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Niebuhr, Carsten

(451 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Carsten Niebuhr (1733–1815) was a Danish orientalist. A fearless traveler, he journeyed extensively in the Muslim world. His famous account of his travels, Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien und Andern umliegenden Laendern (2 vols.) was published between 1774 and 1778 (abridged Eng. trans. Edinburgh, 1792); his Reisen durch Syrien und Palaestina was published in 1837. Born in 1733, the son of a peasant farmer in Lüdingworth in the Electorate of Hanover,  Niebuhr had little formal education. He had, however, a keen interest in mathematics and survey…


(397 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Throughout the 1930s and during the first years of the Second World War, a trickle of Jews arrived in the British Crown Colony of Aden from the Yemen. They were housed in a variety of insalubrious quarters mainly outside Aden city. In 1944, however, the Aden government agreed to lease an abandoned army camp to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee at a nominal rent for the use of Jewish refugees. The camp, known as Hashid, was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) inland from Aden’s wharf area of Maala, not far from the main road and slightly more than 1.6 kilom…

David D’Beth Hillel

(396 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
David D’Beth Hillel (d. 1846) was a Jewish scholar and traveler from Vilna (present day Vilnius) in Lithuania. Born into a family of scholars and rabbis, he went to Palestine around 1815 with some followers of the Gaon of Vilna and settled in Safed. In 1824 he set out on a remarkable journey, inspired by religious zeal and a passionate interest in the unknown Jewish communities of the East and the fabled Lost Tribes of Israel. The account of his journey, written in English, Travels through Arabia, Kurdistan, Part of Persia and India to Madras 1824–32(Madras, 1832), published in an editio…

Operation on the Wings of Eagles (Magic Carpet)

(691 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Between June 1949 and September 1950, 41,914 Yemenite Jews left the British Crown Colony of Aden for Israel in an airlift that was initially called Operation Magic Carpet. Yemenite Jews had assembled in the British colony in hopes of immigrating to the Jewish state. The airlift that took them, at the time the largest airlift the world had seen, was called Operation Magic Carpet and subsequently Operation on Wings of Eagles, with reference to Exodus 19:4: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and…

Saphir, Jacob

(307 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Jacob Saphir (1822–1886) was a Jewish traveler and writer born in Oshmyany (Ashmyany) in what is now Belarus. His family moved to Palestine while he was still a child, settling in Safed, but in 1836, after their deaths, he moved to Jerusalem. In 1848, the Jewish community of Safed commissioned Saphir to travel as a meshullaḥ (emissary) through "the southern lands"  to collect alms, the so-called ḥaluqa, for the poor of Jerusalem. In 1854, he undertook a second journey, this time to raise funds for the construction of the Ḥurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, which…

Yavne'eli (Jawnieli), Samuel

(488 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Samuel Yavne’eli (Jawnieli; 1884–1961) was born in Kazanka, Ukraine, in 1884. His original surname was Warshavsky, but he changed it after emigrating to Palestine in 1905. Yavne’eli was a major figure in the Zionist labor movement and one of the early members of the Second Aliya (1904–1914). In 1911 Yavne’eli went to Yemen to organize the emigration of Yemenite Jews to Palestine. He was apparently selected to undertake this mission because of an article he had written in Hapoel Hatzair in 1910, discussing ways to encourage Zionism among the Jews of Yemen. However, there w…

Montefiore, Moses

(923 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
The Sephardi financier, philanthropist, and Jewish communal leader Moses Montefioree, perhaps the most famous British Jew of the nineteenth century, was born in 1784 in Livorno during a visit there by his parents, who were Livornese-born residents of London. He was raised in the British capital, and later became one of London’s twelve “Jew brokers.” In 1812 he married Judith Cohen and thus became brother-in-law and later stockbroker to Nathan Mayer Rothschild. Montefiore retired from his business activities in 1824 and devoted the rest of his long life to commun…