Israel Yeshayahu – Sharabi of blessed memory


Israel Yeshayahu was born in Sada, Yemen, on May 2, 1911. His father was Ya’ish (Yeshayahu) and his mother Sham’a (Shoshana), daughter of Yihia Haddad.

He received a traditional education in a HEDER in the town of Sada in Yemen, and continued his studies in the YESHIVA of Rabbi Elkapah, founder of the “DOR DEA” movement in Sanaa where he was active for the entire time he lived in Yemen.

While in Yemen he worked as a weaver.

His first Zionist activity was to smuggle orphans from Yemen to Eretz-Israel and thus, he himself was exempt from the fate of poverty, anguish and humiliation of the dark days of exile in Yemen.

In 1929 he made Aliyah to Israel, worked as a farmer in the Rishon Le’zion citrus orchards and as a guard in its vineyards.

Between the years 1932 – 1934 he served as the Secretary General of the “Ezrat Achim” (Assistance to our Brethren) association in Tel-Aviv.

Between the years 1934 – 1935 - Secretary General of the Yemenite Workers Union.

From 1936 onwards – Director of The Department for People of Sephardi and Yemenite Origin on the Executive Board of the HISTADRUT.

In 1935 he married Rina, daughter of Yossef Badihi.

Member of MAPAI (later – Labor Party) and member of its board.

Elected as a delegate of The Party for the 20th and 21st Zionist Congresses; As delegate in the fourth General Assembly and as Deputy in The National Board.

Member of The Tel-Aviv Workers’ Council and The Workers’ Loan Fund.

Member of The Zionist General Council; Elected successively to all committees  and councils of The HISTADRUT.

Throughout the years, active in The Yemenite Committee and member of the Executive Board of Yemenite Association in Israel.

Headed the Department for People of Yemenite Origin in MAPAI.

Participated in organizing the construction of “The Shacks Neighborhood” for new Olim in Rishon Le’zion (1931) and in founding “The Yemenite Workers Union” (1935), The “Moledet” and “AM” neighborhoods (1932 – 1936), Moshav “GEULIM” (1947), and The Yemenite Olim neighborhood in Kiryat – Binyamin in Haifa.

On the eve of the establishment of The State, Yeshayahu organized, on behalf of “The Haganah”, (together with Yeruham Cohen), a special course for commanders of Eastern origin in order to train them towards special missions in Israel and in the neighboring countries.

After the establishment of The State he was appointed Deliberations Editor of The Temporary State Council, Protocol Editor of The Government and, Secretary of The Constitution Committee.

He, later, served as liaison between The Government and The Knesset.

At that time (1949) he traveled to Aden to organize mass Aliyah from Yemen to Israel and was involved in “The Magic Carpet” Operation and in directing the Olim to work in settlements and in various modern professions.

He also initiated the organization and training of dozens of settlements of Yemenite Olim.

In 1950 he flew to Aden as head of a delegation of Yemenite Jews, to organize the transfer of assets and books of the Jewish Community in Yemen, mainly ancient manuscripts.

Did his utmost to develop young talents and to further their education.

For one year, served as Secretary General of The Labor Party (June 23, 1971 – June 21, 1972).

Served for 26 subsequent years in The Israeli Knesset, from the end of the first Knesset (1949) until the end of the eighth Knesset, 12 years of which, he served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (1955 – 1967),  3 years as Postal Minister (1967 – 1970) and, 5 years as Speaker of the Knesset (1972 – 1977).

Yeshayahu contributed extensively to the formation of Parliamentary conduct in Israel and was considered to be one of the creators of Israeli Democratic patterns.

Chairman of The Knesset Committee in 1952.

Member of various Knesset committees: Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee, Foreign Affairs and Security Committee,  Interior Committee, Education Committee, Religious judges Committee.

Initiator of Law to prohibit raising of pigs and, to the contrary…, a law to establish Religious Councils and elect The Chief Rabbinical Council.

Member of Knesset Delegation to England (July 1960)

Head of Knesset Delegation to Germany (July 1975)

Head of Knesset Delegation to The United States (November 1975)

Guest of Honor of The German Government (June 1978)

Participated in additional delegations to Europe, The United States and Ethiopia.

Member of Rotary, Bnei-Brith, World Hebrew Alliance.

Member of the Public Council for integration of Heritage in Education and Culture,

Organized and executed State, National and World events, inter alia: The World Jewish Bible Conference and the annual Bible conferences of the Society for Biblical Research in Israel, The World Bible Contest for Jewish Youth, Diaspora Jewry, on behalf of The World Jewish Congress, Preparation of national events reflecting the heritage of Yemenite Jewry.

Yeshayahu was a well versed scholar in Jewish studies and a master of an elevated, polished Hebrew language, derived from Jewish sources.

Received a degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from Dropsif College in Philadelphia.

He was constantly engaged in various form of writing.

Published various articles in “Do’ar Hayom”, “Bustenai”, “Ha’aretz”, “Davar”, “Hapoel Ha’tzair”, “Ba’ma’ale”, “Beterem”, “Molad”, Di Goldene Kate”, and in “Sefer Hechalutz” (The Book of The Pioneer), as well as in specialized journalism for Yemenites – “Letzorech Hasha’a”, “Hashomer”, “Uri Teiman”, “Shluchot”.

Published the brochures on “Tribes and Ethnic Groups within The Histadruth” (The Histadruth pamphlets, 1944)

Edited various pamphlets: “Baderech”, “Geulei Teiman” (Culture Center Publication), “Achim”, “Masslul”, (a weekly for Olim, published by The Ministry of Education”) and others.

Edited the brochure of deliberations of The Temporary State Council and its Constitution Committee.

Edited various books, i.e. “Halichot Teiman” (1961)

Published books - “Miteiman Lezion” (“From Yemen to Zion”, 1935, Massada publications), “Sdot Teiman” (“Fields of Yemen”), “Miteiman Lezion” (“From Yemen to Zion”, 1945), “Shevut Teiman” (“The Return from Yemen”, 1965, Massada Publications).

Published a research and study book “Yahadut Teiman (“Yemenite Jewry” with Y. Tubi, Ben Zvi Publications, 1976).

Published a book containing a selection of his articles in the Knesset  “Dvarim Be’itam” (“The Appropriate Words”, 1977) as well as a storybook depicting the life of the Jews of Yemen in exile “Ba’al Hataltalim” (“The Curly one”, 1979).

In 1990 his book “Separated and together” was published, containing, in a nut shell, a collection of articles and contemplations from all the spiritual assets he left behind.

Was known as a collector of ancient manuscripts, photos and various documents depicting the life of Yemenites in Israel and in The Diaspora. 

Yeshayahu passed away on June 20, 1979

Survived by: Avinoam, Na’ama, Gilad.




© Copyright 2007, all rights reserved to the Yeshayahu family