Monday, May 14, 2007

Persecuted Yemen Jews still hope to go home

Reuters revisits the 45 Yemeni Jews forced to flee their village by Shi'ite rebels in January. They still hope to return home, Lin Noueihed reports:

SANAA, May 8 (Reuters) - Dawood Suleiman, a Yemeni Jew, felt something had changed in his village when someone threw a stone at him in the street. Soon after, the Jews of Al Salem received a threat from a local Shi'ite rebel group warning them to leave.

Evacuated by the government to the northern regional capital of Saada, before being moved by helicopter to Sanaa, the Jews from the remote Al Salem village have been living in the capital for around three months under the protection of the authorities.

They number around 45 men, women and children, unexpected victims of tension between followers loyal to Shi'ite rebel leader Abdul-Malik Houthi and the government, which has since escalated into violence.

The government accuses Houthis who follow the Zaidi doctrine, a branch of Shi'ite Islam, of seeking to reinstall the Islamic Imamate which was overthrown in 1962.

"The Houthis came and warned us to leave our village. We said why? They said no Jew would be allowed to stay here," said Suleiman, 28. "We told the government and they said to stay in Saada ... Then they moved us here and gave us money and food."(...)

"This is the first time we have had any problems," said Suleiman Moussa al-Marhabi, whose grandparents refused to leave following anti-Jewish riots in 1948. "My family did not go to Israel with the others because they consider themselves Yemeni."

Marhabi gave Reuters a copy of a handwritten threat he said they had received. The letter, dated Jan. 10, accuses the Jews of working for Israel and corrupting the morals of Muslims.

"We warn you to leave the area immediately ... ignore this message, and we give you a period of 10 days, and you will regret it," reads the letter, signed by Saad Khudhair, who describes himself as a Houthi representative.

Some locals have said the Jews were threatened because they had been selling wine to local Muslims, whose religion bans the consumption of alcohol. The Jews deny those accusations.

"It is not true. We were there for generations. This is just an effort by some people to stoke hatreds," Suleiman said.

Suleiman said he went to Israel but left after three months.

"I went to Israel but I did not feel comfortable so I came back to Yemen," he said. "They are all Zionists there. There is a difference between being a Zionist and being a Jew..."(...)

Though the government of Yemen has provided the Jews of Al Salem with housing, food and spending money, they say they would like to go back to their village as soon as it is safe.

"We hope things calm down and we can return to our homes," Marhabi said. "I was born in Yemen and I will die in Yemen."

Read article in full

No comments: