Coming of the Yemenites
The Story of the 1882 Aliyah (Immigration)
Yearning for the redemption always beat through the hearts of the Jews of Yemen
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the conquering of Yemen by the Turks in 1872, the connection between the Jews of Yemen and the Land of Israel became stronger. In 1881 rumors broke out in Yemen that “Rothschild, the King of the Jews” bought land in the Land of Israel and permission was given by the Turkish Sultan for Jews to come and settle their land.
“And all the Jews of Yemen rejoiced greatly and thought for sure that the foreseen redemption had arrived, and that in this year or the next year they would be redeemed, and this is the beginning of the redemption. And all the people of Yemen awoke with great enthusiasm until every man, every family, orphans and widows, begged to sell their houses, belongings, clothing and holy books, rise up from Yemen and go to dwell in Jerusalem. And it was as if a new spirit entered the heart of each and every one of the Jews, the likes of which had never been since the day on which they went on exile” (Fron the memoirs of Rabbi Shalom AlSheich, A. Ya’ari, Massaot Eretz Yisrael, Ramat Gan, 1976, pp. 644-645)
The first two families left San’a in the middle of Sivan 1881, and five other families following after the ninth of Av that same year. They arrived in the Land of Israel on the eve of the Jewish New Year of 5642. The immigrants wrote to their brethren in Yemen how good the land was, and in Heshvan of 5642 (October 1881) nearly 150 souls immigrated. Since then, the Aliyah movement never halted, until in 1908 the population of the Yemenite community in Jerusalem grew to 2,500 people and in Jaffa to 200 people. Based on the verse: “I said, I will go up onto the palm tree” (Song of Songs, (the palm tree) is written אמרתיאעלהבתמר- בתמר 7:9) - 1882. The תרמב with the same letters as the year Yemenites saw it as a sign that the year 1882 was the time to make their Aliyah, and even called the immigration wave “E’eleh B’tamar”.
Their way was difficult and fraught with hardships and danger. They walked for many days through the desert, up mountains and down valleys. Women and small children made the way riding on the backs of camels, but the men walked all the way, until they reached the port city of Hoodeyda. They were required to stay in quarantine for a long period, until it was clear that they were not carrying diseases, especially Cholera. From Hoodeyda they had a rough sail to Suez on sailing ships, from where they made their way to Alexandria, by foot or by carts, until in Alexandria port they boarded a ship to take them to Jaffa.
And in spite of the loss of all their financial resources along the way, the hardship, trouble and misery they suffered, ill and hunger-stricken as they were, the Jews of Yemen arrived in the land of Israel starved and impoverished, but rejoiced and gave thanks to G-d that they merited to arrive at the land of their forefathers and place their feet on the Holy land.