From the Land of Sheba, ed. by S. D. Goitein
The Jewish community in Yemen, so we are told, is the oldest in existence. This may or may not be true, since we are fully in the dark about its origin, and the scattered records of its history before the late Middle Ages which we possess are tainted with legend. The Fallasha community in Ethiopia seems to be still older. However, the latter, due to its isolation from the rest of the Diaspora and the interference of a heterogeneous surrounding, has forgotten or altered most of its religious tradition and failed to keep up with the further development of Jewish thought and manners. The Yemenite Jews, on the contrary, partook of all the great spiritual movements in Judaism at least until the 16th century, when they too were cut off from any substantial intercourse with the civilized world. Isolation, therefore, is four centuries old, a time span quite sufficient to confer a definite tinge of archaism upon the Yemenite Jews, the more so because the oppression of the Turkish Governors and the Zaidi Imams (matched only by the oppression of the Moroccan Jews by their Moslem masters previous to the French protectorate) compelled them to cling faithfully to their manners and customs.
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