Tag Archives: Yemen

Jew of the Week: Bracha Qafih

Rabbanit Qafih

Rabbanit Qafih

Bracha Qafih (1922-2013) was born in Yemen to a traditional Jewish family. To save a young orphan boy from being taken away by the Muslim authorities, she was married to him at the age of just 11. The boy grew up to be Rabbi Yosef Qafih, better known as Rabbi Kapach, one of the greatest Yeminite Jewish religious leaders, and a judge on Israel’s Rabbinical Supreme Court. Rabbanit Qafih had three kids by the time she was 18, and immigrated to Israel soon after with her family. Settling in Jerusalem, she opened up her own embroidery business, which grew quickly to employ over 50 women. Qafih then devoted her time to charity work. Each holiday, she would organize food packages for the impoverished of the city, distributing them from her own home with the help of student volunteers. Eventually, she ran a food bank that provided regular sustenance to over 5000 people, an endeavour she oversaw for over 50 years, often putting herself in personal debt. She also ran a gmach for wedding gowns, where poor families could borrow wedding dresses for free, and organized a summer camp for disadvantaged children. She made sure that orphans could have proper bar mitzvahs, and advised countless people in need, including prostitutes and drug addicts, many of which credit her with helping them overcome their challenges. Her inspiration was her grandfather, who took her with him to distribute food to the poor in Yemen from the time that she was just 6 years old. Rabbanit Qafih continued her charity work into her old age, despite her poor health. She was known to already be preparing meals by four in the morning. Among many other decorations, in 1999, Rabbanit Qafih was awarded the Israel Prize for her immeasurable contributions to charity and Israeli society at large, where many affectionately referred to her as their grandmother.

Yom Kippur Begins Tonight! Gmar Chatima Tova to Everyone

Words of the Week

It’s not charity. It’s my responsibility.
– Rabbanit Bracha Qafih

Jews of the Week: Abu-Kariba & Yusuf Dhu-Nawas

How Arabia Almost Became Jewish

Arabia, one-time home of Jewish Kings

In the 400s CE, before the time of Muhammed, the Arabian Peninsula was dominated by the powerful Kingdom of Himyar, based in Yemen. Their ambitious king was a man named Abu-Kariba, who gathered a massive army to war with the Byzantines (aka. the Eastern Roman Empire). However, Abu-Kariba got only as far as the city of Yathrib, which was then the heart of Jewish Arabia (and today is the second holiest site in Islam, called Medina). While fighting a rebel army in Yathrib, Abu-Kariba fell ill. Two Jewish sages from the city went across enemy lines and healed the king. Their kindness, courage and wisdom prompted Abu-Kariba to convert to Judaism, along with his entire army. Kariba changed his plans and returned home to Yemen to spread the new faith. However, his successor Dhu-Shenstir, was a mad pagan who brutally tortured his people. Thankfully, he was killed by Yusuf Dhu-Nuwas, who became the new king and restored Judaism to the throne. “Dhu-Nuwas” is Arabic for ‘Lord Sidelocks’, because of the long sidelocks he wore, like many Jews do today. Dhu-Nuwas tried his utmost to stop Jewish persecution by Christians in the Byzantine Empire. When his calls went on deaf ears, he kidnapped a handful of Byzantine officials and executed them, sparking a war which he won. Emboldened by his success, he worked mightily to re-establish a Jewish kingdom in Israel, collaborating with the famous Torah leader of the time, Mar Zutra (the Third). Unfortunately, in 525 CE, the Byzantines allied with Ethiopia, as well as the Arab Christians, and destroyed Dhu-Nawas’ growing domain. His dream of a pan-Jewish empire came to an end. This spectacular episode is the reason many historians suggest “only a hair’s-breadth prevented all Arabia from becoming Jewish.”

 

Words of the Week

I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.
King David, Psalms 120:7

Modern Arabia, where few Jews may be found…