mercredi 10 mai 2017


I was driving down the coast from Salalah, towards the border with Yemen. On my left, empty beaches, on the right, typical omani houses, with their fort like appearance standing sentinel against this road to which my history takes me.
A collective of camels pays no heed, forces me to stop while they saunter from the beach to the other side of the road. I see the shadows of the mountains ahead, on the other side lies Yemen.
Which Jewish Child growing up has not heard of Yemen? Which child growing up in the English speaking world not been mesmerized with the words ADEN and the fabled history of its port? You may even have had a postage stamp of British Colony of ADEN.
I felt that down those very same tracks or by the sea , merchants, including many of the ancestors of the Jews of Cochin (the Pardesi Jews arrived only in 1504 or so, when the Portugese had already arrived) who might have come down from Baghdad
you can see from the above map how close I was to the Yemeni Border, coming in from Salalah in Oman. Nearby up in the mountains is the tomb of JOB the Jewish prophet, whom the Arabs worship as Ayoub. I had the privilege to visit the tomb and say the Kaddish, Jewish prayer for the dead.
One of my ancestors too might have come down these paths. 
The excellent historic research of the Geniza papers by Prof Goiten and later by the author Amitav Ghosh has left some illumination of this trade between Aden and the Malabar Coast. (Maddy is a blogger who has a nice description of this story as well, but I highly recommend Ghosh's article on the Slave of HS 6 in The Imam and the Indian)
By 1128 or 32, a Tunisian Jew by the name of Abraham ben Yiju lived and traded from Mangalore in the Malabar coast north of Cochin which as a city did not exist at that time, had a concubine by the name of Asha, a Nair girl from Tulu Nad, had son and a daughter, returned and settled down in ADEN in 1149, celebrating the JEWISH marriage of his Kerala (now) daughter to one of his relatives. Sit Al Dar, the daughter may even had gone to Israel, making her the first person from Kerala to go to Israel and live there. 
To me Yemen-Cochin Jewish connection is ancient, going back to the time of the trade with Malabar coast a thousand years ago, at least. There is a tomb of a Yemenite Jewish scholar by the name of Nehemiah in Mattancherry in Cochin in India where people of all religions pray.
here is a fragment in ABRAHAM BEN YIJU's handwritten script, preserved from the Geniza of Cairo
(the language was Judeo-Arabic, the script ancient Arabic)
British Territory of Aden was administered as a part of British INDIA from 1850s until about 1937 when Aden became a crown colony.
My brother Eliyahu ben Moishe and I  have Mizrachi culture sewn into our genes and we become happy when we hear Mizrachi music. I consider the levantine food of our ancestors to be our GENETIC food and fortunately it is all the rage for health reasons, the Mediterranean diet. My sister in Miami is the best purveyor the food, each time I visit, I have Baba Ganouj or Hummus, with other tasty morsels. The earliest Mizrachi music greats were from Yemen and later from Morocco, in Israel.
Our sister, Rachel, is a prolific writer into the history of jews from Arab Lands and she introduced me to the website The Land of No return and today I read about Revivo Mizrachi Music Project which has been the rage over Internet with millions of views and I decided to watch their youtube video, and boy, was it exciting!
Lecha Dodi has a very special meaning to me and so I will try to download the Mizrachi Music Project's version of this prayer.

here is the link. 
it is a very joyous song, obviously a joyous occasion and joyful prayer for all the Jews of the world. Half way through the song, I was so happy to listen to 
Shalom Leven Dodi
which brought back such memories of my first ever trip representing the World Union of Jewish Students to a camp in Mondorf les Bains in Luxemburg!

Shalom leven dodi, hatzach veha'admon
shalom shalom shalom, rakah k'mo rimon.

Shalom leven dodi, hatzach veha'admon
shalom lecha me'et, rakah k'mo rimon.

Likrat achotcha rutz
tze na lehoshi'ah
ves'mach beven yishai, revat bnei amon.

Mah lach y'feifiah, ut'oreri/titoreri ahavah
vesalseli/vetzaltzeli kolech befa'amonei rimon/bekol pa'amon

Ha'et asher tich'potz, havah achishanah
maher ve'alaich ered, k'tal chermon.

There are many versions of this song, but I put one up by Jo Amar, the Moroccan Israeli great! the pioneers of Mizrachi music in Israel ..
I was watching the video of Revivo and the new Mizrachi music in Israel, I said to myself 
I belong to this group of people and this group of people belong to me.

This blog was written from the heart, please excuse me if there are any factual errors (of historic nature from the 12th century).
I dedicate this to the three dearest Mizrachis in my life:
Eliyahu, Rachel and 


PS : Je suis sûr que mon petit frère aimerait écouter cette prière qu'il connaît bien et la culture qui peut être un peu étrangère pour lui, mais manger, boire et écouter de la musique ne sera pas