Arab Jews
اليهود العرب
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Israel Israel unknown
Morocco Morocco 2,500 [1]
Yemen Yemen 500 [2]
United States United States unknown
(30,000 Yemenite Jews)
(75,000 Syrian Jews)

Arabic, Judeo-Arabic South Arabian, Hebrew


Judaism Judasim

Related ethnic groups

Arabs, Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Yemenite Jews

Arab Jews (Arabic: اليهود العرب al-Yahud al-Arab) (Hebrew: יהודים ערבים Yehudim Aravim) or Jewish Arabs are Jews who formerly lived or currently live in the Arab World, as well as ethnic Arabs who proclaim Judaism as their faith as well as people of mixed Arab and Jewish ethnic descent. The Jews from the Arab World included not only modern Arab nations, but historical Arab territory as well which includes Islamic Spain, then known as Al-Andalus (Arabic: الأندلس).

The term Arab Jew was not common, and was used by Arab nationalists to describe the millions of Arabic-speaking Jews who lived in the Arab World prior to Israel's creation as a state. Arab nationalists claim that just like Arab Muslims and Arab Christians, "Arab Jews" were those who spoke Arabic and embraced Arab culture while becoming adherents to Judaism. Zionists on the other hand, argue that no such thing exists unless an Arab were to convert to Judaism.

However, there is historical evidence for the existance of Judaism in the Arabian Peninsula, especially in the southern parts in what is now Yemen. Ancient Yemen was home to thriving South Arabian civilizations whose rulers and eventually people, converted to Judaism. These are accepted as being true Arab Jews by historians.

Arab Jews are part of the bigger group known as Mizrahi Jews (Hebrew: יהודים מזרחי), which are Jews who are locally descended from the Middle East. These are known as Musta'arabim, or Mista'Arvim in Hebrew, which comes from the Arabic word musta'arab, meaning "Arabized".


Early History and AncestryEdit

There are numerous accounts and legends concerning the arrival of Jews in various regions in Southern Arabia. What most historians agree on is that they were native Arab and South Arabian tribes that converted to Judaism, favoring the simplicity of worshipping one God rather than many. However, Yemenite Jewish legends provide opposing views. One legend suggests that King Solomon sent Jewish merchant marines to Yemen to prospect for gold and silver with which to adorn the Temple in Jerusalem [3] In 1881, the French vice consulate in Yemen wrote to the leaders of the Alliance in France, that he read a book by the Arab historian Abu-Alfada, which stated that the Jews of Yemen settled in the area in 1451 BCE [4] Another legend says that Yemeni tribes converted to Judaism after the Queen of Sheba's visit to king Solomon [5] The Sanaite Jews have a legend that their ancestors settled in Yemen forty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple. It is said that under the prophet Jeremiah some 75,000 Jews, including priests and Levites, traveled to Yemen.[6] Another legend states that when Ezra commanded the Jews to return to Jerusalem they disobeyed, whereupon he pronounced a ban upon them. According to this legend, as a punishment for this hasty action Ezra was denied burial in Israel. As a result of this local tradition, which can not be validated historically, it is said that no Jew of Yemen gives the name of Ezra to a child, although all other Biblical appellatives are used. The Yemenite Jews claim that Ezra cursed them to be a poor people for not heeding his call. This seems to have come true in the eyes of some Yemenites, as Yemen is extremely poor. However, some Yemenite sages in Israel today emphatically reject this story as myth, if not outright blasphemy.[7]

Kingdoms in South ArabiaEdit

Traces of the existance of Judaism in South Arabia (now Yemen) were mostly during the formation of ancient Yemenite kingdoms. Among those, Paganism was also predominant. These ancient Arabian states became subject to invasion attempts from the Romans. Aelius Gallus, the Roman governer of occupied-Egypt had tried to conquer the city of Najran but failed to. The Romans later referred to southern Arabia as "Arabia Felix" which means "Happy Arabia" in Old Latin. Among the predominant kingdoms were Himyar, Saba and Qataban. Byzantium emperor Justinian I sent a fleet to Yemen and Joseph Dhu Nuwas was killed in battle in 525 CE [8] western coasts of Yemen became a puppet state until a Himyarite nobility managed to dr

An ancient griffin found in Yemen

ive out the occupiers completely and those nobles were Jews as well [9]

Himyarite Kingdom 110-525 A.D.Edit

Yarab, a descendant of the Biblical patriarchs Noah, Shem and Joktan and considered a founding father of an
300px-Map of Aksum and South Arabia ca 230 AD

Map of the South Arabian kingdoms and the African kingdom of Aksum

early spoken Arabic and culture (by Muslims) united Yemen and his descendants created the civilization known as the Himyarites (Arabic: الحميريون Banu Himyar), or the Kingdom of Himyar who became a dominant polity in South Arabia.[10] The Himyarites' capital was based in the city of Zafar and then to the modern-day city of Sana'a.[11] The Himyarite kingdom is also significant to the history of Judaism, as many of its kings and leaders were known to be sadistic converts to Judaism. Today, most Yemenite Jews are known to be the descendants of the Himyarites.

Kingdom of Saba/Sheba Edit

Another significant south Arabian civilization was the Kingdom of Saba (Arabic: سابا) which is highly thought to have been the kingdom known as Sheba (Hebrew: שיבא) in Old Testament accounts whom the Himyarites later conquered after capturing the modern-day city of Najran in Saudi Arabia today.

It was ruled by a powerful historical queen of an unknown name and of some prominence, who is commonly referred to as the Queen of Sheba (Hebrew: מלכת שבא) or Queen of the South in
Makeda and Solomon

Renaissance relief of the Queen of Sheba meeting Solomon - gate of Florence Baptistry

Biblical sources, and Bilquis (Arabic: بلقيس) in Arabic and Islamic sources. She established diplomatic relations with the Israelites after meeting with King Solomon.

The Queen of Sheba either a native Yemenite or an Ethiopian, as Arab and Ethiopian sources conflict. She was known to be a sun-god worshipper until adopt Judaism as her faith.

Middle AgesEdit

During the Middle Ages, the Jews experienced a cultural reinassance in Andalusia, or Islamic Spain. Under their culture, many of these Jews adopted Arab culture and spoke Arabic as a native language. They also wrote their works in the Arabic language, and reserved Hebrew for temple and liturgical use. They also bore Arabic surnames. One of the most famous Jewish philosaphers from the medieval Arab world was Moses ibn Maymun (Arabic: موسى بن ميمون) (Hebrew: משה אבן מימון), also known by Hellenized name Maimonides.

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