ṢA'DAH , walled city, capital of north *Yemen. Ṣa'dah was once an iron mining and tanning center and an important station along the Ḥimyar *San'ā-Mecca trade route. Later, Ṣa'dah was chosen as the capital of the Zaydi state and became the center of Zaydi learning in the al-Hādī Mosque. It is still an important institution for education in Zaydism. It is built on a 2,300 m high plateau about 250 km north of San'ā. Evidence for the existence of a Jewish settlement in Ṣa'dah in the first half of the Middle Ages is found in fragments from the Cairo *Genizah. A gaon, whose name is unknown, rebukes Amram b. Johanan of Ṣa'dah for having abandoned the custom of his forefathers by not sending the pledges and contributions from himself and from his town to the yeshivah, sending them instead to another yeshivah. Indeed, many letters from the people of Yemen and Yamāmah to the yeshivah also describe 'Amram's evil deeds. At the end of his iggeret ("letter") the gaon demands that all pledges and contributions be sent immediately to him by way of the sar ("minister") Nethanel in Ṣa'dah. A different document speaks of a Jew from Ṣa'dah who visited Fustat (in 1134) and, when called upon to lead the prayers, added to the kaddish a prayer for the head of the academy in *Egypt. The representative of the Babylonian academy was insulted by this, for according to the usual custom only the head of the Babylonian academy was entitled to this honor. In the 14th century one of the rabbis of Ṣa'dah wrote an allegorical commentary on the Pentateuch. He was severely criticized by the rabbis of San'ā, but the rabbis of Ṣa'dah supported him and rejected the criticism.
According to tradition, when the Zaydi imam conquered Ṣa'dah (c. 1200), he destroyed all synagogues because the Jews sold wine to the Muslims. In general, however, the conditions in northern Yemen were more favorable for the Jews, and the restrictions and ordinances of the Covenant of *Omar were not strictly enforced. For example, the Jews' houses were as high as those of the Muslims, and they were permitted to carry daggers and even live ammunition. There is no definite information, however, about the size of the Jewish population. A. Tabib recounts heavy losses suffered by the Jews of the area in the upheavals of 1906. In addition to their traditional livelihoods, the Jews of Ṣa'dah also engaged in wholesale trading. Prior to the immigration to Israel the community numbered about 60 families (280 souls) with three synagogues; most of the Jews were silversmiths, coppersmiths and cobblers.
B.M. Lewin, in: Ginzei Kedem, 3 (1925), 20–21; S.D. Goitein, in: Sinai, 33 (1953), 225–37; idem, in: Tarbiz, 31 (1961/62), 357–70; idem, in: Harel, Koveẓ Zikkaron la-Rav Refa'el Alsheikh (1962), 133–48; Y. Qāfih, Ketavim (1999), 1. 341–363; idem., in Y. Tobi (ed.), Le-Rosh Yosef (1995), 11–67.
[Yosef Tobi (2nd ed.)]