Tuesday, September 11, 2007

1,000s of Yemenite Jews have converted to Islam

Sympathetic portrayal of the Jews of Yemen by Mohamed Bin Sallam in The Yemen Times. Bin Sallam is brave enough to point out that Jews are deprived of formal state education, although the state has built a school recently for refugees from the war in Sa'ada. He claims that 350,000 Jews have converted to Islam since 1948, an alarming thought - although this number, along with other figures he quotes throughout the article, appears exaggerated.

"Yemeni Jews are natives of Yemen as they had been here for centuries before Christ and Islam. They had maintained their religion throughout the years and lived in communities within Yemeni society until they migrated to the “Promised Land” in Jerusalem.

"Yet Yemen also contains some religious sites visited by Jews from all placed. Salem Yousef Al-Shebzi (Shabazi), was a Jewish religious cleric, who lived in Taiz in the 16th Century after he moved from a nearby village. He was a well-respected Yemeni Jew, and Jews from Yemen and all around the world come to visit his grave, known as the “Shebzi Grave”. Although the exact location of the grave is not known, Jews flock to a site near Al-Qaherah Fort in Taiz city, and camp there for several hours. They take blessin
Yemeni dance from the South performed by Yemeni Jews in Israel. The group of 200 artistes tours the world presenting Jewish arts.
gs from a small water stream in that area.

"Between 1949 and 1950 the majority of Yemeni Jews migrated. The migration operation was termed ‘The Magic Carpet’, when more than 48,000 Yemeni Jews migrated to Israel. Thousands of the Yemeni Jews remained in Yemen, some held to their religion, while others converted to Islam whether by force or by choice. Some 350,000 Yemeni Jews have been converted to Islam since 1948.

"Today, the Jewish remnant in Yemen doesn’t exceed one thousand living in small communities in Sana’a, Amran, and Sa’ada. They freely exercise their religious rituals and have several religious occasions, which they mark every year such as Eid Al-Gufran or Eid Naisan, Khudhaira, Mudhalat or the Return.

"However, they are not integrated completely in all aspects of the public life such as the education system. True, they share the difficult living conditions with all Yemenis, yet their children are generally deprived of formal education in public schools. Yemeni Jewish children go to religious teaching sessions established by the elders of their community members. Recently a small school containing 25 students was constructed by the state for the Jews displaced from their homes because of war in Sa’ada, north of Yemen.

Read article in full

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