Yemenites in Israel
Israel is more of a “chopped salad” than a “melting pot” when it comes to culture. That is to say, people from all over the world made Aliyah, but they didn’t all blend together Many maintained their unique traditions and ways of life in Israel. Scroll down to read about what makes Yemenite culture so special!
Before the State of Israel was formed, some Yemenite Jews made their way to Israel. The largest wave of them came on “Operation Magic Carpet” between 1949-1950, where 49,000 Jews from Yemen were brought to Israel. They came with high hopes for their new life – they were escaping disease, famine, and religious persecution for the Promised Land. There are upwards of 400,000 Yemenites in Israel now. But, it's estimated that there are less than 100 Jews left in Yemen.
Yemenites are known for their well-preserved Judaism. It’s rumored that some of their traditions are most similar to those of ancient times since they were not as affected by outside influence. Their Hebrew, for example, is believed to have maintained some authenticity. Phonetics and grammar are more similar to ancient Hebrew. Their method of prayer is said to be more authentic as well – if you ever have the chance to attend a service at a Yemenite temple, be sure to listen for the difference!
We couldn't leave out the Yemenite food...doughy and delicious, foods such as jahnun and malawah are favorites in Israel. They are doughy, buttery pastry, filled with butter or margarine, and served with spicy accompaniments.
Lachoh is Yemenite pita. It’s almost spongy but very tasty. You can dip it in soup, make it into a wrap, and enjoy! Ghala is a Shabbat tradition that is similar to a “pot luck.” It’s an event in which the community each brings their food, and everyone shares together!
One dark part of the history of Yemenites in Israel is what's known as the "Yemenite Children Affair." In the 1950s, women in mainly Yemenite immigrants transit camps were told their baby had died after childbirth. The babies would then be given for adoption to wealthy, childless families of Ashkenazi descent. During this period, nearly 1000 babies were reported missing from the camp. Now, through DNA testing, families are being reunited after dozens of years.