Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen. The term may refer to the descendants of the Yemenite Jewish community. Between June 1949 and September 1950, the majority of Yemens 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 small communities are found in the United States, only a handful remain in Yemen. The few remaining Jews experience intense, and at times violent, Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that marks them out as separate from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and other Jewish groups. Some Jewish families have preserved traditions relating to their tribal affiliation, 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, there are numerous accounts and 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, another legend says that Yemeni tribes converted to Judaism after the Queen of Shebas 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 and it is said that under the prophet Jeremiah some 75,000 Jews, including priests and Levites, traveled to Yemen. Another legend states that when Ezra commanded the Jews to return to Jerusalem they disobeyed, according to this legend, as a punishment for this hasty action Ezra was denied burial in Israel. As a result of local tradition, which can not be validated historically, it is said that no Jew of Yemen gives the name of Ezra to a child. The Yemenite Jews claim that Ezra cursed them to be a people for not heeding his call. This seems to have come true in the eyes of some Yemenites, however, some Yemenite sages in Israel today emphatically reject this story as myth, if not outright blasphemy. Archaeological records referring to Judaism in Yemen started to appear during the rule of the Himyarite Kingdom, various inscription in Musnad script in the second century CE refer to constructions of synagogues approved by Himyarite Kings. According to local legends, the kingdoms aristocracy converted to Judaism in the 6th century CE, the Christian missionary, Theophilos, who came to Yemen in the mid-fourth century, complained that he had found great numbers of Jews. By 380 A. D, Himyarites religious practices have undergone fundamental changes, the inscriptions were no longer addressed to El Maqah or Athtar, but to a single deity called Rahman. Debate among scholars continues as to whether the Himyarite monotheism was influenced by Judaism or Christianity. Jews became especially numerous and powerful in the part of Arabia, a rich and fertile land of incense and spices and a way station on the routes to Africa, India
Image: Yemenite Jewess
Ring-stone of Yishak bar Hanina with a Torah shrine, 330 BCE - 200 CE. found in Dhofar
Jewish youth in Sana'a grinding coffee grains
1914 photograph of a Yemenite Jew in traditional vestments under the tallit gadol, reading from a scroll.