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YemenOnline >> Politics

Haaretz Dreams

YemenOnline(Exclusive) -October 21,2008: Mossi Melman, in an editorial piece on Monday (  reported that  Dorit Mizrahi, a writer in the ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpaha, claimed that Zekharia Hadad, brother of her grandmother Levana (Kamar in Yemenite) had been President of Yemen. This, YemenOnline found out in interviews with several members of the Iryani family and residents of Iryan, is a fantasy that started in 1967. That year, Qadi Abdul-Rahman Al-Iryani became the President of North Yemen. A few months later, Haolam Hazeh, an Israeli tabloid, published the first claim that he was Jewish. There was a reason behind that unusual claim.

In the teens of the twentieth century in the city of Ibb, 8-year old Zekharia Hadad, his married sister Kamar, and their little five –year-old sister lost their parents to an epidemic.As dictated by Islamic tradition then, minor orphans of non-Muslims became Ward of the State, which placed them with Muslim families to be cared for and raised as Muslims. Zekharia was placed with the family of the judge of Ibb, Qadi Yahya Al-Iryani. The boy was duly converted to Islam and re-named Abdul-Raheem. His married sister Kamar, being an adult, was left unmolested. In due course, she and her husband made the trek to Aden and then boarded a ship to Egypt and on to a new life in Palestine.

Zekharia was raised in the household of the Judge and, when he came of age chose a career in law enforcement. He spent the following four decades as companion, aide and bailiff to his childhood friend the brilliant young judge Abdul-Rahman, son of Yahya. Old Iryanis remember the tall, handsome fierce-looking guard in bandoleer (see picture, first to the right) that never left the side of Qadi Abdul-Rahman.

Upon his retirement, Abdul-Raheem returned to Iryan, where he had married from, and his son Mohamed had married from. He opened a General store in Nejd Rayman, a village less than a mile up the mountain from Iryan. The store became so successful it served not just the village, but the whole sub-district. In 1980, Abdul-Raheem died and his son Mohamed took over the business. Abdul-Raheem was survived by dozens of children, grand-children and great grand-children. Many of them remember his Moses-like stature and kind face. His neighbors speak fondly of his honesty and kindness, of his pride and generosity to those in need.

Unlike most other countries in the early twentieth century Yemen was an oasis of tolerance and co-existence between Muslims and Jews. The Prominent historian SD Goitein collected testimonies of Yemenite immigrants from Yemen to Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century. The picture that emerges from these testimonies is one of mutual love and respect between Yemeni Muslims and Jews. Immigrants described the heart breaking moments of departure, bidding farewell to their Muslim brothers who kept pleading with them to stay. Many of these immigrants who came from a Yemeni middle class background, found themselves at the very bottom of Israeli society. Ill-equipped to survive in a complex industrial society, they suffered unemployment and discrimination the like of which they had never experienced in Yemen. Yemenite men’s pride was shattered when they had to stay home while their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters had to work as house maids in Ashkenazi homes. Their pain and humiliation must have increased when it was revealed that in the first few years of Yemenite Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel); children of the unsuspecting and defenseless Yemenites were stolen by the thousands to be given to childless Ashkenazi families.

The grand-nephews and grand-nieces of Abdul-Raheem in Israel need not claim Qadi Abdul-Rahamn as their relative. They should take pride in the honesty and decency of their real great uncle Abdul-Raheem Al Hadad, and honor his memory that lives in the hearts of his Yemeni descendants and the countless others whose lives he had touched in his worthy existence amongst them.


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