The Whole Yemenite Megillah

With today’s horrific news, yesterday’s news seems so far away, but you recall that the last group of Yemenite Jews who wanted to leave that war-ravaged country arrived in Israel a few days ago and brought with them their 800-year-old Torah scroll.

800-year-old Yemenite Torah scroll (Photo:Arielle De Porto)
800-year-old Yemenite Torah scroll (Photo:Arielle De Porto)

But that’s not the only ancient Yemenite scroll in Jerusalem. Back in 2012 I was walking through Jerusalem Bukharan Quarter with a group of people and on one of the side streets we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall falafel store called “Hafalafel HaTemani”–the Yemenite falafel.

Yemenite Falafel
Yemenite Falafel Store shutter

The owner started shmoozing as he prepared our falafel, and after finding out we were mostly American-born immigrants together with a few tourists he told us there was someone we had to meet.

From the back of the store, a striking young man named Yousef emerged.

Yousef (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)

Perching himself on a stool next to the bubbling falafel pot, he began to tell us the story of how he travels back and forth between his birthplace, Sa’ana in Yemen, and Jerusalem.

Yousef produced his Yemenite passport complete with an Israeli entry visa valid for 6 years. And then, the real reason the owner wanted us to meet him–Yousef was trying to find a buyer for his ancient Yemenite Megillat Esther scroll.

Inside of Yousef's Yemeni passport (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)
Inside of Yousef’s Yemeni passport (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)



And there, on the counter, among the pots and pans and the smell of fresh falafel, the scroll was produced and unrolled for our scrutiny. Any takers for $15,000? None of us had come out with quite that much cash, so the scroll was carefully rolled up and returned to its cover.

Megillah on the falafel counter (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)
Megillah on the falafel counter (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)


Ancient Yemenite Megillat Esther (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)
Ancient Yemenite Megillat Esther (Photo: © Judy Lash Balint)


Don’t go looking for the falafel store in the Bukharan Quarter–it’s once colorful shutters are faded and padlocked.

Yousef and his megillah? His visa is good until July 12 2016, so I’d like to think he’ll be reading that old Yemenite megillah for the new immigrants on Purim at the absorption center in Beersheva.

About the Author
Author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times and Jerusalem Diaries II: What's Really Happening in Israel plus reams of blogs since 2001. Former host of the Jerusalem Diaries Show on I try to shed a little light on the quixotic, inspiring, frustrating and amusing aspects of life in the holy city.