He Shall Spread His Wings to Yemen
The Story of the Yemenite Diaspora
Jews have dwelled in Yemen for many generations. There are those who claim that the Jews are the descendants of the envoys sent by King Solomon to rule over Yemen. Others say that the first Jews arrived wandering towards Yemen following the destruction of the first Temple. An ancient tradition they hold, tells of their sin of refusing the call of Ezra the Scribe to join the return to Zion from Babylon, where the exiled Jews started to return to the land of their forefathers. Therefore, every generation, the Jews of Yemen, seeking forgiveness for their sin, were amongst the first to comply every time there was an awakening of redemption. For more than 1,000 years the Jews existed miraculously, detached from other communities of their people, but adherent, with endless dedication and fierce loyalty, to their religion. Only in the last thousand years (in the 10th century) did they manage to establish a connection with the great Torah learning centers in Babylon, at the end of the period of the Geonim. Afterwards they had connections with the Rambam, who encouraged them and strengthened their spirits, and eventually became their spiritual leader. Yemen was always a bitter Diaspora for the Jews. Misfortune followed them and horrible decrees were declared upon them, among which was the decree that that orphan children had to be turned over to the authorities, converted into Moslems and taken into the service of the king.
Among the Jews of Yemen were many Torah scholars in all fields of Torah, the Oral Law and Halacha. Three hundred essays and books were written by the sages of Yemen. Their original works, mostly in handwriting, still exist today. There were great poets and liturgy composers (Paytanim), master craftsmen and outstanding artisans. They created special music, art and a way of life that they continued and guarded wherever they went.
They persistently tried at every opportunity to make connections with the Land of Israel and find out if the time has come to immigrate, but the hardships and troubles of their life in Yemen did not enable them to fulfill their wish.