Thursday, December 31, 2009

In 2009, Yemen's Jewish community fizzled out

Jewish children in Sana'a. From Josh Berer's blog

2009 will be remembered as the year when the Jewish community of Yemen came to an end. Now that Yemen has become a battlefield between Saudi and Iranian-backed forces and that the 'underpants' airliner bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is said to have been radicalised by al-Qaeda there, Yemen is no place for Jews. A steady stream of Jews is quietly making its way from Yemen to Israel and the US: although this article in the Yemen Observer hesitates to put a figure on the emigration trend, most probably fewer than 300 remain. A pocket of some 70 are nevertheless determined to remain in the capital, Sana'a.

"Leaders of the Jewish Community in Yemen have publicly stated that the population of the remaining community does not exceed 370, with continued decline a certitude. Another Jewish citizen, Yahya Saeed, sighed, "We are less than that."

"Israel, as well as other American and Jewish Foundations, have organized flights in order to evacuate the remaining Jews from Yemen in recent years, with the underlying assumption that the Jewish community will be threatened if they do not leave. In the past year, a Yemeni Jew was killed on the doorstep of his house, while several other Jewish Yemeni citizens have received threats.

"After the violent uprisings against the Jews in Yemen in the 1940’s, tens of thousands of Yemeni Jews left Yemen, destined for Israel, assisted by internationally organized flights, in an exodus known as Operation Magic Carpet. (...) America Jewish organizations have managed to raise over 750 thousands dollars in order to extricate Yemeni Jews from their country under a program launched by the U.S. Department of State.

"Not all Yemeni Jews feel that the money is well spent. Some would rather see the money spent on the communities themselves, in an effort to restore, beautify and protect the homes of the Jews, rather then detach them from their adored homeland. "If they want to offer help, let them do it by establishing schools and covering the expenses of marriage, not to work removing us," Rabbi Yousif Gaish exclaimed to the BBC. "I hope these free flights will be stopped."

"Some of our more extreme Muslims neighbors do indeed bother us, and often we feel we are not welcome here, but we have no choice. Despite the fact that some foreign organizations urge us to leave, we cannot bear being away from our beloved home. We love Yemen," Yahay Saeed added.

Read article in full

Conversions: This clip in Hebrew on the Jews in Rayda, Yemen, the main community in flight, reveals that Jewish girls were made to marry Muslims and convert to Islam. One Jew says he is the last of his family not to have converted to Islam. The conversions took place about 30 years ago.

As many as 28,000 Jews may have converted to Islam, one Yemenite Jew in Israel claims, although this figure seems preposterously high, given that almost the entire community of 50,000 was airlifted to Israel in 1949 - 50.

Jews of Yemen remain in eye of Al-Qaeda storm (With thanks: bh)

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