Signed, Sealed, Delivered? Sa’adia Kobashi

Our deep dive into Israel’s Declaration of Independence continues with a rabbi, educator and the lone representative of Yemenite Jewry among the signatories

Sa'adia Kobashi (Courtesy of Michael Cohen)
Sa'adia Kobashi (Courtesy of Michael Cohen)

Sa’adia Kobashi was born in the small village of Khubesh, Yemen, in 1902. During Passover of 1909 his father Yihye, who was the village leader, hosted a meeting to discuss the idea of moving to the Land of Israel. Though the inhabitants of the village (most of whom were silver- and copper-smiths) lived in peace with their Muslim neighbors and were financially comfortable, they were determined to fulfill their dream, and decided to begin the journey to Zion the day after Shavuot.

And indeed, seven weeks after that meeting, they set out and – led by a Muslim guide – made their way to the coast of the Red Sea by foot, donkey and camel. In Midi, they boarded a sailboat, at Metzawa they changed to a steamboat to Port Said, and finally arrived in Jaffa in mid-summer.

Once in the Land of Israel, the group walked to Jerusalem, and seven-year-old Sa’adia began attending religious schools. He ultimately became a teacher, a principal, one of the leaders of the Yemenite community in Israel and its representative on Moetzet HaAm, the Provisional State Council.

Stuck in besieged Jerusalem, Kobashi was unable to attend the Declaration ceremony itself, and added his signature to the scroll during the first ceasefire, a month later.

He and his wife Malka had three children, and his son Avinoam, who is himself ninety-one, recalls that his father wore a jacket, tie, and hat every single day of his life.

Sa’adia Kobashi was a modest man, who preferred education to politics, and religion to public affairs. He died in relative obscurity in 1990, at the age of 87.

The end song is HaMori (lyrics and music – Shlomo Machdon), performed by Daklon (Joseph Levy) (Licensed by Israel Story through Acum).

About Israel Story: Israel Story is the award-winning podcast that tells extraordinary tales about ordinary Israelis. Often called “the Israeli ‘This American Life,’” we bring you quirky, unpredictable, interesting and moving stories about a place we all think we know a lot about, but really don’t. Produced in partnership with The Times of Israel.

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