At a festival in Israel last month, the stories were told of rare Torah scrolls salvaged from the diaspora and transported to Israel, sometimes at great personal risk. Here are the stories of two scrolls from Yemen. Ynet News reports:
Amos Rachamim, a youth instructor and a truant officer, related during the festival the story of two Torah scrolls of the Yemeni Jewry – one of them 400-year-old, which includes detailed explanations on growing medicinal herbs, inspired by Maimonides' writings.
Many read the scroll, which was passed from generation to generation, and sought advice on daily problems.
Rachamim also revealed the story of the "al-Manzali" Torah scroll, written by Yehia Jamil – one of Yemen's greatest religious judges – about 300 years ago. The Muslims were the ones who guarded it until the Jews returned from exile.*
Jamil lived 30 kilometers from Sana'a and was recognized by Jews and Muslims as a saint. According to tradition, he wrote the Torah scroll with half of his body immersed in a ritual bath.
The scroll was passed from generation to generation until it reached Israel, at the Ein Shemer transit camp which took in many Yemeni Jews. Today it can be found at the synagogue in Moshav Naham.
*In 1630, the Zaydis took over Yemen from the Turks. In 1679 part of the Jewish community of central Yemen was expelled to Mawza, on the southern shore of the Red Sea. Many exiles died there from disease and starvation.The community was allowed back a year later for economic reasons.