Genesis 12:3 ” I will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel; and through Israel will be blessed all the families (nations) of the earth.
The Israelite Tribal Warriors of G-d: With no denial of G-d given ruaH ha-kodesh–the Shechinah granted to special Jewish men of valor-there is an actual warrior art that lies behind the story of two teenagers, the sons of Jacob, who single-handed waged war against an entire Canaanite city, slaying all their men. At the end of their sojourn in Egypt, their descendants, the Israelites emerge from the darkest, most difficult hour of their slavery as an armed force of 600,000 foot soldier’s; men, women and children were given ruaH ha-kodesh– the Shechinah. Divinely inspired martial arts were something the Israelites had maintained in Egypt and throughout the ancient times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Israelite shepherd’s staff is in deed known as a most lethal weapon charged with Ani Ma’amin.
Historical accounts abound with Joshua and the Israelites entering the Promised Land. In addition the accounts of Shamgar ben `Anath, with nothing but a simple cattle goad, would slay 600 enemies. Samson, with only the jaw-bone of a donkey in hand, slew 1000 Philistine men. And the young teenage David, the shepherd son in his family, would slay 200 Philistines for the hand of King Saul’s daughter. References to the incredible bravery and military prowess of Jewish war heroes do not end with these biblical accounts. From the Maccabees, they continue down to the Roman era in the Jerusalem Talmud recalling the feats of the men chosen for Bar Kokhba’s army, and the account by Josephus of Jews fending off the Romans with their bare hands. From there they continue in the writings of Shmuel haNaggid, at once the greatest Torah authority of his generation and commander of the armies of Granada.
Consider the oral tradition of the Jewish People such as the unique conditions at the Mishkan (tabernacle) at Shiloh (see Mishnah ZevaHim, Ch.14 from “ba’u le-Shiloh”). These were committed to writing only 1,200 years after Shiloh was destroyed and abandoned, and the same laws hadn’t applied since the First Temple was erected! Although the site was unknown and covered over for centuries by the time the Mishnah was written down, it has been uncovered by archaeologists recently for all to visit. Any visitor to the uncovered ruins of the tabernacle at Shiloh today can see the countless shards of smashed pottery along the perimeter of the surrounding valley, where the ancients would smash their clay vessels after eating of the holy offerings. Although this hadn’t been practiced in the 1,200 years since Shiloh was destroyed, the memory was maintained orally all that time, until it was committed to writing.
Maccabees: The Maccabees (Makabim) were a Jewish national liberation movement that fought for and won independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, who was succeeded by his infant son Antiochus V Eupator. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal dynasty and established Jewish independence in the Land of Israel for about one hundred years, from 164 BCE to 63 BCE.
From the First Temple, there are several legends that place Israelite soldiers settling in Arabia forty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple. It is said that under the prophet Jeremiah some 75,000 Israelites, including priests and Levites, traveled to Yemen. The Jews of southern Yemen have a legend that they are the descendants of Judeans who settled in the area before the destruction of the Second Temple. These Judeans supposedly belonged to a brigade dispatched by King Herod to assist the Roman legions fighting in the region. Unlike the Jews of northern Yemen the Habbani Jews wore a Jambiyya or curved knife, Matznaph (turban) and Avne`t (sash). It was also common for sultans in Arabia to use Habbani Jews as soldiers in their armies or as personal guards. Habbani Jews sometimes served as mercenaries; Abdullah I of Jordan, who preferred Circassian and other non-Arab bodyguards, had a number of Habbani Jewish guardsmen, including Sayeed Sofer and his brothers Salaah and Saadia.
Mountain Jews of Daghestan: The Song of the Mountain Jews – And we, the Tats. We, Samson warriors, Bar Kochba’s heirs…we went into battles and bitterly, heroically struggled for our freedom. The Jews of Daghestan lived isolated in one of the most remote, impenetrable areas in the world for many centuries. They have been historically known for their fierce and war-like nature and expert horsemanship. In dress and custom they were hardly distinguishable from other Caucasian fighting people in the region. They wore the Circassian dress and always were heavily armed, even sleeping without having removed their weapons. The Mountain Jews may be descendants of Persian-Jewish soldiers who were stationed in the Caucasus by the Sasanian kings in the fifth or sixth century to protect the area from the onslaughts of the Huns and other nomadic invaders from the east. Under the impact of the invading Turkish hordes, later generations of Jewish inhabitants of the Caucasian lowlands were forced to migrate even further north to Daghestan. Though they are considered dhimmi by their surrounding Muslim population, the Mountain Jews owned land and were known to be fierce, not hesitating to defend, by sword or the rifle, their family, religion, or personal dignity. They differ from their Christian and Mohammedan neighbors in speech, using the Tat language, which is a combination of Persian and Hebrew. Their writing is a mixture of square characters and Rashi.
Samuel ibn ‘Adiya Arabian warrior poet: Poet and warrior; lived in Arabia in the first half of the 6th century CE. His mother was of the royal tribe of Ghassan, while his father, according to some, was descended from Aaron, or, according to others, from Kahin, son of Harun and progenitor of the Jewish tribes of Kuraitza and Nathir. Samuel owned a castle near Taima (eight hours north of Medina), built by his grandfather ‘Adiya and called, from its mixed color, Al-Ablak. It was situated on a high hill and was a halting-place for travelers to and from Syria. More than for his poetic talents Samuel ibn ‘Adiya is famous for his connection with the warrior-poet and prince Amru al-Kais, which won for him the epithet “faithful”, and gave rise to the saying, still common among the Arabs, “more faithful than Samuel.” Samuel ibn ‘Adiya’s reputation as a poet rests upon one of the first poems in the collection called the “Hamasa.” It is full of warlike vigor and courage, and manifests a high ideal of honor.
The Jewish Warriors and Asian Oriental Marital Arts: There are many theories surrounding when Jews first settled in China. Despite trading in China since at least the 9th century, many modern scholars “unanimously” believe an actual community was founded in Kaifeng City, Henan province during the early years of the Northern Song Dynasty. However, one of the three stelae (stone edicts) left by the community claims “they entered and settled in China during the Han Dynasty”, almost 800 years earlier. The stele dating 1489 states that Song Dynasty founder Emperor Taizu (mistakenly referred to as Ming Taizu) went on military campaigns to “pacify the Under Heaven” during the early years of his reign. When the armies successfully gained control of China and solidified the power of the Song Dynasty, Emperor Taizu bestowed the “sinicized” Jewish soldiers with land “to settle and enjoy their occupation in the villages”. Jewish soldiers continued to serve in the Chinese military through the Southern Song Dynasty.
The stele dating 1512 states “those who subdued the enemy and resisted aggression and were ‘boundlessly loyal to the country’” were successful in their endeavors. The term “boundlessly loyal to the country” refers to the famous tattoo on the back of General Yue Fei, a noted patriot and martyr. So the loyalty of the Jewish soldiers was compared to that of Yue Fei. The same source even claims that “Israelites” served in Yue Fei’s armies and helped to combat the Jurchen armies invading China during that time. Modern scholars that translate the 1489 stele mention how a physician named Ancheng received a sizable amount of money from “Prince Ding of Zhou prefecture” to rebuild the community’s destroyed synagogue in 1421. In 1423, Ancheng was given the surname “Chao” by the emperor himself, received the “rank of Military Commissioner in the Embroidered Uniform Guard” and was promoted to “Assistant Military Commissioner of Zhejiang.” However, a journal entry from 1965 formally corrected a translation error that proceeding authors still make today. The physician Ancheng was “apparently a romantic fabrication” and the actual person was “a common soldier named An San, who belonged to the Honan Central Bodyguard Division”. He had warned the Yongle Emperor of a plot against him by Prince Zhou, An’s military commander and benefactor of the Jewish community, and was subsequently promoted (as mentioned above) and given the “properly Chinese name Chao Ch’eng (Chao the Honest), and in due course became a notable leader of the community and ancestor of the principal Jewish clan.”
Jewish defenders during the First Crusade (1099): Jews fought side-by-side Egyptian Fatimad soldiers to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders during the First Crusade. Saint Louis University Professor Thomas Madden, author of A Concise History of the Crusades, claims the “Jewish Defenders” of the city knew the rules of warfare and retreated to their synagogue to “prepare for death” since the Crusaders had breached the outer walls. However, another source states the joint Jewish-Egyptian forces retreated from the walls and made their last stand against the crusaders by the Temple Mount, only then going to their respective houses of worship once they were overpowered. According to the Muslim chronicle of Ibn al-Qalanisi, “The Jews assembled in their synagogue, and the Crusaders burned it over their heads.”
Benjamin of Tudela (twelfth century) found an independent Jewish warrior tribe living in the highlands of Khorasan near Nisapur, numbering many thousand families, regarding themselves as descendants of Dan, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali, under a Jewish prince of the name of Joseph Amarkala ha-Levi. Another independent Jewish tribe bent upon warlike expeditions is mentioned by Benjamin as living in the district of Tehama in Yemen. His historical journey to visit far-off Jewish communities was undertaken by from 1165 to 1173 that crossed and tracked some of the areas that are today in the geographic area of Yemen. Tudela’s trek began as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land intended to catalogue the Jewish communities on the route to the Holy Land so as to provide a guide to where hospitality may have been found for Jews traveling to the Holy Land. He took the “long road” stopping frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations and giving a demographic count of Jews in every town and country.
With the same steadfast dedication by which Yemenite Jewry maintained the original pronunciation of Hebrew and scribal traditions, the Habani Yemenites preserved the original martial art of the ancient Hebrew warriors, the Banei Abir. Referred to as “Qesheth”, it is specifically mentioned in Samuel II 1:18, and in the Book of Yashar. Although not understood, by most rabbis of our generation. Israel’s unique warrior prowess is referred to throughout the width and breadth of our literature, from the Bible down the ages to the MaLBiM (19th century).
Jewish soldiers in Spain: Jewish soldiers assisted Childeric in his war against Wamba. The Moors are said to have entrusted to Jews the guardianship of the conquered cities of Spain. Under Alfonso VI of Castile, in 1068, 40,000 Jews fought against Yusuf ibn Teshufin in the battle of Zalaka, with such heroism that the battle-field was covered with their bodies. Under Alfonso VIII of Castile, (1166-1214) there were many warriors among the wealthy and cultured Jews of Toledo that fought bravely against the Moors. Alfonso X., called “the Wise”, had many Jews in his army; and in the capture of Seville (1298) the Jewish warriors distinguished themselves so highly that, in compensation for their services, Alfonso allotted to them certain lands for the formation of a Jewish village. He also transferred to them three mosques which they turned into synagogues.
The cruel fanaticism of the Moors had alienated the Jews, who were now won over to the Christians by the tolerant rule of the latter. Jews fought bravely at the side of Pedro the Cruel in defense of the cities of Toledo, Briviesca, and Burgos, against Henry de Trastamara, his brother, and had to pay for their loyalty to their king either with their lives and the lives of their undefended wives and children, or, as the Jews of Burgos had to do, with a heavy ransom to the relentless victor.
Jews of Tirdirma, Mali: According to a West African Arabic record called the Tarikh el-Fetash, in 1402 in Tiridirma near the Niger River lived a community of Jews known as the Bani Israeel who were said to have seven rulers, 333 wells, and a well trained army. The record suggests that their presence in the area preceded the rise of Islam.
The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army’s 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I, when Britain was at war against the Ottoman Turks, as Zionists around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland. Nili (I Samuel 15:29; transliteration: Netzakh Yisrael Lo Yishaker, literal translation: “The Eternity of Israel does not lie”) was a Jewish espionage network which assisted the United Kingdom in its fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Land of Israel during World War I.
In the early 20th century, Russian Jews were active in a variety of political movements. Many joined revolutionary movements such as Esers, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. Many Jews served in Makhnov’s “Black” Army. Others turned to counter-revolution. The Jewish regiment was an infantry regiment formed in February 1919 during the Russian Civil War 1917-1922 as a part of the forces of ataman Grigory Semyonov which acted in the Trans-baikal region. Most of the soldiers were from Chita and Nerchinsk. The regiment was formed by the Chita Jewish community. The staffers and soldiers of the regiment were Jews from various social classes, from craftsmen to traders’ sons. Some Jews were reluctant to accept the Soviet regime after being eyewitness to the Red Terror, instability, and upsurge of crime of 1918. There were 170 soldiers, 7 sergeants, 4 low rank officers, and 2 captains.. The Jewish regiment took part in many actions against local partisans. The most significant achievement of the regiment was participation in the defeat of the internationalist partisan battalion (150 strong) camped on the northeastern village of Tupik. The partisans, mostly Hungarians, were former prisoners of war (POW) who were sent to the Transbaikal region during World War I.
The Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (ŻZW), Polish for Jewish Military Union was an underground resistance organization operating during World War II in the area of the Warsaw Ghetto and fighting during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It was formed primarily of former officers of the Polish Army in late 1939, soon after the start of the German occupation of Poland. The Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa Polish for Anti-Fascist Military Organization was an underground organization formed in 1942 in the Ghetto in Białystok by former officers of the Polish Land Forces. It took part in the Białystok Ghetto Uprising. The Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ŻOB), Polish for the Jewish Combat Organization; called in Yiddish – a World War II resistance movement, which was instrumental in engineering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (although the ZZW Jewish resistance organization claimed otherwise). The organization also took part in other resistance activities.
The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group was a military formation of the British Army that served in Europe during the Second World War. Although the brigade was formed in 1944, some of its experienced personnel had been employed against the Axis powers in Greece, the Middle East and East Africa. More than 30,000 Middle East Jews volunteered to serve in the British Armed Forces, 734 of whom died during the war. The Special Interrogation Group (SIG) (some sources interpret this acronym as Special Identification Group or Special Intelligence Group) was a British Army unit organized from German-speaking Jewish volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine. The SIG performed commando and sabotage operations against the Nazis behind front lines in the Western Desert Campaign during World War II.
The Jewish Resistance Movement (Tnu’at HaMeri HaIvri, Hebrew Rebellion Movement) was an umbrella group for militant Jewish underground movements in the British Mandate of Palestine. The group existed between the years 1945 and 1946, and coordinated armed attacks against the British military. The group was founded after World War II, disappointed in British policies towards the movement.
The Haganah (The Defense) was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948. The predecessor of Haganah was Ha-Shomer (The Guild of Watchman) established in 1907. It was a small group of Jewish immigrants who guarded settlements for an annual fee. At no time did the group have more than 100 members. After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, the Jewish leadership in Palestine believed that the British (whom the League of Nations had given a mandate over Palestine in 1920 for the purpose of establishing a Jewish national home) had no desire to confront local Arab gangs over their attacks on Palestinian Jews. Realizing that they could not rely on the British administration for protection from these gangs, the Jewish leadership created the Haganah to protect their farms and Kibbutzim. In addition to guarding Jewish communities, the role of the Haganah was to warn the residents of and repel attacks by Palestinian Arabs. In the period 1920–1929; the Haganah lacked a strong central authority or coordination. Haganah “units” were localized and poorly armed: they consisted mainly of Jewish farmers who took turns guarding their farms or their kibbutzim.
Following the Arab massacres of 1929, the Haganah’s role changed dramatically. It became a much larger organization encompassing nearly all the youth and adults in the Jewish settlements, as well as thousands of members from the cities. It also acquired foreign arms and began to develop workshops to create hand grenades and simple military equipment, transforming from an untrained militia to a capable underground army.
The Palmach (Plugot Mahatz, Strike Companies) was the regular fighting force of the Haganah, the unofficial army of the Yishuv (Jewish community) during the British Mandate of Palestine. It was established on May 15, 1941 and by the war of 1948 had grown to three fighting brigades and auxiliary aerial, naval and intelligence units. Being a Palmachnik (Palmach member) was considered not only as performing military duties, but also as a way of life. Significant leaders of the Palmach include Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Sadeh, Yigal Allon and future prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The Palmach contributed significantly to Israeli culture and ethos, well beyond its military contribution. Its members formed the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces high command for many years, and were prominent in Israeli politics, literature and culture.
The Palmach was established by the British military and Haganah on May 15, 1941 to help the British protect Palestine from the Nazi German threat. They were also to assist Allied forces with the planned invasion of Syria and Lebanon, then held by Vichy French forces. British experts trained the Palmach special soldiers and equipped them with small arms and explosives. However, after the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1943, the British ordered the dismantling of Palmach. Instead the whole organization went underground.
Lehi: (Hebrew acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel, “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”) also known as the “Stern Group” or “Stern Gang”, was an armed underground Zionist faction in Mandatory Palestine that had as its goal the eviction of the British from Palestine to allow unrestricted immigration of Jews and the re-formation of a Jewish state. The name of the group became “Lehi” only after the death of its founder, Avraham Stern.
Irgun: (Ha’Irgun Ha’Tsvai Ha’Leumi B’Eretz Yisrael, “National Military Organization in the Land of Israel”) was a clandestine Zionist group that operated in Palestine from 1931 to 1948, as a militant offshoot of the earlier and larger Haganah (Hebrew: “The Defense”) Jewish paramilitary organization. In Israel, Irgun is commonly referred to as Etzel, an acronym of the Hebrew initials. For secrecy reasons, people often referred to the Irgun, in the time in which it operated, as Haganah Bet (Hebrew: literally “Defense ‘B’ ” or “Second Defense”), Haganah Ha’leumit or Ha’ma’amad. The group made attacks against Arab and Palestinian groups a central part of their initial efforts. It was armed expression of the nascent ideology of Revisionist Zionism, expressed by Ze’ev Jabotinsky as that “every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arabs and the British; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state”. The organization was a political predecessor movement to Israel’s right-wing Herut (or “Freedom”) party, which led to today’s Likud party.
The most well-known attack by Irgun was the bombing of King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946. British authorities condemned Irgun as terrorists already in the 1930s. However, Irgun also had considerable support within the Zionist movement.
Israeli Security Forces: Israeli Security Forces is used to describe a group of organizations which are charged with the preservation of Israel’s territory and civilian public. The organizations are independent but cooperate with each other, some are volunteers, some are professional, and others are both. The list includes military institutions, government agencies, law enforcement organizations, and first aid organizations: Israel Police; Israel Border Police; Yamam; Civil Guard (Israel). Israeli Intelligence Community: Aman; Mossad; Shabak.
Israel Defense Forces: The (IDF) Tzva HaHagana LeYisrael, “Defense Military of Israel”, commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym, pronounced Tzahal), is the name of Israel’s military forces, comprising the: Israeli Army; Israeli Air Force; Israeli Sea Corps.
Habbani Jews – Ancient and Modern times: In the 16th century, thanks to the advice of a Habbani Jew Suleman the Wise, the Jews received a special quarter of Habban. In 1912 Zionist emissary Shmuel Yavnieli came into contact with Habbani Jews who ransomed him when he was captured and robbed by eight Bedouin in southern Yemen. Yavnieli wrote about the Jews of Habban, describing them in the following way. The Jews in these parts are held in high esteem by everyone in Yemen and Aden. They are said to be courageous, always with their weapons and wild long hair, and the names of their towns are mentioned by the Jews of Yemen with great admiration.
Describing the route followed by most Habbanis who participated in the Israeli airlift, Operation Magic Carpet: The way [to the airfield] was generally in the direction of IHwar. In IHwar they would stay for some time, collecting food, money, and afterwards continue from there to Sheikh `Uthman and `Aden, to the camp Hashid and from there they would wait their turn for the airplane to the Land [of Israel]. The problem was getting to camp Hashid, for they [the locals] wouldn’t always allow entry, and not to everyone. Therefore the first emigrants remained a relatively long time in Sheikh `Uthman. And when the pogrom in `Aden happened, they were in danger.
According to Rabbi Yoseph Maghori-Kohen: The Habbanis were mighty heroes. I heard a lot from elders in my youth about the Habbanis, about their wars, how they would fight ‘according to names’. They would make the shape of the [Hebrew] letters with their hands, and by this they would be victorious. Also the Shar`abim–from the city of Shar`ab–were strong, but not to the same degree as the Habbanis. Once in Yemen there was a wild tribe of murderous Arab warriors that conquered town after town, slaughtering whomever they found. Thus they moved forward from settlement to settlement: killing, destroying–may their names by blotted out–until they approached a city of Jews, 13,000 Jews roughly. Everyone felt hopeless-even the Arabs among them put up their hands, searching for a place to escape. Suddenly ten [Jewish] Habbanis arrived and waged war with them–ten against a thousand–and vanquished all of them. Not even one of those warriors was left alive, and not one of the ten fell. Eyewitnesses Gamar bath Hassan `Adeni, Sa`id bin Yusuf and Sa`id bin Musa Mif`i, who were present and participated at the time of the uprising, and presently live in Salame [Kfar Shalem] recount the might of those Habbani Jewish individuals who fought with bravery and strength, and that they killed a great number of savage Arabs. In truth, the Jews were practically unarmed. Recorded here are actually the very weapons wrenched from the same Arabs who had attacked them, Ma`atuf continues that the only Jew to fall in that battle, was a single Habbani Jew, Hillel Sa`id bin Mansoor bin Sa`id Bireyah, who was hit by rifle fire from afar by one of the Arab conscripts to the British army. (Arming the local savage tribes with firearms was one strategy of British appeasement at the time.)
The story is as follows: A wild, vicious Arab tribe was plundering the Hadramaut region, destroying town after town, massacring the inhabitants. They came upon a town full of Jews, about 13,000. Even the Arabs among them threw up their hands, in total despair. Suddenly 10 Jewish Habbani warriors came on the scene, and waged war on their behalf, against the force of 1,000 bloodthirsty marauders. When they were finished, every last Arab marauder was dead, and not one of their own. The elder rabbi even went on to describe the deadly harpoon-like weapon the Habbanis used. Though isolated, the Jews of Habban did maintain some level of contact with other Yemenite Jewish communities though such contact was infrequent and usually resulted in disputes over some point of Jewish law.
While complete details in the Biblical account of a system of fighting forms are not extant, the Midrashic, Talmudic, and Rabbinic accounts testify to fighting and combat strategies used by the ancient Israelites as well as legendary depictions of Israelite combatants. In Yemen this was known by tradition to be the most ancient nussaH in the region from the original Hebrew arrivals to Yemen during the reigns of King David and Solomon. On the surface, it is an ancient discipline of deadly combat techniques based on the both Paleo-Hebrew and Ashurith-Hebrew [the common square font] alphabets, and organized into tribal sets according to their various methods and approaches.
Abir techniques carry a spiritual power that must be seen (and felt) to be believed. Beyond its fighting application, Abir is also meditative discipline that can bring the warrior to perfect joy and nullification of the ego: humility that enables the warrior to become a conduit of G-d’s Will (in Hebrew, “Sinor” [conduit] and “RaSon” [Divine Will] are of the same letters). The tradition also includes the tribal dances of the Hebrews, such as King David danced before the Ark. Habbanis say, “many die sanctifying G-d’s Name, but the Abir lives sanctifying His Name.”
In Yemen, it is generally well-known that in this isolated region, Jews preserved Torah learning traditions that were long lost elsewhere, such as authentic Hebrew pronunciation and the original scribal traditions for preparing animal hides for ritual items prescribed by Torah law. Many elder Yemenite Jews are aware of how the Habbanis alone, among the various Jewish communities in Yemen, which flourished in the region long before the rise of Islam; lived a life of freedom, never allowing themselves to be subjugated to “dhimmi” status–the demeaning second-class rank of non-Muslims. Unlike the men of the Baladi and Shammi communities who were under the ban, the Habbanis proudly wore full turbans, rode on horseback as expert horsemen, and wore their weapons openly. The Arabs feared them.
The freedom of the Habbanim, was maintained by a legacy of unmatched warriorship. It was a tradition preserved from time immemorial which their freedom and very survival depended upon. It was this mightiest of Abir warrior chiefs who caused the Al Wahidi and Aleewa sheikhdoms, the two largest warring tribes of Southern Arabia, to put down their weapons against one another, coming under his authority as their protector and advisor. This thwarted a plan to massacre all the Jews of Habban and greater Yemen.
An anthropological Master’s thesis on the community by Ma`atuf Sa`adia bin YiS’Haq of blessed memory from the town of Bareqeth documents: Habbani Jewry [of Hatzarmavet] in the Last Generations); of the Jewish history at the Bar Ilan University was completed. Sa`adia published his historical and anthropological research on Habbani Jewry in 1987, providing testimony to the Arab pogroms against the community as they prepared for their emigration to Israel at the beginning of the state. The Israelite warrior discipline was preserved in its purity by one family, the Sofer-Ma`atuf DoH family.
They have maintained a presence both in Yemen and Hevron from time immemorial. The patriarch, Brihim bin Hassan (Avraham ben Hoshen, est. 5621-5731) was representative of the Jewish communities of Yemen to the king. Moreover, Ma`atuf Sa`adiah bin YiS’Haq of blessed memory, in his aforementioned work, Brihim “turned into the highest religious-halakhic authority in his time”. His own father, YiS’Haq bin Salem of blessed memory remembered the great mori-chief in vivid detail, although being just a child at the time. According to the family’s rich oral tradition, he was the scion of a long dynasty of Israelite warrior clan heads stretching back to the times of King David: He was the 49th “Aluf Abir”, a title passed down from grandfather to a chosen grandson: the inheritor of the full Abir warrior heritage. (The other children were also trained, but not in the full range of this vast martial tradition.) Before circumstances forced him to escape the region to join his kin in Israel, he was protector of the British military brass in Hadramaut before Yemen’s independence. A number of his esteemed sons and brothers became personal guards to Arab kings of the region. This included Abdullah ibn Hussein of Jordan the royal house of Ibn Sa’ud, and the sheikh of the Al Khuwaiti tribe (Oman)-the most feared and powerful sheikhdom in Southern Arabia at the close of the British colonial period. The Jewish Habbani chief passed the hierarchy to his grandson Yehoshua Avner.
Under his grandfather and father’s wing, Yehoshua Sofer mastered the art of his forebears by the age of 25. Having grown up together with the Aluf Abir’s father, Ya`aqov Moshe (Awad bin Brihim) in the same five-storey house, ‘Beith il DoH’ (lit. ‘House of DoH’, i.e. the DoH clan), Awad bin S’leiman has been an indispensable informant for us. Out of numerous unique characteristics of Abir that stand alone among the warrior arts, five are as follows:
- The curved, bow-like motion of all arm and leg movements (hence the name “Qesheth”, meaning “bow”). This is especially noticeable in the leg strikes, which are circular in motion. It is unlike any fighting system that exists.
- The exactly parallel treatment of arms and legs, as opposed to the dichotomous way the upper and lower limbs are viewed in foreign systems.
- The continual, fluid, dance motion in Abir, rooted in a spirit of pure, simple joy and humble surrender of one’s will before G-d. As opposed to the arrogant focusing of one’s own energy, common in other forms, the Abir warrior strives to become a perfect vessel of Divine Will, and a conduit of the energy of Creation.
- A fighting system devised of the distinct shapes of an ancient alphabet. A tradition from time immemorial, the Hebrew warriors fight according to the distinct, sacred shapes of the modern and paleo-Hebrew letters. No other system is comprised of anything like it.
- A received tradition from the Abir’s ancestors through the ages is a repeated cry of praise to G-d that punctuates our workout: “Adonenu, Bor’enu, YoSrenu, Roph’enu!” (Translation: “our Master, our Creator, our Maker, our Healer!”) These and other Hebrew call-and-response cries between the Abir trainer and warriors-in-training are entirely unique in the world.
Abir of importance is an element of the practice of Torah Judaism, one must be torah observant. It incorporates a keen awareness of Divine Providence; and how we must depend on HaShem for our bodily condition and the circumstances; since it is more than a fighting system; it is a spiritual way of life. It also involves desert training with expertise in horsemanship and more! Abir is an investment in the physical and spiritual health of the Jewish People, bringing Jews from every background the opportunity to train in one of the most effective martial arts on earth, which reclaims their heritage and G-d’s Commandments. For more info, visit the Abir Warrior Arts web site in Israel.