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The Mashraqi family, merchants of sniffing tobacco at home in San'a, Yemen 1930s
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The Mashraqi family, merchants of sniffing tobacco at home in San'a, Yemen 1930s

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The Mashraqi family in the guest room
of their home in San'a, Yemen 1930's.
In the center Mr. Haim Mashraqi, his wife
and three of his children.
Photo: Yehiel Haiby, Israel.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Ruma Haiby, Israel)

On the shelf some small bottles for decoration and a bronze bowl for herbs. The Mashraqi family engaged in production of sniffing tobacco and considered to be wealthy. Mr. Abraham Aziri was owner of a grocery shop.
ID Number:
201157
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Sana'a 

In Arabic: صنعاء‎ 

Capital city of Yemen.

The Jewish community of San'a is very ancient, according to tradition dating approximately from the beginning of the Babylonian exile. Jews first settled on Jebel Barash near Jebel Nuqum, which is 3,000 meters High, about 10 kilometers east of San'a, where there are remains of two synagogues. It is possible that at that time or a little later a Jewish quarter was also established in San'a, west of the Al-Qatsr gate on the site of the present-day Suq Al-Mnachchsin (bazaar of the coppersmiths). During the Geonic period the Jews of San'a maintained contacts with the Babylonian academies. After the exile of Mawza in 1678 the Jews were not permitted to return to their former residence, and the authorities allotted them the Qa-Al-Sim quarter (Qa Al-Yahud, the Jewish quarter, which existed until 1950). The Jews' connection with the town is also expressed in the Hebrew appellation beginning of the 19th century the new Jewish quarter, together with the Garden Quarters inhabited by Muslims, were connected with the ancient city and the palace quarter by a common wall. In 1932 the Qa Al-Yhud was separated from the Garden Quarters by an additional wall. Therefore, the actual houses of what was the modern Jewish quarter of San'a could not be older than 270 years; most of them, including the approximately 30 synagogues, were considerably more recent. The Jewish community in the capital was not a single consolidated unit; throughout the ages Jews often joined and left.

Oral traditions concerning the Jewish quarter inside the old city of San'a - and in particular a sketch on the history of the Jews of Yemen written by Yachya Tsalich (second half of 18th century) - reveal that inside the old city of San'a the Jews were moved from one place to another; in the course of the centuries they lived in three and perhaps even four different locations (attested by Jewish family names in San'a which are derived from places outside the capital).

The community of the capital played an important role in the spiritual and cultural life of the Jews of Yemen. Its status was similar to the status of the population of the Muslim capital, where the Jewish community was concentrated. The cultural level of the San'a Muslims was higher than that of the provincial population, as was that of the Jews. The urban life of court intrigues and avowed enemies, on the one hand, and commercial life, on the other, made them more shrewd and cunning than their brethren throughout Yemen. Their behavior toward the Jews outside the capital was marked by haughtiness and disdain.

In contrast to this loftiness they had to endure a great measure of suffering. The persecutions during the reign of the Imam (ruler of the Zaydi sect in Yemen) Achmad Al-Mahdi (1676-1684) were especially hard on them. A Hebrew manuscript describes the expulsion of the Jews from San'a. Achmad B. Hasan demolished many Jewish synagogues. In 1678 he expelled the Jews into the desert of Mawza. The Jews placed their manuscripts with an Arab who burned them after they left the town. Many of those expelled died on their way. At the end of the year the king allowed the exiles to return but they could not return to their old homes and had to build new ones outside San'a" (Ha-Tzofeh, 7 (1923), 12). Political matters, decrees, and taxes relating to all of Yemenite Jewry were also decided and determined in San'a.

Communal dignitaries (Ouggal, "the wise men") worked together with the chief rabbi, who during ottoman rule in the 19th century was called Chakham Bashi. The authorities regarded the Ouggal as representatives of the community. They supervised the activities of the community and formulated legislation. In times of trouble they served as scapegoats for the community, and were imprisoned and fined. There were no public welfare institutions in the community, and the people did not pay internal communal taxes. No charity funds existed, apart from the slaughterhouse fund, and mutual aid was conducted on an individual basis. The religious and social life of the town's Jews was homogeneous, consolidated, and united (prayer and study were conducted in all synagogues at the same time, as were meals and fasts in the home). There were numerous synagogues in the town in the 20th century. The scholars were scattered among the various synagogues and taught the worshipers at regular times, on weekdays and Sabbaths (the members of the Bet Din were chosen from this group).

As there was no census by religion in Yemen, there are no reliable statistics on the number of Jews in San'a, but it is estimated that about 6,000 Jews lived there in 1948.

With the exception of a few wealthy men, most were poor artisans and peddlers. In San'a, as in the rest of Yemen, there were no Jewish schools, but boys studied at Mori while girls received no schooling. The Bet Din recognized by the whole Yemenite Jewish community was situated in San'a. Local rabbis applied to this court when they had a matter which they found insoluble or when their was an appeal against their decisions. The establishment of the State of Israel, and the arrival in Yemen of a number of Palestinian Arab refugees, incited the population of San'a against the Jews. In December 1948 Jews were accused of murdering two Muslim girls (blood libels in the Yemen had been unknown in the past) and 60 prominent Jews were held under arrest until a ransom was paid. However, the Imam Achmad Ben Yachya acted favorably toward the Jews and permitted them to leave the capital as well as the other parts of Yemen. At the end of 1950 only a few hundred Jews were left in the town, most of whom eventually also went to Israel. In 1968 it was estimated that the number of Jews in San'a did not exceed 150.

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The Mashraqi family, merchants of sniffing tobacco at home in San'a, Yemen 1930s
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Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
The Mashraqi family, merchants of sniffing tobacco at home in San'a, Yemen 1930s
The Mashraqi family in the guest room
of their home in San'a, Yemen 1930's.
In the center Mr. Haim Mashraqi, his wife
and three of his children.
Photo: Yehiel Haiby, Israel.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Ruma Haiby, Israel)

On the shelf some small bottles for decoration and a bronze bowl for herbs. The Mashraqi family engaged in production of sniffing tobacco and considered to be wealthy. Mr. Abraham Aziri was owner of a grocery shop.
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Sana'a

Sana'a 

In Arabic: صنعاء‎ 

Capital city of Yemen.

The Jewish community of San'a is very ancient, according to tradition dating approximately from the beginning of the Babylonian exile. Jews first settled on Jebel Barash near Jebel Nuqum, which is 3,000 meters High, about 10 kilometers east of San'a, where there are remains of two synagogues. It is possible that at that time or a little later a Jewish quarter was also established in San'a, west of the Al-Qatsr gate on the site of the present-day Suq Al-Mnachchsin (bazaar of the coppersmiths). During the Geonic period the Jews of San'a maintained contacts with the Babylonian academies. After the exile of Mawza in 1678 the Jews were not permitted to return to their former residence, and the authorities allotted them the Qa-Al-Sim quarter (Qa Al-Yahud, the Jewish quarter, which existed until 1950). The Jews' connection with the town is also expressed in the Hebrew appellation beginning of the 19th century the new Jewish quarter, together with the Garden Quarters inhabited by Muslims, were connected with the ancient city and the palace quarter by a common wall. In 1932 the Qa Al-Yhud was separated from the Garden Quarters by an additional wall. Therefore, the actual houses of what was the modern Jewish quarter of San'a could not be older than 270 years; most of them, including the approximately 30 synagogues, were considerably more recent. The Jewish community in the capital was not a single consolidated unit; throughout the ages Jews often joined and left.

Oral traditions concerning the Jewish quarter inside the old city of San'a - and in particular a sketch on the history of the Jews of Yemen written by Yachya Tsalich (second half of 18th century) - reveal that inside the old city of San'a the Jews were moved from one place to another; in the course of the centuries they lived in three and perhaps even four different locations (attested by Jewish family names in San'a which are derived from places outside the capital).

The community of the capital played an important role in the spiritual and cultural life of the Jews of Yemen. Its status was similar to the status of the population of the Muslim capital, where the Jewish community was concentrated. The cultural level of the San'a Muslims was higher than that of the provincial population, as was that of the Jews. The urban life of court intrigues and avowed enemies, on the one hand, and commercial life, on the other, made them more shrewd and cunning than their brethren throughout Yemen. Their behavior toward the Jews outside the capital was marked by haughtiness and disdain.

In contrast to this loftiness they had to endure a great measure of suffering. The persecutions during the reign of the Imam (ruler of the Zaydi sect in Yemen) Achmad Al-Mahdi (1676-1684) were especially hard on them. A Hebrew manuscript describes the expulsion of the Jews from San'a. Achmad B. Hasan demolished many Jewish synagogues. In 1678 he expelled the Jews into the desert of Mawza. The Jews placed their manuscripts with an Arab who burned them after they left the town. Many of those expelled died on their way. At the end of the year the king allowed the exiles to return but they could not return to their old homes and had to build new ones outside San'a" (Ha-Tzofeh, 7 (1923), 12). Political matters, decrees, and taxes relating to all of Yemenite Jewry were also decided and determined in San'a.

Communal dignitaries (Ouggal, "the wise men") worked together with the chief rabbi, who during ottoman rule in the 19th century was called Chakham Bashi. The authorities regarded the Ouggal as representatives of the community. They supervised the activities of the community and formulated legislation. In times of trouble they served as scapegoats for the community, and were imprisoned and fined. There were no public welfare institutions in the community, and the people did not pay internal communal taxes. No charity funds existed, apart from the slaughterhouse fund, and mutual aid was conducted on an individual basis. The religious and social life of the town's Jews was homogeneous, consolidated, and united (prayer and study were conducted in all synagogues at the same time, as were meals and fasts in the home). There were numerous synagogues in the town in the 20th century. The scholars were scattered among the various synagogues and taught the worshipers at regular times, on weekdays and Sabbaths (the members of the Bet Din were chosen from this group).

As there was no census by religion in Yemen, there are no reliable statistics on the number of Jews in San'a, but it is estimated that about 6,000 Jews lived there in 1948.

With the exception of a few wealthy men, most were poor artisans and peddlers. In San'a, as in the rest of Yemen, there were no Jewish schools, but boys studied at Mori while girls received no schooling. The Bet Din recognized by the whole Yemenite Jewish community was situated in San'a. Local rabbis applied to this court when they had a matter which they found insoluble or when their was an appeal against their decisions. The establishment of the State of Israel, and the arrival in Yemen of a number of Palestinian Arab refugees, incited the population of San'a against the Jews. In December 1948 Jews were accused of murdering two Muslim girls (blood libels in the Yemen had been unknown in the past) and 60 prominent Jews were held under arrest until a ransom was paid. However, the Imam Achmad Ben Yachya acted favorably toward the Jews and permitted them to leave the capital as well as the other parts of Yemen. At the end of 1950 only a few hundred Jews were left in the town, most of whom eventually also went to Israel. In 1968 it was estimated that the number of Jews in San'a did not exceed 150.