MANĀKHAH, city in *Yemen amid the high mountains of Ḥarāz (2200 m), 90 km S.W. of *San'a, on the way to *Ḥudaydah. Manākhah was a prominent commercial center and Jews from the surrounding villages would gather together on the weekly market day there, when the local Jews would also abandon their workshops and engage in trading. The Jewish community of Manākhah, one of the largest in Yemen, actually started to gain importance and size in the 1850s through Jews who had fled from *Sanʿa owing to the worsening political situation, which explains the fact that the way of life in Manākhah was the same as in Sanʿa. In the last generation it numbered 600 Jews. It was also the richest Jewish community in Yemen, excluding *Aden. Many of the Jews were businessmen, in import and export; some of them monopolized the coffee trade and even owned land. Nevertheless, they were careful to maintain an external appearance of abject poverty, and their poor houses had the appearance of prisons. In this way the local Jews could maintain good relations with the Muslims. Others were craftsmen: gold- and silversmiths, ironsmiths, carpenters, and tanners. The Jews lived in their separate walled-off neighborhood and had three synagogues. There was a local three-judge bet din, serving as a spiritual center for the Jewish population of nearby and far-off towns and villages, such as Muḍmār, Jirwāḥ, and Hawzān. The authority of the temporal leader ('āqil), appointed and paid by the Muslim government, was usually stronger than that of the chief rabbi. Some of the local Jewish families took part in the smuggling of Jewish orphans from Sanʿa to the Holy Land.
J. Saphir, Even Sappir (1886), 70; K. Rathjens and H. Wissmann, Landeskundliche Ergebnisse (1934), 67–73; Y. Tobi, "The Jewish Community in Yemen," in: Y. Tobi, Moreshet Yehudei Teiman (1977), 69–72.
[Yosef Tobi (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.