Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reactions to Yemeni death sentence vary

After an appeals judge overturned the previous verdict and passed a death sentence on the murderer of Moshe Al-Nahari, many Jews are still preparing to leave for the US or Israel, although some say they will stay. The Yemen Times admits that minorities are not well tolerated (with thanks Binhaddou):

"Only a small number of misinformed people are not tolerant of religions other than Islam," says Himyar Abdallah, a traffic police officer in Raida. "Most of us treat the Jews here as we would treat any other fellow citizens, with dignity and respect."

"Reactions over the death sentence vary," he adds. "While many are pessimistic, others are worried of violent reactions, especially after some people tried to attack the judge that passed the verdict."

Many Muslim Yemenis do not differentiate between the Jews in Yemen and the Jews that occupy what has come to be known as Israel. During a performance at a recent graduation ceremony in Sana'a, a theatrical play promoting the unity of Yemen depicted a Jewish soldier as the source of conflict between Aden and Sana'a.

Often when tensions rise in Palestine or even in Iraq, the Jews of Yemen bear the brunt of conflict.

Increasing hostilities have prompted a number of Yemenis Jews to leave the country.

The latest three families, two were from Al-Nahari's family making up a total of 17 people, which arrived in Israel the same day the death sentence was passed.

An estimated 300-400 Jews remain in Yemen, a country where minorities, including the Akhdam, are not very well tolerated.

Although the government boasts support and tolerance to the Jews, it has been slow to fulfill its promise of providing them with safe havens.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has proposed that the 45 Jewish families in the farming communities of Kharif and the nearby town of Raida in Amran governorate are moved 50 miles southeast to Sana'a, where they can be better protected. He has offered them free plots of land to build homes.

Abraham Yahya, leader of the Jewish community in Sana'a says, "I have been to many countries including the US and Canada, but I love my country."

The same day a Yemeni appeals court handed a death sentence to Abdul-Aziz Al-Abdi for shooting dead Masha Al-Nahari in December. "All we want is the execution of Allah's judgment," he says.

Following threats to the Yemenite Jewish community, the umbrella body of North American Jewish Federation's plans to evacuate almost half of Yemen's Jewish community to the US over the next two weeks, according to The Jerusalem Post.

But the Jewish Agency's Aliya Department director Eli Cohen used the opportunity to call on "all the Jews of Yemen to come to Israel and not to anywhere else in the world," a reference to the United States.

Zionism is the ideology behind "aliya," which means the immigration of Jews to the "Land of Israel," not anywhere else in the world.

Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and offers citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world, including Yemen, although it continues to refuse the right of return of the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes during the fighting that saw Israel come into existence in 1948.

Freedom of religion and non-discrimination are fundamental principles to strengthening any society. Misinformed community leaders and mosque preachers, promote hatred towards Jews, unbeknownst to them that they are sowing seeds of hatred and discrimination in Yemeni society.

However, not all perceive the Jewish society in Yemen with the same contempt. Religious tolerance is sometimes evident as in the Muslim Charitable Society for Social Welfare when it provided the less fortunate Yemeni Jews in Amran with clothes and gifts for the celebration of Passover in April.

Read article in full

1 comment:

Shlomo said...

When I lived in Yemen, I found the people to be warm and friendly, particularly if you speak Arabic.

The Yemenis are a fiercely proud people with a rich history. Many outsiders get the idea, principally because of the regular kidnappings and contemporary history of terrorism, that Yemenis are all fanatics. This could not be further from the true: the Yemeni people are very accommodating towards foreigners and like to know about your background, language and why they have the pleasure of your company in their fascinating land.

Yemenis are generally tiny and their children seem to be all the cuter because of this. I spent many hours making a fuss of the children of strangers, enjoying a pipe or two with elderly gentlemen in a cafe or sitting in squares on benches chatting away to my students.

It upsets me to think that, what was once one of the largest communities of Jews in the Middle East, has dwindled to a few hundred observant Jews. Of course, I would respect these Jews' right to migrate to Eretz Yisrael, but I can't help thinking that another piece of authentic Judaic history would be lost forever if they do.

Here's some Ofra Haza: