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Yahya ben Yosef: The Last of Yemen’s Jews and His Final Journey

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Yahya ben Yosef: The Last of Yemen’s Jews and His Final Journey

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Yahya ben Yosef, one of the last remaining Jews in Yemen, passed away last Thursday at the age of 100. According to a recently published report on the Vois Es Nais web site, his death marks the end of an era for the once-thriving Jewish community in Yemen.

Yahya ben Yosef lived his entire life in the village of Madar, located north of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. The village, like many others in Yemen, has seen its Jewish population dwindle over the decades due to emigration and persecution, as was indicated in the VIN report. Despite these challenges, ben Yosef remained in his homeland, a steadfast presence in a rapidly changing landscape.

With ben Yosef’s passing, the Jewish presence in Yemen, which dates back over two millennia, has nearly vanished. According to the information provided in the VIN report, the news of his death was shared in a Facebook group dedicated to Yemenite Jews, a digital gathering place for a dispersed community that once thrived in Yemen’s highlands and cities.

Though ben Yosef had family in Israel, there was no one left in Yemen to perform the burial. This gap was filled by his Muslim neighbors, who stepped in to ensure that he received a proper burial, the VIN report said. According to reports by Roi Kais, a journalist for KAN News, ben Yosef had initially resisted emigrating to Israel. However, he later changed his mind and sought to join his family there. Unfortunately, bureaucratic hurdles on the Israeli side stalled his immigration process, ultimately preventing his relocation.

The Jewish community in Yemen has a rich and storied history, with roots going back to antiquity. For centuries, Yemeni Jews contributed to the cultural and economic life of the region. However, the rise of anti-Semitic sentiments and violent outbreaks, particularly in the 20th century, led many Jews to emigrate, as was explained in the VIN report. The most significant exodus occurred during Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-1950, which airlifted approximately 49,000 Yemeni Jews to Israel.

Since then, the community has continued to shrink due to ongoing persecution and the deteriorating security situation in Yemen. Today, only a handful of Jews remain in the country, living in isolated conditions and facing constant threats, the report on VIN indicated.

Yahya ben Yosef’s life and death symbolize the resilience and tenacity of Yemen’s Jewish community. Despite the immense pressures and hardships, ben Yosef remained in his homeland until the very end. His story is a reminder of the deep historical roots and the complex interplay of faith, identity, and belonging that define the lives of Yemen’s Jews.

The passing of Yahya ben Yosef at the age of 100 closes a significant chapter in the history of Yemen’s Jewish community. His burial by Muslim neighbors in the absence of Jewish kin in Yemen reflects a moment of interfaith solidarity and respect. As the Jewish community in Yemen nears extinction, ben Yosef’s life stands as a testament to the enduring spirit and cultural legacy of Yemenite Jews. His story highlights the importance of preserving and remembering the diverse histories that shape our world.

 

 

 

 

 

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