Yemen’s Millennia-Long Connection to the Land of Israel

January 30, 2020 | Eliana Rudee
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While it has often been assumed that the queen of Sheba mentioned in the book of Kings was an African potentate, today most scholars locate her territory in what is now Yemen. Her famous visit to Jerusalem reflects the very long history of commerce and travel between the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Land of Israel. Reviewing an exhibit at Israel’s Bible Lands Museum about this relationship, Eliana Rudee writes:

Through the trade of incense and aromatic plants like myrrh and frankincense—used in Temple worship, and worth the value of gold and silver in the contemporary market—the area that is now Yemen became a key hub in ancient Near Eastern trade.

This trade route [later] made it possible for Yemenite Jews to make the journey to the land of Israel. Though the trek was 1,500 miles, which often took two whole months to complete, there was extensive commercial trade between the two lands, and the bones of Yemenite Jews were often taken to Israel to be buried.

By the end of the 4th century CE, the kings of Himyar (south Arabia’s last major kingdom before the advent of Islam) adopted a monotheistic religion inspired by Judaism and became known as the “Jewish Kingdom of Himyar.” [It] was destroyed in 525 CE by armies from the Christian Ethiopian kingdom of Axum.

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