One of the communities included in the Jewish Nakba was that of Aden, a seaport in southern Yemen. Aden was at that time a British Crown Colony. Its Jewish community of about 8,500 persons was an ancient one, tracing its history back well over 1000 years. Its fate was sealed in early December 1947, when a three-day strike took place in protest at the UN's 30 November Partition Plan for Palestine (see map below). The strike soon degenerated into a pogrom.
Much of the violence against the Jews was perpetrated by the Arab militia sent to keep order - the Aden Protectorate Levies. Sir Harry's inquiry determined conservatively that "Some were sympathetic to looters and fire-raisers and did little to discourage them." It described many as "trigger-happy" and implicated in the deaths of many of the 31 Jews who were shot either in their homes or through the window shutters, as well as on rooftops and in the street. (Source: Jewish Chronicle, 24 September 1948.)
Below, italicised, is a first-hand account of the events, in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle (published in the issue of 2 January 1948) by a Jew signing himself "An Adenite":
The first day of the three-day Arab strike against partition, on December 2, passed off quietly, despite a demonstration outside the Jewish quarter [in Crater]. On the evening of that day, a meeting was addressed by Arab leaders, and at 6 p.m. the crowd, followed by thousands of Arabs, attacked the Jewish quarter. Those of us who were in the streets had to take shelter in the nearest house. This lasted up to about 10.30 p.m., when some British sailors surrounded the Jewish quarter and dispersed the mob.
Next morning, since Aden Protectorate Levies (Moslem Troops) were stationed in the Jewish quarter, many [Jews]came out on the streets, trusting that peace and order would be maintained. Suddenly, news reached us that Jewish shops situated in the leading bazaars were being looted.
Following that, many houses were burned, as well as a synagogue. The reason that very few lives were lost in them was due solely to the fact that the inhabitants had fled. At least one-third of the Jewish quarter was destroyed, looted, or devastated.
In many of the houses, mobs broke in, looting and beating the inhabitants, and in some cases threatened them with death if they did not "accept the Mohammedan religion." Some were kidnapped by Arabs, and five are still missing.
An amazing allegation is contained in a cable dispatched by the Governor himself [Sir Reginald Stuart Champion] to the Secretary of State [for the Colonies, Arthur Creech Jones], on December 5. It reads: "Curfew retained in Crater and situation there generally quieter, but alleged hostile activity of Jews created new dangerous tension, especially after killing of a Levy and an Indian Moslem Government doctor almost certainly by Jewish snipers ...."
I can hasten to assure His Excellency and the Governor that this allegation is completely untrue. The doctor in question is well known to the Jews as a kindly man and as a particular friend of a Jew called Mori Dawood. The real facts are that one of the sons, named Yehia, was shot on Wednesday, in his own home by the Levies. His family risked their lives under fire to reach a Jewish house where a telephne was available for the purpose of arranging for an ambulance to take Yehia to hospital and also telephoned the Audit Officer in whose office one of the sons is a clerk. All the replies were "Busy" and "Wait."
It was only the next morning that the doctor came and removed Yehia to the ambulance while he was speaking to his brother Hayeem near the house, the Levies shot them both. The doctor died instantly and Hayeem is still under treatment for wounds. Yehia died later in hospital.
In Shaikh Othman [just off this map, to the north], about eleven miles from the Crater, 14 Jews were killed, and about 900 have been evacuated by the Government to the Yemenite migration camp at Hashed [i.e. Hashid]. In Maalla, a port, there are no Jewish residents, but premises stored with Jewish goods were looted.
It would be useful to know where the millions of lakhs of loot are at present, or whether the Government is taking drastic action to find the looters. But we hear that Arabs are selling their loot at a fifth to a tenth of its value, and that much of it has already removed from the Colony to the interior, despite the police "barriers".
Aden's stricken Jewry expects more than a mere condolence from world Jewry. They require funds to reconstruct their livelihood, and legal aid for a full inquiry and defence of their rights under International Law. They also require the particular attention of the Jewish Agency for migration certificates to Palestine for the whole community as soon as possible ....
In the immediate aftermath of the pogrom in Aden, Elie Eliachar, president of the 160,000-strong Sephardi Community of Palestine, who was visiting London, reported that the number of Jewish fatalities might in actuality have been as high as 145. He noted that Yemeni refugees in the Shaikh (or Sheikh) Othman camp, awaiting removal to Eretz Yisrael, had also suffered greatly from Arab attacks, and many feared that the the British government would repatriate them to Yemen.
"Should this be done," the Jewish Chronicle (13 February 1948) explained,
"their survival is unlikely. Any children repatriated unaccompanied by their parents would be entrusted to the Moslem priests and converted by force to Islam, in accordance with Yemen law."The paper added that Eliachar reported that twelve synagogues and most of the Jewish quarter of Aleppo, Syria, had been burned down, and a large number of Jews had been injured, although the exact figure was not known, and that about 3000 Jews had fled Aleppo for Beirut. Tensions were running high in Beirut too, it said. A bomb was thrown into the house of a Jew who refused to contribute to a fund for fighting the Jews in Palestine; another was thrown at the Alliance Israelite school, causing a great amount of damage; and all Jewish students at the American college and the French university and schools had been ordered to leave Lebanon. In Bahrain 35 Jewish families were attacked by a mob and lost all their possessions. One person was killed in that pogrom and 67 gravely wounded.
In Afghanistan, Eliachar went on, conditions for Jews were going from bad to worse. There were 250 Afghan Jewish families in Calcutta, awaiting entry to Palestine - they would be doomed if the British returned them to Afghanistan. The plight of Iraqi Jewry was very serious, all 130,000 of them being effectively held hostage, and their movements restricted. Meanwhile, in Egypt, too, Jews were living in a state of fear...
Have finally linked to your excellent post
I'll always alert you to any other relevant posts of mine, Bataween ...ReplyDelete
thank you for this account of the 1947 pogrom in Aden.ReplyDelete
I am the grand daughter of Yehia who was shot in his house.
Do you know what happened to Mori David , my great grandfather? Was he still alive at this point?
My name is Miriam and I live in London ( born here).
My father emigrated to Israel on the Magic Carpet, but came to London in 1952.
He died 6 months ago aged 90.
Thanks for your comment, Miriam. I'm afraid I don't know what happened to Mori David or any other individual. I assume you're familiar with Lyn Julius and her Point of No Return blog - possibly she can point you in the right direction. Best Wishes.Delete
Thank you DaphneDelete
I am amazed at the amount of documentation on the subject of Jewish communities in Arab Lands. I was surprised to see such a personal account of the horrific experiences of the Jews in Aden during the 1947 pogroms. ( and other similar experiences in other countries.)
This information is helping to fill some of the gaps about my own family's life in Aden.
Thank you for researching this topic.
I am from aden but i didnt know that all happen to the jews in aden .. I am very sad to read this and very sorry ..
Its a shame wallah ..
I like the yemenite jews and i have alot of friends ..
Thank you for commenting,Delete
The Levies had British officers and NCOs. What were they doing?ReplyDelete