Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is Yemen losing its last Jews?

With less than 300 left, Yemen’s head rabbi urges Yemen’s last Jews not to abandon their troubled country completely.

Annasofie Flamand

August 30, 2011 As the uprising in Yemen continues and clashes between government forces and militants in the south show no sign of abating, some Yemeni Jews are considering fleeing the violence.

According to the Yemen Post twelve Jews have already left the country and according to the paper eight more are planning to leave shortly fearing “they could be a target in a lawless state.”

While the numbers of Jews that have left or are considering leaving are relatively small, the overall remaining Jewish community in Yemen has shrunk from around 60,000 in the 1940s to around only 300 people today.

Head Rabbi of the Jewish community in Yemen, Yahya Yousef, told GlobalPost that Jews in Yemen do not face any problems or specific threats to their lives. “We are not afraid of any threats,” he said. “We do not get threatened. Yemenis respect us. We have no fears from being attacked by Yemenis. They are our brothers.”

However, while the Rabbi plays down any potential risks, there have been attacks on Yemen’s Jews in the past. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered extra security be given to Jews after an attack on a Jew in 2009 and offered all the country’s Jews free accommodation in the capital Sanaa.

When the Jewish state of Israel was founded a large wave of around 50,000 Jews fled Yemen between 1947-50 in Operation Magic Carpet after Arab Muslim rioters attacked Jews in Aden killing 82 Jews and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

While the government under Saleh has been careful in dealing with the Jewish community, tens of Jews have left Yemen in the past two years leaving only a few hundred Jews in Yemen.

According to Rabbi Yousef the latest exodus of Jews left Yemen illegally. We are against such actions by the Jews who left Yemen," he said.

The 12 Jews who recently left Yemen had been planning to go to London, but are still in Egypt where they are having problems with their papers, according to Yemen Post.

Rabbi Yousef said Yemen’s Jews belong in Yemen. “The Yemeni government has treated Yemeni Jews with love and care. We are safe and we do not consider ourselves different from any other Yemenis. We live in peace and love our country,” he said.

“We are not involved in the Arab Spring or any political matters. We prefer to live far from politics and have been doing so for a long time. We are Yemeni and all the rights given to Yemenis are also given to us.”

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