Nobody knows how the Jews ended up in The Yemen. From the Bible we know that Mozes journey through the desert caused many conflicts between the people he led and one theory is that a rebelling group left Mozes and settled in the Kingdom of Saba, now a province of Yemen. Another -widely accepted – story can be read in both the Bible and the Koran. Bilqis, the Queen of Sjeba (Hebrew for Saba) , travelled to Jerusalem to King Solomon. Her caravan, following part of the famous “incense route” , was loaded with spices, myrrh and incense. King Solomon, a wellknown womanizer, impressed her so much that she got pregnant and travelled back with her newborn son Menelik and Jewish teachers and soldiers, who settled in Saba. Menelik later crossed the Red Sea, a distance of only 50 kilometers from The Yemen, and became the patriarch of the falasha’s. Former Emperor Haile Selassie was very proud of his descendence from King Solomon.Whatever is true, a fact is that Jewish groups have lived in The Yemen area from centuries before Christ. They are the only Jewish community that has permanently spoken Hebrew and later Aramese. Interesting fact is that this situation is practically unchanged until today, also because the Central Government is unable to execute its authority.
In 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, the Jews of The Yemen were urged to emigrate to Israel. When the Yemenite Jews received the message that the State of Israel was established with a leader named David (Ben Gurion) they first could not believe what they heard. When the message was confirmed, people from all kind of deserted places in the countryside started their exodus through the desert to Aden. They carried their holy attributes like Torah rolls and religious instruments and many died on the way from hunger or thirst. During this “Operation flying carpet” they were transported by British and American armyplanes.None of them had ever seen a plane and they realized that these were “The wings of the Eagles carrying them to God’s land” (Exodus 19:4).
Sick and isolated living people did not manage to make the trip. From 40.000 Jews about 2000 stayed behind. Though the radical Muslim Government forbids it, more Jews managed to leave The Yemen over the last years. There are serious rumours that Israelian helicopters have landed at night in isolated areas to pick them up. At the time my photo’s were taken only a few hundred were left. The Government does not allow journalists to go and see them and for that reason there are very few photo’s of Yemenite Jews.