The article was written by Tina Zorman for Yemen Observer and first published in Yemen Observer on Aug 8, 2012:
Beyt Bouss village, lying on a rocky stair, overlooking Sana’a
Actually too many of them think that Beyt Bouss was a Jewish settlement. Well, they are right in a way, but it was not precisely like that.
Till the mid twentieth century, tens of thousands of Jews were living in Yemen. According to the tradition, Jewish people inhabited Yemen since 10 BC right around the time when Queen Bilquis, the famous Queen of the Sabean Kingdom paid a visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem.
After the destruction of the Solomon’s temple many Jews escaped and followed Queen Bilquis back to her country – modern Southern Arabia - where they were promised shelter and peace.
The Yemeni diaspora dates back from the time of the early prophets. On the other “rive” of the Red Sea, in Ethiopia, legend has it that there too Jews came to settle, having followed Menelik – Solomon and Bilquis’ son - Yemeni Jews often proudly say that they are actually the descendant of the real Jews, arguing that their ancestry dates back from the Torah – Jewish Scriptures – where both the ancient cities of Sana’a and Sa’ada are mentioned by their old names.
After Palestine was self-proclaimed the state of Israel by Jewish settlers’ in1948, most of Yemen’s Jews left the country, dreaming of a state of their own and the so-called “promise land”. But if Yemen’s Jews live many ups and downs throughout History, always was their journey intertwined with that of Yemen’s Muslim community. For centuries, the most unlikely cousins lived, worked and prosper side by side.
A side view of Beyt Bouss village that you would have, if you would reach it by a local’s path
Even today, Jews are still befriending Muslims, having become an inherent part of the Yemeni society. After several mass migrations, only a few hundreds Jews are nowadays living in Yemen. Beyt Bouss is actually a very particular and striking example of just how much Muslims and Jews used to support each other and respect each other traditions, in harmony without prejudice or hatred. As the old Yemeni proverb goes: Al Boussy Yahoody wa Yahoody al Boussy –villagers of Beyt Bouss are the Jews and the Jews are Beyt Bouss villagers - Like in many other places in Yemen, there were Muslims and Jewish living in Beyt Bouss. According to tradition both communities lived however in very distinct areas, coexisting but never truly blending in.
While Muslims were housed within the walls of the main village, the Jewish community had settled on its outskirts, right outside the walls. At the time –some 200 years ago – Sheikh Ali Mohsen al-Hawlani, ancestor to the Mugalli family in Beyt Bouss, stroked a deal with the Jewish community.
Then, a village called Beyt al-Mahfad, was often complaining that sheep belonging to the Jewish community were illegally grazing on their lands, damaging their crops. In order to prevent a full blown tribal conflict Sheikh al-Hawlani had often to mediate a peaceful settlement – offering a cow or money as compensation – Since money at that time was somewhat of a rare commodity, Beyt Bouss villagers were always asked to pinch in and cover the amount through donations as the Jews could not come up with the full amount. After the same issues repeated itself several times, the Beyt Bouss Sheikh, who fully understood that the Jews were as much a part of his community as his fellow Muslims decided to make them a fully-pledged members of Beyt Bouss, asking them to as well participate when Muslim families were in need of the community, through payments in kinds and money.
Beyt Bouss became one united-multi-cultural and religious community. Since that very day, Jews and Muslims have lived as brothers in Beyt Bouss sharing through the hard and good times, always lending each other a hand when needed.
A water tank in Beyt Bouss, lying out of the ancient wall, separating the part where Muslim community has lived from the part where Jewish community has settled. Behind the water tank there are some of the houses where Jews have lived.
If arriving on a Friday afternoon, you will hardly find a place to park, as many Boussy people will arrive with their Land Cruisers and chew Qat for hours on end, leaving you stranded. The beautiful point of view is much praise by locals and is most definitely worth the peak.
A stone arched entrance to the Beyt Bouss village
You can enter some of the stone houses; local kids will tell you which one is safe enough to climb in. The remains of the kitchens and storage rooms are well seen. Another approach to Beyt Bouss village is to walk from new Beyt Bouss area up to the castle. The easiest is to first come to Beyt Bouss cemetery and then head further. Maybe ask the local boys and they will happily show you the way up. You will walk along the small stony path, between the cactus trees and in 5-10 min will arrive to the top.
At Eternal Yemen, tour operator, we can organize a trip to Beyt Bouss at any moment. The excursion can be combined with other activities, such as trekking, having traditional lunch or visiting other attractions like the new mosque etc. Contact us for all the informations !