The curious case of the Arabian Jews of Najran

It is widely known that Saudi Arabia permits neither Jews nor  Christians to become citizens, nor will it officially allow Jewish travellers to enter. But until 1934, the year when the kingdom was established, Jews lived at its southern tip, at Najran. However persecution forced hundreds of Najrani Jews to seek shelter in the neighbouring kingdom of Yemen and Aden. Together with the majority of Yemen’s Jews, the Najrani Jews were airlifted to Israel in 1949. (With thanks: Lily)

TheJewish Virtual Library has this entry:

According to Yemenite Jewish tradition, the Jews of Najrān trace their
origin to the Ten Tribes. They lived in the region of Najrān in Saudi
Arabia and were the only group of Yemenite Jews who lived outside Yemen
under the rule of another kingdom. On the strength of the laws of the
desert and tribal protection, they were not subjected to persecution as
were the Jews of Yemen.

They enjoyed the same equality of rights as the
Arabs of Saudi Arabia, were not taxed, and did not pay the *jizya
(the poll tax imposed on non-Muslims in the Muslim countries “in
exchange for the protection” granted them by the government). The
Bedouin of Saudi Arabia, who belonged to the Sunni Islam sect, practiced
religious tolerance toward them and ate meat slaughtered under their
laws of sheḥitah. The Jews of Najrān carried weapons in
self-defense, as did the other inhabitants, and were renowned for their
courage and strength.

There was no other place in the Arabian Peninsula
where Jews lived in such dignity and freedom as in Najrān. By profession
they were craftsmen: they worked essentially in goldsmithing and
repairing arms. They earned a good livelihood and their material
conditions surpassed those of Yemenite Jews. Their settlements were
scattered throughout Najrān in small units of two to forty families.
They lived in clay houses or in huts. Their clothes, of both men and
women, were slightly different from that of Saudi Arabians and Yemenite

The strict barrier between men and women, which was customary in
social life throughout Yemen, was nonexistent among them. At festivities
and celebrations men and women sat together and women danced to the
sound of the men’s singing.

After 1936, their relations with Yemenite
Jews were not very close, because the two groups were under the rule of
different kingdoms which occasionally were at war with each other. The
life of the Jews of Najrān, dispersed as they were in small settlements,
did not encourage the development of Torah studies among them or the
fostering of an independent spiritual culture. In matters of religion
and halakhah they were dependent on the community of nearby Saʿdah (one day away from them), and when necessary, on the bet din of *Sanʿa.

 The Jews of Saʿdah served as their spiritual guardians in times of
need: they provided them with religious books and guided them in their
religious practices. Therefore, their prayers, customs, and system of
study were very closely related. In Israel they are concentrated in
Kiryat Ekron, which is inhabited by the Jews of Saʿdah. When the Jews of
Najrān immigrated to Israel in 1949, they numbered about 250.

According to Wikipedia :

The Yemeni city of Najran was conquered by Saudi forces in 1934, absorbing its Jewish community, which dates to pre-Islamic times.[7]
With increased persecution, the Jews of Najran made plans to evacuate.
The local governor at the time, Amir Turki ben Mahdi, allowed the 600
Najrani Jews[8]
a single day on which to either evacuate or never leave again. Saudi
soldiers accompanied them to the Yemeni border. These Jews arrived in Saada,[9] and some 200 continued south to Aden between September and October 1949. The Saudi King Abdulaziz demanded their return, but the Yemeni king, Ahmad bin Yahya
refused, because these refugees were Yemenite Jews. After settling in
the Hashid Camp (also called Mahane Geula) they were airlifted to Israel
as part of the larger Operation Magic Carpet.[10]


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