Rabbi Shabazi’s remains may be brought to Israel

After both the children and grandchild of Benjamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, the father of Zionism, were brought back to Israel for burial, Ynet News reports that great efforts are currently being made to bring the bones of Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, one of the great poets and rabbis of Yemenite Jewry, back to Israel for burial. (With thanks: a reader)

Rabbi Shalom Shabazi is one of the most admired, respected and revered rabbis among Yemenite Jews. He lived in Yemen during the 17th century, which was an extremely difficult time for Yemenite Jewry. During this time, many Jews living in Yemen were forced to remove their traditional hats, and some were even exiled to the desert. >Not only was a renowned rabbi, Shabazi also a highly accomplished poet. He wrote countless deeply symbolic and meaningful poems during his lifetime that were of great comfort to his fellow Yemenite Jews.

One of Shabazi’s most famous poems was called “Im Nin’Alu” (“Should They Be Closed”), which was been put to music and sung by Israeli singer Ofra Haza, Nissim Garame and others. Its first line states simply, “Even if the gates of the rich will be closed, the gates of heaven will never be closed.”(…)

Roughly a month ago, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabbai, Chairman of the Ohalei Tzadikim Foundation, which works to preserve Jewish cemeteries all around the world, traveled to Ta’izz and put a new headstone on Shabazi’s grave.

Gabbai, unaware of the efforts to bring Shabazi to Israel, endured an incredibly difficult—not to mentions dangerous—journey to the Yemenite city of Ta’izz. Seeing as Israelis are not allowed into Yemen, Gabbai used a foreign passport to enter the country, arousing the suspicion of Yemenite authorities.

Ultimately arriving at Shabazi’s gravesite, Gabbai bought cement, rebuilt the grave’s headstone, and placed on it a large placard reading: “Here lies the man of God, the light of Yemenite Jewry, Aba Shalom Shabazi.”

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