David Shuker, one of the last living Jews from Najran, called on King Salman of Saudi Arabia to allow him to visit his childhood home in southern Saudi Arabia in an interview with Channel 13 published on Friday.
"I'm asking to be allowed to visit my roots and see where my grandparents are buried. I'm interested in visiting the place where I was born and raised. I'm asking for it from a humanitarian point of view," said Shuker, aged 78. "I was born from the dust of Najran. I was created from its soil. I am asking King Salman in every language of request, to give me the opportunity to visit my roots and gain closure."
Shuker is the former council head of Bnei Ayish and the head of the Public Council for the Rescue of the Jews of Yemen. He was born in Najran in southern Saudi Arabia.
"Why can't I visit Saudi Arabia? We didn't fight with them. We don't hate them. The opposite is true. We hate those who are fighting them - the Houthi rebels who are sent by Iran. We also suffer Iran's shipments. This is where I was born. It cannot be denied that Jews lived there."
Saudi Jewry disappearing
While most of Saudi Jewry were exiled or killed during the time of Mohammed and afterwards, a small remnant remained in a number of cities and towns throughout what is now Saudi Arabia.
Najran, Shuker's childhood home, was once part of Yemen but was transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of the Taif Agreement, which ended the Saudi-Yemeni War in 1934. The Jewish community in Najran dated back to pre-Islamic times, but all its members left in 1949 as persecution against Jews increased.
"The Jews lived in Najran long before the Saudi rule. In fact, there is evidence that Jews lived there already 2,000 years ago. They were called Bani Isra'il," explained Shuker. "I was born in a small settlement called Bir Da'an. From a young age my father started teaching me Torah. I remember the city and the experiences mainly from my parents' stories."
According to Shuker, about 60 Jewish families lived in Najran and the surrounding villages.
"We were open Jews. Relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities were very close. They even helped us keep the Sabbath," said Shuker to Channel 13. "They needed us, and despite all that, the authorities treated us as second-class citizens. We paid a skull tax - Jizya. The Jew was not equal to the Muslim."
Shuker lamented that once the State of Israel was established the Saudis become more hostile, even encouraging the Jews in the country to immigrate to Israel. "Their hearts turned upside down because of the Palestinians."
"In 1948, by order of the king, we left Najran and reached the border of Yemen. The Yemeni soldiers received us well. They took care of us and we were under their protection," said Shuker. While he left Najran in 1948, it took until 1951 to arrive in Israel.
In Israel, Shuker established a large family with his wife, Naomi, also from Najran, and became a social activist in the struggle concerning the case of kidnapped Yemenite children.
While there are Jews in Saudi Arabia today, all of them are workers from abroad who hold citizenship in countries who have relations with Saudi Arabia. Israelis without dual citizenship are not allowed to visit Saudi Arabia unless they receive a special visa occasionally given to businessmen.