no Jew of Yemen gives the name of Ezra to a child, although all other Biblical appellatives are used. The Yemenite Jews claim that Ezra cursed them to be a poor people for not heeding his call. This seems to have come true in the eyes of some Yemenites, as Yemen is extremely poor. However, some Yemenite sages in Israel today emphatically reject this story as myth, if not outright blasphemy.
The immigration of the majority of Jews into Yemen appears to have taken place about the beginning of the 2nd century AD, although the province is mentioned neither by Josephus nor by the main books of the Jewish oral law, the Mishnah and Talmud. According to some sources, the Jews of Yemen enjoyed prosperity until the 6th century AD The Himyarite King, Abu-Karib Asad Toban converted to Judaism at the end of the 5th century, while laying siege to Medina. His army had marched north to battle the Aksumites who had been fighting for control of Yemen for a hundred years. The Aksumites were only expelled from the region when the newly Jewish king rallied the Jews together from all over Arabia, together with pagan allies. But this victory was short-lived.
In 518 the kingdom was taken over by Zar'a Yusuf, who "was of royal descent, but he was not the son of his predecessor Ma'di Karib Yafur." He too converted to Judaism, and instigated wars to drive the Aksumite Ethiopians from Arabia. Zar'a Yusuf is chiefly known by his cognomen Dhu Nuwas, in reference to his "curly hair." Jewish rule lasted until 525 AD (some date it later, to 530), when Christians from the Aksumite Kingdom of Ethiopia defeated and killed Dhu Nuwas, and took power in Yemen. According to a number of medieval historians[which?], who depend on the account of John of Ephesus, Dhū Nuwas announced that he would persecute the Christians living in his kingdom because Christian states persecuted his fellow co-religionists in their realms; a letter survives written by Simon, the bishop of Beth Arsham in 524 AD, which recounts the persecution by a person referred to as Dimnon in Najran (modern al-Ukhdud in Saudi Arabia). The persecution is apparently described and condemned in the Qur'an (al-Buruj:4). According to the contemporary sources[which?], after seizing the throne of the Himyarites, in 518 or 523 AD Dhū Nuwas attacked the Aksumite (mainly Christian) garrison at Zafar, capturing them and burning their churches. He then moved against Najran, a Christian and Aksumite stronghold. After accepting the city's capitulation, he massacred those inhabitants who would not renounce Christianity. Estimates of the death toll from this event range up to 20,000 in some sources. Legends hostile to Dhu Nuwas certainly betray the viewpoints and self-justifications of those who defeated him and later Muslim historiographers, and therefore need to be taken with the due grain of salt. What is clear is that the Jewish Yemenite kings did not force Judaism on their subjects, following the Talmudic view that righteous peoples exist in all cultures and religions and need not convert to Judaism to be saved. As a consequence, it is not clear what percentage of the population was or became Jewish. San'a, however, was said to be a chiefly Jewish city.
As Ahl al-Kitab, protected Peoples of the Scriptures, the Jews were assured freedom of religion only in exchange for the jizya, payment of a poll tax imposed on certain non-Muslim monotheists (people of the Book). Active Muslim persecution of the Jews did not gain full force until the Shiite-Zaydi clan seized power, from the more tolerant Sunni Muslims, early in the 10th century.
As the only visible "outsiders" (though their presence in Yemen predated the introduction and mass conversion of the population to Islam) the Jews of Yemen were treated as pariahs, second-class citizens who needed to be perennially reminded of their submission or conversion to the ruling Islamic faith. The Zaydi enforced a statute known as the Orphan's Decree, anchored in their own 18th century legal interpretations and enforced at the end of that century. It obligated the Zaydi state to take under its protection and to educate in Islamic ways any dhimmi (i.e. non-Muslim) child whose parents had died when he or she was a minor. The Orphan's Decree was ignored during the Ottoman rule (1872–1918), but was renewed during the period of Imam Yahya (1918–1948).
Under the Zaydi rule, the Jews were considered to be impure, and therefore forbidden to touch a Muslim or a Muslim's food. They were obligated to humble themselves before a Muslim, to walk to the left side, and greet him first. They could not build houses higher than a Muslim's or ride a camel or horse, and when riding on a mule or a donkey, they had to sit sideways. Upon entering the Muslim quarter a Jew had to take off his foot-gear and walk barefoot. If attacked with stones or fists by Islamic youth, a Jew was not allowed to defend himself. In such situations he had the option of fleeing or seeking intervention by a merciful Muslim passerby.
The Jews of Yemen had expertise in a wide range of trades normally avoided by Zaydi Muslims. Trades such as silver-smithing, blacksmiths, repairing weapons and tools, weaving, pottery, masonry, carpentry, shoe making, and tailoring were occupations that were exclusively taken by Jews. The division of labor created a sort of covenant, based on mutual economic and social dependency, between the Zaydi Muslim population and the Jews of Yemen. The Muslims produced and supplied food, and the Jews supplied all manufactured products and services that the Yemeni farmers needed.
Yemenite Jews have lived principally in Aden (200), Sana (10,000), Sada (1,000), Dhamar (1,000), and the desert of Beda (2,000). Other significant Jewish communities in Yemen were based in the south central highlands in the cities of: Taiz (the birthplace of one of the most famous of Yemenite Jewish spiritual leaders, Mori Salem Al-Shabazzi Mashtaw), Ba'dan, and other cities and towns in the Shar'ab region. Yemenite Jews were chiefly artisans, including gold-, silver- and blacksmiths in the San'a area, and coffee merchants in the south central highland areas.
During this period messianic expectations were very intense among the Jews of Yemen (and among many Arabs as well). The three pseudo-messiahs of this period, and their years of activity, are:
According to the Jewish traveler Jacob Saphir, the majority of Yemenite Jews during his visit of 1862 entertained belief in the messianic proclamations of Shukr Kuhayl I. Earlier Yemenite messiah claimants included the anonymous 12th-century messiah who was the subject of Maimonides' famous Iggeret Teman, the messiah of Bayhan (c.1495), and Suleiman Jamal (c.1667), in what Lenowitz regards as a unified messiah history spanning 600 years.
Yemenite Jews and the Aramaic speaking Kurdish Jews are the only communities who maintain the tradition of reading the Torah in the synagogue in both Hebrew and the Aramaic Targum ("translation"). Some non-Yemenite synagogues have a specified person called a Baal Koreh, who reads from the Torah scroll when congregants are called to the Torah scroll for an aliyah. In the Yemenite tradition each person called to the Torah scroll for an aliyah reads for himself. Children under the age of Bar Mitzvah are often given the sixth aliyah. Each verse of the Torah read in Hebrew is followed by the Aramaic translation, usually chanted by a child. Both the sixth aliyah and the Targum have a simplified melody, distinct from the general Torah melody used for the other aliyot.
Like most other Jewish communities, Yemenite Jews chant different melodies for Torah, Prophets (Haftara), Megillat Aicha (Book of Lamentations), Kohelet (Ecclesiastes, read during Sukkot), and Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther read on Purim). Unlike in Ashkenazic communities, there are melodies for Mishle (Proverbs) and Psalms.
In larger Jewish communities, such as Sana'a and Sad'a, boys were sent to the Ma'lamed at the age of three to begin their religious learning. They attended the Ma'lamed from early dawn to sunset Sunday through Thursday and until noon on Friday. Jewish women were required to have a thorough knowledge of the laws pertaining to Kashrut and Taharat Mishpachah (family purity) i.e. Niddah. Some women even mastered the laws of Shechita, thereby acting as ritual slaughterers.
People also sat on the floors of synagogues instead of chairs, similar to the way many other non-Ashkenazi Jews sat in synagogues. This is in accordance with what Rambam (Maimonides) wrote in his Mishneh Torah:
The lack of chairs may also have been to provide more space for prostration, another ancient Jewish observance that the Jews of Yemen continued to practise until very recent times. There are still a few Yemenite Jews who prostrate themselves during the part of every-day Jewish prayer called Tachanun (Supplication), though such individuals usually do so in privacy. In the small Jewish community that exists today in Bet Harash Prostration is still done during the tachnun prayer. Jews of European origin generally prostrate only during certain portions of special prayers during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Prostration was a common practise amongst all Jews until some point during the late Middle Ages or Renaissance period.
Like Yemenite Jewish homes, the synagogues in Yemen had to be lower in height than the lowest mosque in the area. In order to accommodate this, synagogues were built into the ground to give them more space without looking large from the outside. In some parts of Yemen, minyanim would often just meet in homes of Jews instead of the community having a separate building for a synagogue. Beauty and artwork were saved for the ritual objects in the synagogue and in the home.
Yemenite Jews also wore a distinctive tallit often found to this day. The Yemenite tallit features a wide atara and large corner patches, embellished with silver or gold thread, and the fringes along the sides of the tallit are netted. According to the Baladi custom, the tzitzits are tied with chulyot, based on the Rambam.
During a Yemenite Jewish wedding, the bride is bedecked with jewelry and wears the traditional wedding costume of Yemenite Jews. Her elaborate headdress is decorated with flowers and rue leaves, which are believed to ward off evil. Gold threads are woven into the fabric of her clothing. Songs are sung as a central part of a seven-day wedding celebration and their lyrics often tell of friendship and love in alternating verses of Hebrew and Arabic.
Yemenite and other Eastern Jewish communities also perform a henna ceremony, an ancient ritual with Bronze Age origins, a few weeks or days before the wedding. In the ceremony the bride and her guests hands and feet are decorated in intricate designs with a cosmetic paste derived from the henna plant. After the paste has remained on the skin for up to two hours it is removed and leaves behind a deep orange stain that fades after two to three weeks.
Yemenites, like other Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities, had a special affinity for Henna due to biblical and Talmudic references. Henna, in the Bible, is Camphire, and is mentioned in the Song of Solomon, as well as in the Talmud.
Rashi, a Jewish scholar from 11th c France, interpreted this passage that the clusters of henna flowers were a metaphor for forgiveness and absolution, showing that God forgave those who tested Him (the Beloved) in the desert. Henna was grown as a hedgerow around vineyards to hold soil against wind erosion in Israel as it was in other countries. A henna hedge with dense thorny branches protected a vulnerable, valuable crop such as a vineyard from hungry animals. The hedge, which protected and defended the vineyard, also had clusters of fragrant flowers. This would imply a metaphor for henna of a "beloved", who defends, shelters, and delights his lover. In the first millennium BCE, in Canaanite Israel, henna was closely associated with human sexuality and love, and the divine coupling of goddess and consort.
A Yemenite Jewish wedding custom specific only to the community of Aden is the Talbis, revolving around the groom. A number of special songs are sung by the men while holding candles, and the groom is dressed in a golden garment.
The three main groups of Yemenite Jews are the Baladi, Shami, and the Maimonideans or "Rambamists".
The differences between these groups largely concern the respective influence of the original Yemenite tradition, which was largely based on the works of Maimonides, and of the Kabbalistic tradition embodied in the Zohar and the school of Isaac Luria, which was increasingly influential from the 17th century on.
Towards the end of the 19th century new ideas began to reach Yemenite Jews from abroad. Hebrew newspapers began to arrive, and relations developed with Sephardic Jews, who came to Yemen from various Ottoman provinces to trade with the army and government officials.
Two Jewish travelers, Joseph Halévy, a French-trained Jewish Orientalist, and Edward Glaser, an Austrian-Jewish astronomer, in particular had a strong influence on a group of young Yemenite Jews, the most outstanding of whom was Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ. As a result of his contact with Halévy and Glaser, Qafiḥ introduced modern content into the educational system. Qafiḥ opened a new school and, in addition to traditional subjects, introduced arithmetic, Hebrew and Arabic, with the grammar of both languages. The curriculum also included subjects such as natural science, history, geography, astronomy, sports and Turkish.
The Dor Daim and Iqshim dispute about the Zohar literature broke out in 1913, inflamed Sana'a's Jewish community, and split into two rival groups, that maintained separate communal institutions until the late 1940s. Rabbi Qafiḥ and his friends were the leaders of a group of Maimonideans called Dor Daim (the "generation of knowledge"). Their goal was to bring Yemenite Jews back to the original Maimonidean method of understanding Judaism that existed in pre-17th century Yemen.
Similar to certain Spanish and Portuguese Jews (Western Sephardi Jews), the Dor Daim rejected the Zohar, a book of esoteric mysticism. They felt that the Kabbalah based on the Zohar was irrational, alien, and inconsistent with the true reasonable nature of Judaism. In 1913, when it seemed that Rabbi Qafiḥ, then headmaster of the new Jewish school and working closely with the Ottoman authorities, enjoyed sufficient political support, the Dor Daim made its views public and tried to convince the entire community to accept them. Many of the non-Dor Dai elements of the community rejected the Dor Dai concepts. The opposition, the Iqshim, headed by Rabbi Yaḥya Yiṣḥaq, the Hakham Bashi, refused to deviate from the accepted customs and the study of Zohar. One of the Iqshim's targets in the fight against Rabbi Qafiḥ was his modern Turkish-Jewish school. Due to the Dor Daim and Iqshim dispute, the school closed 5 years after it was opened, before the educational system could develop a reserve of young people who had been exposed to its ideas.
There are two main pronunciations of Yemenite Hebrew, considered by many scholars to be the most accurate modern day form of Biblical Hebrew, although there are technically a total of five that relate to the regions of Yemen. In the Yemenite dialect, all Hebrew letters have a distinct sound, except for the letters ס sāmekh and ש śîn. The Sanaani Hebrew pronunciation (used by the majority) has been indirectly critiqued by Saadia Gaon since it contains the Hebrew letters jimmel and guf, which he rules is incorrect. There are Yemenite scholars, such as Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, who say that such a perspective is a misunderstanding of Saadia Gaon's words.
Rabbi Mazuz postulates this hypothesis through the Jerban (Tunisia) Jewish dialect's use of gimmel and quf, switching to jimmel and guf when talking with Gentiles in the Arabic dialect of Jerba. Some feel that the Shar'abi pronunciation of Yemen is more accurate and similar to the Babylonian dialect since they both use a gimmel and quf instead of the jimmel and guf. While Jewish boys learned Hebrew since the age of 3, it was used primarily as a liturgical and scholarly language. In daily life, Yemenite Jews spoke in regional Judeo-Arabic.
The oldest Yemenite manuscripts are those of the Hebrew Bible, which the Yemenite Jews call "Taj" ("crown"). The oldest texts dating from the 9th century, and each of them has a short Masoretic introduction, while many contain Arabic commentaries.
Yemenite Jews were acquainted with the works of Saadia Gaon, Rashi, Kimhi, Nahmanides, Yehudah ha Levy and Isaac Arama, besides producing a number of exegetes from among themselves. In the 14th century Nathanael ben Isaiah wrote an Arabic commentary on the Bible; in the second half of the 15th century Saadia ben David al-Adani was the author of a commentary on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Abraham ben Solomon wrote on the Prophets.
Among the midrash collections from Yemen mention should be made of the Midrash ha-Gadol of David bar Amram al-'Adani. Between 1413 and 1430 the physician Yaḥya Zechariah b. Solomon wrote a compilation entitled "Midrash ha-Ḥefeẓ," which included the Pentateuch, Lamentations, Book of Esther, and other sections of the Hebrew Bible. Between 1484 and 1493 David al-Lawani composed his "Midrash al-Wajiz al-Mughni."
Among the Yemenite poets who wrote Hebrew and Arabic hymns modeled after the Spanish school, mention may be made of Yaḥya al-Dhahri and the members of the Al-Shabbezi family. A single non-religious work, inspired by Ḥariri, was written in 1573 by Zechariah ben Saadia (identical with the Yaḥya al-Dhahri mentioned above), under the title "Sefer ha-Musar." The philosophical writers include: Saadia b. Jabeẓ and Saadia b. Mas'ud, both at the beginning of the 14th century; Ibn al-Ḥawas, the author of a treatise in the form of a dialogue written in rimed prose, and termed by its author the "Flower of Yemen"; Ḥasan al-Dhamari; and Joseph ha-Levi b. Jefes, who wrote the philosophical treatises "Ner Yisrael" (1420) and "Kitab al-Masaḥah."
DNA testing between Yemenite Jews and various other of the world's Jewish communities shows a common link, with most communities sharing similar paternal genetic profiles. Furthermore, the Y-chromosome signatures of the Yemenite Jews are also similar to those of other Middle Eastern populations.
One point in which Yemenite Jews appear to differ from Ashkenazi Jews and most Near Eastern Jewish communities is in the proportion of sub-Saharan African maternally-transferred gene types (mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA) which have entered their gene pools. One study found that some Arabic-speaking populations—Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, Iraqis, and Bedouins—have what appears to be substantial mtDNA gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa, amounting to 10-15% of lineages within the past three millennia. In the case of Yemenites, the average is actually higher at 35%. Of particular historic interest might be the finding that with almost no exceptions the sub-Saharan gene flow was exclusively female, as stated in this excerpt from the study:
Yemenite Jews, as a traditionally Arabic-speaking community of local Yemenite and Israelite ancestries, are included within the findings for Yemenites, though they average a quarter of the frequency of the non-Jewish Yemenite sample. In other Arabic-speaking populations not mentioned, the African gene types are rarely shared. Other Middle Eastern populations, particularly non-Arabic speakers—Turks, Persians, Kurds, Armenians, Azeris, and Georgians—have few or no such lineages.
A study performed by the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University found a possible genetic similarity between 11 Ethiopian Jews and 4 Yemenite Jews who took part in the testing. The differentiation statistic and genetic distances for the 11 Ethiopian Jews and 4 Yemenite Jews tested were quite low, among the smallest of comparisons that involved either of these populations. Ethiopian Jewish Y-Chromosomal haplotype are often present in Yemenite and other Jewish populations, but analysis of Y-Chromosomal haplotype frequencies does not indicate a close relationship between Ethiopian Jewish groups. It is possible that the 4 Yemenite Jews from this study may be descendants of reverse migrants of African origin, who crossed Ethiopia to Yemen. The result from this study suggests that gene flow between Ethiopia and Yemen as a possible explanation. The study also suggests that the gene flow between Ethiopian and Yemenite Jewish populations may not have been direct, but instead could have been between Jewish and non-Jewish populations of both regions.
There were two major centers of population for Jews in southern Arabia besides the Jews of Northern Yemen, one in Aden and the other in Hadramaut. The Jews of Aden lived in and around the city, and flourished during the British protectorate. The Jews of Hadramaut lived a much more isolated life, and the community was not known to the outside world until the early 20th century. In the early 20th century they had numbered about 50,000; they currently number only a few hundred individuals and reside largely in Sa'dah and Rada'a.
Emigration from Yemen to Palestine began in 1881 and continued almost without interruption until 1914. It was during this time that about 10% of the Yemenite Jews left. Due to the changes in the Ottoman Empire citizens could move more freely and in 1869 travel was improved with the opening of the Suez Canal, which reduced the travel time from Yemen to Palestine. Certain Yemenite Jews interpreted these changes and the new developments in the "Holy Land" as heavenly signs that the time of redemption was near. By settling in Israel they would be a part in what they believed could precipitate the anticipated messianic era.
From 1881 to 1882 a few hundred Jews left Sanaa and several nearby settlements. This wave was followed by other Jews from central Yemen who continued to move into Palestine until 1914. The majority of these groups moved into Jerusalem and Jaffa. Before World War I there was another wave that began in 1906 and continued until 1914. Hundreds of Yemenite Jews made their way to Palestine and chose to settle in the agricultural settlements. It was after these movements that the World Zionist Organization sent Shmuel Yavne'eli to Yemen to encourage Jews to emigrate to Palestine. Yavne'eli reached Yemen at the beginning of 1911 and returned to Palestine in April 1912. Due to Yavne'eli's efforts about 1,000 Jews left central and southern Yemen with several hundred more arriving before 1914.
In 1922, the government of Yemen, under Imam Yahya reintroduced an ancient Islamic law entitled the "orphans decree". The law dictated that, if a Jewish boy or girl under the age of twelve was orphaned, they were to be forcibly converted to Islam, their connection to their family and community was to be severed and they had to be handed over to a Muslim foster family. The rule was based on the law that the prophet Mohammed is "the father of the orphans," and on the fact that the Jews in Yemen were considered "under protection" and the ruler was obligated to care for them.
A prominent example is Abdul Rahman al-Iryani, the President of the Yemen Arab Republic who was alleged to be of Jewish descent by Dorit Mizrahi, a writer in the Israeli ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpaha. She claimed to be his niece due to his being her mother's brother. According to her recollection of events, he was born Zekharia Hadad in 1910 to a Yemenite Jewish family in Ibb. He lost his parents in a major disease epidemic at the age of eight and together with his 5-year-old sister, was forcibly converted to Islam and put under the care of separate foster families. He was raised in the powerful al-Iryani family and adopted an Islamic name. al-Iryani would later serve as minister of religious endowments under northern Yemen's first national government and became the only civilian to have led northern Yemen.
However, yemenionline, an online newspaper claimed to have conducted several interviews with several members of the al-Iryani family and residents of Iryan, and allege that this claim of Jewish descent is merely a "fantasy" started in 1967 by Haolam Hazeh, an Israeli tabloid. It states that Zekharia Haddad is in fact, Abdul Raheem al-Haddad, Al-Iryani's foster brother and bodyguard who died in 1980.Abdul Raheem is survived by tens of sons and grandsons.
The most part of both communities emigrated to Israel after the declaration of the state. The State of Israel in beginning of 1948 initiated Operation Magic Carpet and airlifted most of Yemen's Jews to Israel.
In 1947, after the partition vote of the British Mandate of Palestine, Arab Muslim rioters, assisted by the local police force, engaged in a bloody pogrom in Aden that killed 82 Jews and destroyed hundreds of Jewish homes. Aden's Jewish community was economically paralyzed, as most of the Jewish stores and businesses were destroyed. Early in 1948, the unfounded rumour of the ritual murder of two girls led to looting.
This increasingly perilous situation led to the emigration of virtually the entire Yemenite Jewish community between June 1949 and September 1950 in Operation Magic Carpet. During this period, over 50,000 Jews emigrated to Israel.
A smaller, continuous migration was allowed to continue into 1962, when a civil war put an abrupt halt to any further Jewish exodus.
According to an official statement by Alaska Airlines:
There was a story that, between 1949–51, up to 1,033 children of Yemenite immigrant families may have disappeared from the immigrant camps. It was said that the parents were told their children were ill and required hospitalization. Upon later visiting the hospital, it is claimed that the parents were told that their children had died though no bodies were presented or graves which have later proven to be empty in many cases were shown to the parents. Those who believed the theory contended that the Israeli government as well as other organizations in Israel kidnapped the children and gave them for adoption to other, non-Yemenite, families.
In 2001 a seven-year public inquiry commission concluded that the accusations that Yemenite children were kidnapped are not true. The commission has unequivocally rejected claims of a plot to take children away from Yemenite immigrants. The report determined that documentation exists for 972 of the 1,033 missing children. Five additional missing babies were found to be alive. The commission was unable to discover what happened in another 56 cases. With regard to these unresolved 56 cases, the commission deemed it "possible" that the children were handed over for adoption following decisions made by individual local social workers, but not as part of an official policy.
Today the overwhelming majority of Yemeni Jews lives in Israel.
In Yemen itself, there exists today a small Jewish community in the town of Bayt Harash (2 km away from Raydah). They have a rabbi, a functioning synagogue and a mikvah. They also have a boys yeshiva and a girls seminary, funded by a Satmarer affiliated Hasidic organization of Monsey, New York, USA.
The Yemeni defense forces have gone to great lengths to try to convince the Jews to stay in their towns. These attempts, however, failed and the authorities were forced to provide financial aid for the Jews so they would be able to rent accommodation in safer areas.
In December, 2008, 30 year old Rabbi Moshe Ya'ish al-Nahari of Raydah was shot and killed by a disturbed mentally ill person who also had previously killed his own wife. After initially being ordered to pay only a fine, the culprit, a former Yemeni Air Force officer who proudly confessed to the crime, was eventually sentenced to death by an appeals court. The murder of al-Nahari, and continual threats against Jews, prompted approximately 20 other Jewish residents of Raydah to emigrate to Israel.
On November 1, 2009 the Wall Street Journal reported that in June 2009, an estimated 350 Jews were left in Yemen, and by October 2009, 60 had immigrated to the United States and 100 were considering to do so. BBC estimated the community at 370 and dwindling.
At the Eurovision Song Contest, 1998, 1979 and 1978 winners Dana International, Gali Atari and Izhar Cohen, 1983 runner-up Ofra Haza, and 2008 top 10 finalist Boaz Mauda, are Yemenite Jews. Harel Skaat, who competed at Oslo in 2010, is of a Yemenite Jewish father. Other Yemenite Jewish figures include Zohar Argov, Daklon, Gali Atari, Inbar Bakal, Mosh Ben-Ari, Yosefa Dahari, Gila Gamliel, Eyal Golan, Becky Griffin, Meir Yitzhak Halevi (the Mayor of Eilat), Saadia Kobashi, Sandy Bar, Yishai Levi, Sara Levi-Tanai, Bo'az Ma'uda, Avihu Medina, Achinoam Nini, Avraham Taviv, Shimi Tavori, Margalit Tzan'ani, Tomer Yosef of Balkan Beat Box and Shahar Zubari.