Mohammad Zainal Abedin, NY
NY, May 22: The Yemeni Jew community, who is microscopic in number, owns a history of over two thousand years. On May 22, ASF (American Sephardic Federation) officials revealed it to a group of New York-based journalists who represent overseas media outlets when they visited the Center for Jewish History and the Diarna Geo Museum.
New York Foreign Press Center, an organ of US State Department, organized the tour.
ASF Director Jason Guberman and Researcher Ezra Eddie Ashkenazie briefed the journalists on the historical, cultural, social and financial aspects of the Yemeni Jews.
They said the history of the Yemeni Jews goes back to over two thousand years. At least 50 Jews still reside in Yemen who are not interested in migration to Israel.
Guberman and Ashkenazie informed that there were over sixty thousand Jews in Yemen in 1948. But in between 1948 to 1951 almost all the Jews out of religious feeling and affinity voluntarily migrated to Israel.
They explained the arts and crafts of the Yemeni Jews that were fixed to the wall of the centre. These works show how rich and expert the Jews of those days were in manufacturing their required clothes, ornaments, edible materials to burial equipment and constructing dwelling houses, above all, teaching the Jewish religious scriptures to their kids.
Talking to this correspondent in their office Guberman and Ashkenazie said, the rural Jews and their Muslim counterparts were very friendly and cordial to one another although the urban Jews couldn’t enjoy same cordiality from their Muslim neighbours.
Rural the Jews and the Muslims used to participate in their wedding and other social, even religious festivals forgetting religious differences. Common Muslims never hate the Jews. But some of the local Muslim rulers or lords sometimes were very harsh to the Jews and forced the Jews to convert to Islam. But after the death of such rulers, the Jews would have returned to their original faith in Judaism.
They said, there were no communal riots between the two communities, though covert competition prevailed among them, as the Jews were superior to the Muslim in respects of weaving and manufacturing arts and crafts and equipment required for daily life.
When asked whether any force was applied on the Jews to convert to Islam, they said, in the history of thousands of years only one king was unfriendly to the Jews, but after his death everything became normal.
They said, however, the Jews orphans who had none to look after them, were raised by their Muslim neighbours and they ultimately, in most case, grew up as Muslims. Still, some of them returned to Judaism as well.
Replying a question regarding the number of the Jews around the world, researcher Ashkenazie provided a document that stated names of the countries and the number of the Jews living therein.
According to the document presently there are 14,511,000 Jews around the world. Of them, the highest number (6,589,000) of Jews live in Israel. The second highest number (5,700,000) Jews live in the USA while the remaining Jews are scattered throughout the world, particularly in European countries.
In Muslim countries there are 17,200 Jews live in Turkey; 9,100 in Azerbaijan, 8,756 in Iran, 6,000 in Morocco; 3,800 in Uzbekistan; 3,100 in Kazakhstan; 900 in Tunisia; 500 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kyrgyzstan each; 200 in Pakistan, Lebanon and Turkmenistan each; 260 Macedonia; 100 in Nigeria and United Arab Emirates each; Albania and Yemen 40 to 50 each; Bahrain 36 and Egypt 18.
Besides, there are 385,000 Jews in Canada; 112,500 in Australia; 95,000 in Brazil; 40,000 in Mexico; 6,867 in New Zealand; 5,000 in India, 2,500 in Singapore and 500 in Cuba. The remaining Jews are located in other countries of seven continents.
Replying another question they said, 500 thousand books and one million documents are preserved in the ‘Center for Jewish History’.
Mentionable journalists who visited ‘Center for Jewish History’ and the ‘Diarna Geo Museum’ represent the media outlets of different countries, including Bangladesh, China, Finland, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal.
MS. Kieran Shana L, an official of New York Foreign Press Center, along with Guberman and Ashkenazie, led the journalists to different rooms where historic rare paints and pictures that amply exhibit the lifestyle of the Yemeni Jews of the past.
A documentary was also shown to the journalists that screened how the religious houses and sites of the Jews in various Arab countries were demolished by the ISIS terrorists.
Jews in Yemen for thousands of years: ASF
Mohammad Zainal Abedin, NY