History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia

History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia

"The history of Jews in Saudi Arabia"' refers to the Jewish history in the areas that are now within the territory of Saudi Arabia. It is a history that goes back to Biblical times.

Early history

The first mention of Jews in the areas of modern-day Saudi Arabia dates back, by some accounts, to the time of the First Temple. Immigration to the Arabian Peninsula began in earnest in the 2nd century CE, and by the 6th and 7th centuries there was a considerable Jewish population in Hejaz, mostly in and around Medina, in part because of the embrace of Judaism by such leaders as Dhu Nuwas (who was very aggressive about converting his subjects to Judaism, and who persecuted Christians in his kingdom as a reaction to Christian persecution of Jews) and Abu Karib Asad.

The Hejazi Jews were mostly wine merchants and traders. At the same time, a considerable Jewish population was growing in nearby present-day Yemen, particularly in Aden and Hadramaut, which sustained their Jewish populations until relatively recently. Jewish settlement also existed in the northern parts of the peninsula.

Tribes of Medina

There were three main Jewish tribes in Medina, forming the most important Hejazi community before the rise of Islam in Arabia. These were the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qainuqa, and the Banu Qurayza.

Other Arabian Jewish tribes

Other Arabian Jewish tribes in Muhammed's time:
* Banu Awf
* Banu Harith
* Banu Jusham
* Banu Najjar
* Banu Sa'ida
* Banu Shutayba [Stillman "passim".]

Under Islam

After the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the Jewish population of Yemen was treated in a progressively harsher fashion despite the Quranic verse "There is no compulsion in religion" (verse 2:256).

Unfortunately, this Quranic verse, or Sura, is not as permitting as one might think given the Islamic concept of Dhimmi which states that "Jews, Christians, and Sabeans" are to be treated not as Infidels but as a separate, third classification, "al Dhimmi." Dhimmi are , among other things, not allowed to vote, testify in court, use the same conveyances as Muslims although this is not always adhered to (in earlier eras it was taken to stipulate that a Jew must ride a donkey, if anything, while Muslims alone were permitted to use horses or camels), to build an edifice higher than the lowest Muslim edifice in any city boundary, and so on.

Although Jewish religion and culture survived under some Islamic civilisations, Jews suffered more and more restrictions and even indignities as time passed. Aside from their status as al Dhimmi, Jews were also stipulated to wear particular clothing denoting their specific religious faith and ethnicity. Sometimes this meant only wearing a coloured patch or special headgear aside from traditional Jewish headcovering that was adopted in much of the world in later eras. At other times, it meant stipulations that were designed to emasculate Jewish men, as in Yemen, et al where Jewish men were prohibited from wearing the customary scimitar worn by all adult male Muslims in that region of the Arabian peninsula.

Jews continued to endure these and other indignities, up to and including violence and death, but in the region now known as Saudi Arabia, Jews gradually disappeared via assimilation or the more frequent attrition. While Jewish populations seem to have increased in that region even after the Islamic Advent, by the middle of the 16th Century A.D. all Jews had disappeared from al Hejaz Region. This was unfortunately made so in the rest of Saudi Arabia by royal edict after than nation's independence.

The journey of Benjamin of Tudela

. 1907: Includes map of route (p. 2) and commentary.
url=http://www.teachittome.com/seforim2/seforim/masaos_binyomin_mitudela_with_english.pdf] ]

A historical journey to visit far-flung Jewish communities was undertaken by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela from 1165 to 1173 that crossed and tracked some of the areas that are today in the geographic area of Saudi Arabia. One map of his travels in the areas of present-day Saudi Arabia shows that he stopped at Jewish communities living in Tayma and Khaybar [cite web |publisher= Wikipedia map |title= Map . 1907: Includes map of route (p. 2) and commentary.
url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/


] two places that are known to have a longer significant historic Jewish presence in them, see Jews of Tayma and Khaybar where the Battle of Khaybar was fought between Muhammad and his followers against the centuries-long established Jewish community of Khaybar in 629. Tudela's trek began as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. [cite book |publisher= University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1998 |title= "Jews, Pilgrimage, and the Christian Cult of Saints: Benjamin of Tudela and His Contemporaries." "After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History", p. 338 |author=Shatzmiller, Joseph] He may have hoped to settle there, but there is controversy about the reasons for his travels. It has been suggested he may have had a commercial motive as well as a religious one. On the other hand, he may have intended to catalogue the Jewish communities on the route to the Holy Land so as to provide a guide to where hospitality may have been found for Jews travelling to the Holy Land. [cite book |publisher= University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1998 |title= "Jews, Pilgrimage, and the Christian Cult of Saints: Benjamin of Tudela and His Contemporaries." "After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History", p. 347 |author=Shatzmiller, Joseph] He took the "long road" stopping frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations and giving a demographic count of Jews in every town and country.

One of the known towns that Benjamin of Tudela reported as having a Jewish community was "El Katif" [cite book |publisher= Quantum Books. London, 2004 |title= "From Abraham to the Destruction of the Second Temple": "The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization", pp. 30-31 |author=Josephine Bacon. Consultant editor: Martin Gilbert] located in the area of the modern-day city of Hofuf in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. "Al-Hofuf" also "Hofuf" or "Al-Hufuf" ( _ar. الهفوف) is the major urban center in the huge Al-Ahsa Oasis in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The city has a population of 287,841 (2004 census} and is part of a larger populated oasis area of towns and villages of around 600,000. It is located inland, southwest of Abqaiq and the Dhahran-Dammam-Al-Khobar metropolitan area on the road south to Haradh.

Today

There is virtually no Jewish activity in Saudi Arabia today. Public worship of all religions but Islam is strictly forbidden.

Official visits by Henry Kissinger

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the first Jewish person to hold that position, came to Saudi Arabia on ten official trips on diplomatic missions on behalf of the United States [cite web |publisher=U.S. Department of State |date=December 21, 2007| title= Saudi Arabia|url= http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/trvl/st/13105.htm] :


#November 8–9, 1973: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Met with King Faisal and senior Saudi officials.
#December 14, 1973: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Met with King Faisal to discuss the Middle East peace process.
#March 2, 1974: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Briefed King Faisal on the Syrian-Israeli peace process.
#May 9, 1974: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Briefed King Faisal and Foreign Minister Saqqaf on the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
#June 14-15, 1974: Henry A. Kissinger: Jidda: Accompanied President Richard Nixon.
#October 13, 1974: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Reviewed the Middle East peace process with King Faisal and Foreign Minister Saqqaf.
#November 6, 1974: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Discussed the Middle East peace process with King Faisal and Foreign Minister Saqqaf.
#February 15, 1975: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Briefed King Faisal on the Middle East peace process.
#March 19, 1975: Henry A. Kissinger: Riyadh: Met with King Faisal to review the Middle East peace process and bilateral.
#September 2, 1975: Henry A. Kissinger: Taif: Briefed King Khalid on the Middle East peace process.

Jewish US personnel during the Gulf War

During the Gulf War (1990-1991), when approximately a half million US military personal assembled in Saudi Arabia, and many were then stationed there, there were many Jewish US service personnel in Saudi Arabia. It is reported that the Saudi government insisted that Jewish religious services not be held on their soil but that Jewish soldiers be flown to nearby US warships. [cite web |publisher=Alpha Books |date=December 21, 2007 |title= The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Saudi Arabia |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=h4dle6jcr68C&pg=PA109&ots=6HgbE3lWPh&dq=jewish+us+soldiers+in+saudi+arabia+during+gulf+war&sig=4K4hjLmkxsn7te29hqwcdi28eEc]

Jews in the Arabian Peninsula

*History of the Jews in Arabia (disambiguation)
*History of the Jews in Iraq
*History of the Jews in Jordan
*History of the Jews in Bahrain
*History of the Jews in Kuwait
*History of the Jews in Oman
*History of the Jews in Qatar
*History of the Jews in the United Arab Emirates
*Yemenite Jews

ee also

*Abrahamic religion
*Arab Jews
*Arab states of the Persian Gulf
*Babylonian captivity
*History of the Jews in the Arabian Peninsula
*History of the Jews under Muslim rule
*Islam and antisemitism
*Jewish exodus from Arab lands
*Jews outside Europe under Nazi occupation
*Judaism and Islam
*List of Jews from the Arab World
*Mizrahi Jews
*Religious antisemitism

Notes

References

*Stillman, Norman. "Jews of Arab Lands", Jewish Publications Society, 1979.
*"New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, 1992, Encyclopedia Publishing, "Aden", "Arabia", "Hadramaut"
* [http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/arabia.html Arabia] (eretzyisroel.org"

History and travels of Benjamin of Tudela

*Benjamin of Tudela. "The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middle Ages". trans. Joseph Simon. Pangloss Press, 1993. ISBN 0-934710-07-4
* [http://www.teachittome.com/seforim2/seforim/masaos_binyomin_mitudela_with_english.pdf "The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela".] trans. Marcus Nathan Adler. 1907: includes map of route (p. 2) and commentary.
*gutenberg author|id=Benjamin_of_Tudela|name=Benjamin of Tudela
*Shatzmiller, Joseph. "Jews, Pilgrimage, and the Christian Cult of Saints: Benjamin of Tudela and His Contemporaries." "After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History". University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1998.
*Jewish Virtual Library: [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/BenjaminTudelo.html Benjamin of Tudela] .


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