Yemenite Jews: A Strong & Enduring Presence in the Gulf; Featuring Matan Zimman & Tuvia Sulami | Season II: Episode 7

It was an absolute honor having on Matan and his family friend, Tuvia, a Yemenite Jew whose family arrived back in Israel in 1925. 

One of the greatest misconceptions in circulation is that Yemenite Jews are all converts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just like Ashkenaz Jews are not Khazars. Many Jews left Israel after the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE. 

Some Jews headed west into North Africa, others ventured into what is now Saudi Arabia, while another group migrated into what is now called Yemen, or, for a long time, the southern portion of Saudi Arabia. 

Regarding the Khazars, only the King converted, while the rest of his Kingdom converted to Islam. The philosemitic Himyarites in Yemen, did ‘convert’ to Judaism, but those same people later on embraced Islam. Genetic Jews, those who came from Israel, did not accept Islam and remained strong and proud Jews. 

Tuvia masterfully explains, in detail, the differences between the Jews who ended up in Saudi Arabia vs. those who ended up in Yemen. The toll, both direct and indirect that dhimmitude played on how Jews were treated in Yemen. But, all was not hopeless. 

There was a symbiotic relationship between Jews and Muslims, despite and, because of dhimmitude, and it was interesting to find out why the ruling Imam of Yemen let Jews go back to Israel in 1950, without much hesitation. 

Yemenite Jews played an outsize role in shaping post-liberation Israel, even prior to liberation. Foods, music, behavior, and overall culture was heavily influenced by Yemenite Jews, helping the Jewish homeland be seen as a rightful Middle Eastern country, which it has always been.