Yehuda Lave
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Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage in Netanya, a brief history of Jews in Yemen

During our stay vacation in Israel, we took the opportunity to visit little known museums and historical sites. On our trip to Netanya, we discovered, and I mean discovered as there were no signs or indications where the Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage was.

We were at Independence Square, the main section of town by the beach. The website gave us an address, but there was no sign to indicate where the museum was. It turned out to be on the fourth floor of an apartment building. A converted 4 bedroom apartment with a view of the beach houses the museum. The Secretary who took our money (only 20 schecks each), told us that there was a dispute with the municipality so they had to keep a low profile. I’ll say, it was so low, most will never find it. We were only fortunate because we found a relative downstairs who gave us the Magic password on how to get in.

The Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage displays historic photos of Yemenite Jewish immigration and settlement in the Holy Land, an impressive display of antique jewelry brought over by the immigrants, and rich displays of the Yemenite way of life. A special section of the museum is also dedicated to Yemenite manuscripts that have been preserved for hundreds of years. For a truly unique museum experience, take the afternoon to visit this gem of Netanya.

Address: 11 Kikar HaAtzmaut Sq, Netanya


Opening hours: Sun-Thu 08:30-14:00

Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews or Teimanim (from Hebrew: יהודי תימן‎ Yehudei Teman;  are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen. The term may also refer to the descendants of the Yemenite Jewish community. Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen’s Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, while smaller communities live in the United States and elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Yemen. The few remaining Jews experience intense, and at times violent, anti-Semitism on a daily basis.

Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that distinguishes them from Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and other Jewish groups. They have been described as “the most Jewish of all Jews”.

Yemenite Jews are generally described as belonging to “Mizrahi Jews”, though they differ from the general trend of Mizrahi groups in Israel, which have undergone a process of total or partial assimilation to Sephardic culture and Sephardic liturgy. While the Shami sub-group of Yemenite Jews did adopt a Sephardic-influenced rite, this was in no small part due to it essentially being forced upon them, and did not reflect a demographic or cultural shift.

Family pedigrees

Some Jewish families have preserved traditions relating to their tribal affiliation, based on partial genealogical records passed down generation after generation. In Yemen, for example, some Jews trace their lineage to Judah, others to Benjamin, while yet others to Levi and Reuben. Of particular interest is one distinguished Jewish family of Yemen who traced their lineage to Bani, one of the sons of Peretz, the son of Judah.

Early history

There are numerous traditions concerning the arrival of Jews in various regions in Southern Arabia. One tradition suggests that King Solomon sent Jewish merchant marines to Yemen to prospect for gold and silver with which to adorn his Temple in Jerusalem. In 1881, the French vice-consulate in Yemen wrote to the leaders of the Alliance (the Alliance Israelite Universelle) in France, that he read in a book by the Arab historian Abu-Alfada that the Jews of Yemen settled in the area in 1451 BCE.

Another tradition says that Yemeni tribes converted to Judaism after the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon. The Sanaite Jews have a tradition 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. Another tradition states that when Ezra commanded the Jews to return to Jerusalem they disobeyed, whereupon he pronounced a ban upon them. According to this tradition, as a punishment for this hasty action, Ezra was denied burial in Israel. As a result of this local tradition, 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.

Because of Yemenite Jewry’s cultural affiliation with Babylon, historian Yehuda Ratzaby opines that the Jews of Yemen migrated to Yemen from places in Babylonia. Archaeological records referring to Judaism in Yemen started to appear during the rule of the Himyarite Kingdom, established in Yemen in 110 BCE. Various inscriptions in Musnad script in the second century CE refers to constructions of synagogues approved by Himyarite Kings. According to local legends, the kingdom’s aristocracy converted to Judaism in the 6th century CE.

By 380 CE, Himyarites’ religious practices had undergone fundamental changes. The inscriptions were no longer addressed to El Maqah or ‘Athtar, but to a single deity called Rahman. The debate among scholars continues as to whether the Himyarite monotheism was influenced by Judaism or Christianity.  Jews became especially numerous and powerful in the southern part of Arabia, a rich and fertile land of incense and spices and a way station on the routes to Africa, India, and East Asia. The Yemeni tribes did not oppose the Jewish presence in their country. By 516, tribal unrest broke out, and several tribal elites fought for power.

Byzantine emperor Justin I sent a fleet to Yemen and Joseph Dhu Nuwas was killed in battle in 525 CE.[31] The persecutions ceased, and the western coasts of Yemen became a tributary state until Himyarite nobility (also Jews) managed to regain power.

There are also several historical works that suggest that a Jewish kingdom existed in Yemen during pre-Islamic late antiquity. In Yemen, several inscriptions dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries CE have been found in Hebrew and Sabaean praising the ruling house in Jewish terms for “helping and empowering the People of Israel”.

Boy, is Moishie Thirsty

Little Moishie is sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later: “Ab-ba…”


“I’m thirsty. Can you bring a drink of water?”

“No, you had your chance, Moishie Lights out.”

Five minutes later: “Ab-aaaaa…”


“I’m THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water?”

“I told you NO! If you ask again, I’ll have to give you a potch – a spanking!”

Five minutes later: “Aaaa-baaaa…”


“When you come in to give me a potch, can you bring a drink of water?”

About the Author
Yehuda Lave writes a daily (except on Shabbat and Hags) motivational Torah blog at Loving-kindness my specialty. Internationally Known Speaker and Lecturer and Author. Self Help through Bible and Psychology. Classes in controlling anger and finding Joy. Now living and working in Israel. Remember, it only takes a moment to change your life. Learn to have all the joy in your life that you deserve!!! There are great masters here to interpret Spirituality. Studied Kabbalah and being a good human being with Rabbi Plizken and Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, my Rabbi. Torah is the name of the game in Israel, with 3,500 years of mystics and scholars interpreting G-D's word. Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
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