The Yemenite Jewish community has ancient roots. There is evidence that Jews were in Yemen as early as the First Temple period, and archaeological finds from recent years reinforce this hypothesis.
Life in the shadow of Islam was not easy at all. Many decrees were imposed on the Jews throughout the exile, yet despite the many difficulties the Yemenite Jews maintained their faith and religion.
Many great scholars who produced important works grew from the Yemenite community, such as Rabbi David Ha’adani author of the Great Midrash, and Rabbi Yihyeh Saleh (Maharitz), a leader and arbitrator, who wrote a full commentary on the prayer book (Eitz HaHayim / “Tree of Life”).
Most of all, the souls of Yemeni Jews were drawn to poetry. Great poets arose among them, led by Rabbi Zechariah Al-Chahari in the 16th century, and poets from the Mashta dynasty – Rabbi Yosef ben Yisrael and the best known poet Rabbi Shalom Shabazi.
Throughout all periods, individuals and small groups immigrated from Yemen to the Land of Israel. The first significant aliyah was in 1881, known as “Aaleh Batamar,” which founded settlements in the country. After the establishment of the State of Israel, between the years 1949-1950, most Yemeni Jews arrived in Israel with the airborne aliyah “On the Wings of Eagles.”
From the beginning of their immigration in the late 19th century, Yemeni Jews contributed to the settlement of the country, built new neighborhoods in cities, and established villages and moshavim. In Jerusalem, with the help of benefactors, they established the Shiloah village (Silwan), which is being renewed today and called “The Yemenite Village”, Mishkenot Teimanim, Nahalat Zvi, Sha’arei Pina, Nahalat Ahim, Mahnayim and Beit Salem (Shalom) and were involved in the establishment of additional neighborhoods such as Nahalat Zion.
Immigrants from Yemen are full yet modest partners in Israel’s security, education, culture, and culinary. The community’s cultural heritage continued to flourish in Israel through art, music and dance, and their contribution – while preserving their tradition – gave them a favorite and unique place in the Israeli mosaic.