Paris (Feb. 12)
The situation of the Jews of Yemen has been aggravated this year on account of the drought and the deficient crops. The dearth of grain is the cause of great distress which borders on famine for all the inhabitants of Yemen. The Yemenite Jews have sent a call for help to their brothers in Palestine. A committee of relief has been appointed by the Yemenites of Jerusalem and of Jaffa Some relief has been sent but it is insufficient.
A new survey of conditions in the Jewish community in Yemen, in the forsaken corner of the Arabian Peninsula, long the object of inhuman persecutions, was recently concluded under the auspices of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.
It is not of recent date that the situation of the Jews of Yemen has become unsatisfactory. Their sufferings date back many years. Before the war, under the Turkish military regime, the Pachas inspired a salutary awe in the Arabs and placed a check on their fanaticism. The Jews lived peaceably enough. But after the war the fanaticism of the Arabs broke loose, venting itself upon the Jews. The latter were subjected to all sorts of indignities. The absence of all European diplomatic representation left them without defense, without protection.
The Jewish population of Yemen amounts to approximately 50,000. It is concentrated in the towns. The Yemenite Jews make their living as farmers, masons, and blacksmiths. The inhabitants of the cities devote themselves to trade on a small scale. Little construction is going on at Yemen.
In general, the Jews are not overwhelmed with taxes. The chief imposts are: Customs duties being forbidden by the Moslem religion, they are recognized in the form of contributions to the support of the army. The customs duties are levied at the rate of 4% on the value of the merchandise, on arrival in Hodeida. The Treasury levies in addition to this a tax of 1Â¼% every time the merchandise is sent from one city to another.
All men and all male children pay a head-tax of 20 piastres. This duty is raised to 40 piastres when the capital possessed is appraised at Â£40 or above.
Like his officials L’Iman Yihya, who combines the functions of king, caliph, judge and treasurer, levies in addition all sorts of taxes in the form of “bakschisches,” or bribes. Although very fanatical, and hostile to foreigners, L’Iman Yihya is much esteemed and respected by the whole population on account of his experience, the moderation of his character and his democratic manners. Very affable, he likes to mingle with the people and loves to converse with everyone. Unfortunately, the people who surround him. (Continued on Page 4)
In accordance with the customs of the Arabs, all Jewish children, boys and girls, should be converted to Islamism at the age of thirteen. The Arabs do not abstain from taking possession by force of all the Jewish orphans in order to convert them. Furthermore the law is the same for the grown men who have lost their parents during infancy. The son of I’lman and I’lman himself have the young girls captured from beneath the nuptial canopy in order to force them to embrace Islam and marry them.
Frequent epidemics of black smallpox work havoc among the children.
A law forbids the emigration of the Jews abroad, particularly to Palestine. The real estate of persons who disregard this law is confiscated by the Treasury. If Jews are suspected of wanting to leave for abroad, their property does not find any buyers, for the Treasury confiscates it from the very hands of the new owners.
The Jews are subjected to many humiliations. They are compelled to wear a special garb which distinguishes them from the Arabs. It is forbidden for them to ride horseback in the cities. They can go on mule-back from one village to another. If on the way the mule-driver meets an Arab, he must descend to earth and remount only after the Arab has passed. The Jews are compelled to clean all the waterclosets and this at the expense of the Jewish community.
One may well imagine that the Jews of Yemen wish to leave their country to establish themselves abroad, and particularly in Palestine. Twelve to 15,000 Yemenites established themselves in Palestine, in the cities and in the colonies, during the time when immigration was facilitated. The Yemenites who went to Palestine are industrious and are content with little. They do not become a burden on the communities. No beggars are found among them. They only aspire to acquire a plot of ground in order to cultivate and plant it. They all know how to speak Hebrew and Arabic. Through contact with the inhabitants their characters are transformed. their orthodoxy is moderated, their timidity disappears they acquire dignity. By marriage with Palestinians their offspring are stronger. However, this wave of immigration has slackened, on account of the prohibitory laws of I’lman Yihya, and also on account of the difficulties in the way of Palestine immigration. At present the Jews of Yemen find it to their advantage to emigrate to America.