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Ḥayyim Hibshūsh

HIBSHŪSH, ḤAYYIM, an erudite coppersmith of *San'ā (d. 1899), one of the first modern intellectuals of the Jewish community of *Yemen. His activity was communal as well as scholarly. In his public work he was the main partner of his younger colleague, R. Yiḥye Qāfih, in acting for the improvement of the education system of the Jews of Yemen and for the reshaping of their socio-economic structure. Together they sent letters to European Jewish welfare organizations asking them to send modern teachers to Yemen. Hibshūsh was the first Yemenite-Jewish writer who decided to compose a history of his community based on written, authorized sources, including many Muslim-Arabic works, and not just oral traditions as was the case with R. Yiḥye Ṣāliḥ in Megillat Teman. In this work he was followed by other San'ānī Jewish scholars such as R. Shalom Qoraḥ and R. 'Amram Qoraḥ. But his fame among western researchers stems from his Judeo-Arabic book Mas'ot Hibshūsh, in which – responding to the request of Eduard *Glaser – he depicted his travels in 1870 to the northern and northeastern regions of Yemen, including rich and sometimes unparalleled information about the Jewish communities in those areas. In fact, he was chosen – owing to his erudition and his profession as a coppersmith – to accompany the Jewish-French Orientalist Joseph *Halévy in quest of Sabaean inscriptions. The main reason for writing Mas'ot Hibshūsh was probably that both Hibshūsh and Glaser were not content with the fact that Halévy, in his long and detailed reports about his travels in Yemen, completely ignored his Ṣan'ānī guide. In this work, Hibshūsh claims that it was actually he who copied for Halévy the hundreds of Sabaean inscriptions. Hibshūsh's Travels was edited by S.D. *Goitein from manuscripts, first published in Hebrew translation (1939) and then in its Judeo-Arabic original with an English abridged translation (1941). Hibshūsh's significant contribution to knowledge of ancient and modern Yemen is universally acknowledged, as attested by the Italian, French, and Arabic translations of his Travels, recently published.


Hayyim Habshush, Travels in Yemen, ed. S.D. Goitein, (1941); Yémenrécit traduit de l'arabe yéménite, présenté par S. Naïm-Sanbar (1955); Y. Tobi, Iyyunim bi-Mgillat Teman (1986).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.