By: Joseph Jacobs
Port in western Arabia on the shores of the Red Sea, near the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb; a British possession since 1839. In 1891 its population was 41,910. In 1881 there were in Aden 2,121 Jews, including 125 Beni Israel from Bombay. More recently the Jewish community has received an accession of 250 families from Yemen. Their occupations are those of matand reed-workers, masons, porters, bookbinders, money-changers, and jewelers; while the bumboatmen, also, who serve the mail-packets that stop at Aden, are mainly Jews. The trade in ostrich feathers is entirely in the hands of Jews. Their dress consists of kilt, shirt, arba' kanfot, waistcoat, and gabardine; and during prayer they wear over the head a ṭallit known as mandil (the Arabic word for handkerchief or shawl), with green silk corners, two of which are held in each hand. They use this also to carry home vegetables, etc., from market. The Jewesses wear trousers and shirt, and a sort of wig known as a masr; also a veil like the Moslem women. The Jews shave the head, except the peot (side-locks), every Friday. Their food is vegetables and fish; but they are said to be much addicted to date wine prepared by themselves.
There appears to be some trace of animal sacrifice among them, possibly borrowed from the neighboring Arabs. When a child is born, a goat is slaughtered and placed under the bed of the mother. On the first day of marriage a heifer is slaughtered; but in this latter case it may be rather for purposes of hospitality.
It is not known when Jews first settled in Aden, which in antiquity was an important mart, and continued so as late as Marco Polo (1254-1324). Some of the earlier rabbis are known as "Adeni," which would imply a congregation of some size. Aden has become important since the British occupation in 1839, at which date the Jews numbered but 250.
- Hunter, Statistical Account of the British Settlement of Aden, pp. 26, 45, 47, 52, London, 1877;
- Baines, Results in the Presidency of Bombay, 1881, ii. 6;
- Univ. Isr. 1900, pp. 498 et seq., 535;
- Saphir, Eben Saifir, part ii. ch. xi.;
- Anglo-Jewish Association, Annual Reports, 1875, 1876.