A Jewish Cemetery in Aden

July 11, 2008 at 6:58 am 12 comments

A Jewish cemetery in Aden

The following are pictures that were taken in what remains of a Jewish cemetery in the Ma’ala district of Aden, Yemen.

I have never taken any photos of a cemetery before, so I don’t know if doing so is offensive. I’m sorry if it is.

I don’t know much about Aden’s Jewish population, but there was a substantial Jewish minority in Yemen before 1948. Most emigrated to Israel or elsewhere after that, although a few Jewish communities stayed in Yemen, mostly in the north. There was a Jewish community living in tumultuous Sa’ada district, north of Sana’a, until quite recently. But they were pushed out of that area by the Houthi rebels, and relocated to a gated community adjacent to the American Embassy in Sana’a called Tourist City. I saw a few of them there when I was looking for a Russian bar.

The cemetery is situated on a slope, in between two roads, one that goes up and through a mountain ridge, and one that goes towards Ma’ala, along the sea, towards Tawahi, which was the seat of the British occupation. There is a tall brick wall separating the cemetery from the street on the lower side, and a flimsy guard railing separating it from the street on the higher side.

Like many other large, open spaces in Aden, this one is frequented, and seemingly inhabited by homeless men. On the far edge of the cemetery, which borders an area that is in the initial stages of some sort of development, there is a shack made of stones and cardboard. In that shack there are two or three more cushions, a radio, and a bushel of roses. The first time I went to the cemetery, there were a few men resting there. Next to the shack is a stone-enclosed area with a patch of grass (and a few cats).

If you walk from the shack towards the main area of the cemetery, past a deep and dry well, around a corner, you will find a crude two parallel stacks of cinderblocks which are used as a toilet. In between the stacks is a pile of feces. 

I used all caution and respect when walking around the cemetery. I didn’t move anything or in any other way alter the landscape. Most of the cemetery has been reduced to piles of rock, although some graves remain intact. One of the stones in the picture dates back to 1905, so it’s safe to say at least some of the damage has come from neglect. There are also signs of looting and vandalism throughout the cemetery, from stones that were obviously stripped of marble to marble engravings that were clearly smashed or desecrated for symbolic value.

I wrote this and took these pictures not to judge any one or to make a point.

So please don’t assume that these photos or words are meant to promote some socio-religious, politcal, or cultural idea or notion. Like the rest of you, I grew up with ideas and assumptions and all the rest. But I have tried my best to temper them. I try my best…





















Entry filed under: Photos, Yemen. Tags: , , , .

Cemetery in Blue More Photos from the Jewish Cemetery

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim Rags  |  July 11, 2008 at 7:49 am

    This is really interesting. Question: what does a Muslim cemetery look like? Is it well-kept? Would you, as a non-Muslim, be allowed to visit?

  • 2. Aron Kahn  |  July 12, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for the words and pictures, Ben. You say you saw a few Jews. I look like a guy who could be in a DQ ad or playing background for Buffalo Springfield. Were the Jews you saw the easily identifiable Hassids?

    Take care,


  • 3. personame  |  August 10, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    thats so interesting. I got here thorugh the virtual miracles . my mother is from aden prigins. and I do wonder about t hat cemetery, did you bump into names ? Sagir ? Moses?
    whats den feels lilke today I ca n only wonder and read here

  • 4. Jaan  |  November 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    It is wonderful to see this, I am from a Muslim family but the communists destroied everything, my grandparents bones were burned in 1967. I will travel to Aden on jan.09, I will stop to see this cemetry.

  • 5. dani goldsmith  |  March 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    dear ben
    It was interesting and fascinating to read your words and seeing the photos.
    It is so sad to see the condition of the cemetery.
    I am an historian of the Aden Jewish community and part of the Aden organization.
    We all appreciate if you can send me the photos you took in large size.
    Of Corse if you have any more information that will help for the memorial of the community.
    As for what you wrote, there is no harm by taking photos of tombs and the only insult is the condition and the unrespectable of the people of Aden to a the dead Jews.

    thank you

    • 6. Barak Marshall  |  January 2, 2011 at 3:47 am

      Hi Dani,

      My mother was born in Aden, her name is Margalit Oved and she was a dancer with the Inbal Company in Israel. I am very interested in finding out more about Adenite history. Does your Aden Organization have a website? My email address is barakmarshall@gmail.com

    • 7. M  |  June 6, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Dear Dani
      I am half Adeni and I would like to find out as much as I can about the Jewish district in Crater and even where my family lived if possible.
      Many thanks

  • 8. Dr. Aviva Klein-Franke  |  March 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

    It is very sad to see these photos. The situation became worsend each year more.

    The Yemenite government can do something to save the cemetery. A fance and a gate which should be kept closed could help. The best will be if the cemetery would be under the supervision of the antiquity department of Aden.
    The Adanese Jews who are living in GB can also apply to the British Government on behalf of the holy place for their Jews.The British are doing it for the British cemeteries around the world and in the Arab lands as well. These cemetries are kept in best condition. there is a guard and the gates are closed for the night.
    I am documented the Jewish Cemetery at Aden in the last 8 years and got photos from graveyards and epitaphs which are now demolished. I am engaged with the history of the Yemenite and Adanese Jews and worte about their history in the 19th century and about the ancient Hebrew epitaphs of Aden (800 years old!). These epitaphs are also neglected and bad preserved in an open courtyard instead to be kept in a museum.
    It is good that such photos are shown to the public.

  • 9. Lord von Staubing  |  August 19, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Disgusting. The Yemeni government should level this graveyard (looting any artifacts found) and build a “Museum of Tolerance” on it just like the Simon Weasle-thal Center is doing in Zionist Occupied Palestine.

    • 10. M  |  June 6, 2013 at 2:27 am

      And what about the remains of loved ones in the ground?
      What happens to them?

  • 11. Guy  |  August 31, 2013 at 5:58 am

    We we would like to display some of your photos in our museum. Please contact me.
    Thank you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Flickr Photos

%d bloggers like this: