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Monday, January 22, 2007

Yemenite Jews threatened, flee homes in fear

From Ha'aretz:
Some 45 Jews of Sa'ada county in Yemen left their homes after being threatened by radical Muslims, the Saudi daily Al Wattan reported on Monday.

According to the report, the extremists told the Jews to leave their homes within ten days, after which time they will be exposed to abductions and looting.

The Jews moved into a hotel in the town of Sa'ada, north of the Yemenite capital Sana. A formal complaint was submitted to the Yemenite President Abdullah Salah, the report said.

The threat message - attributed to disciples of Shiite-inclined religious leader Hossein Bader a-Din al-Khouty - said that the Jews are acting in a manner that "primarily serves global Zionism, which is acting persistently to disseminate decay amongst the people and to cut them off from their principles, values, their morals and religion."

The message also said that the threats are based on surveillance conducted on the Jews, and that "Islam calls upon us to fight against the disseminators of decay."

Israel Radio on Monday interviewed a recently-arrived immigrant from Yemen, who identified himself only as Masoud, who managed to contact one of the women forced out of their homes.

The man was told that the Jewish community received letters last Friday, saying "whoever remains at his home, will be killed or his children will be taken away."

According to Masoud, the Jews who fled their homes told him "their condition has worsened, they are staying in a hotel, and they are scared." He said that the members of the Jewish community are not interested in immigrating to Israel, and wish to keep living in Yemen.

They blame their strife on the oblivious Yemenite government, which refuses to offer them assistance. The Jewish community, say its members, does not have efficient communication channels with the regime that would allow it to influence its actions.

The Jews under threat contacted local authorities and demanded fair treatment as ordinary Yemenite citizens. They told the authorities among other things that Islam imposes taxes on Jews in return for protection and security.

The Al Watan report said also that last week four masked men approached Yehie Moussa Merhavi, member of the Jewish community, to emphasize the will act on their threats. Merhavi said he was told that if the Jews do not leave their homes in two days, "they will only have themselves to blame" for the consequences, which will include abductions and looting.

Following the incident, the community was forced to evacuate the homes in which they lived for generations, and leave their home town under the protection of tolerant local sheikhs.

"We have been taken out of our homes, our money is lost, we cannot provide for our children. We came to the county's capital (Sada) to plea before the president and the government to treat us fairly, because we are Yemenites," Merhavi told Al Watan.

The Jewish community in Yemen consists of several hundred members, who are not interested in leaving it. The Jews maintain a community life, including a cheder for children's torah instruction and regularly pray.
The original al-Watan autotranslated article is here.

The last paragraph of the al-Watan article says:
A complaint filed by Jews to the Governor of the province, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appealed for Muslims to protect them from the threat of massacre, especially as they *mion, imposed by the tributes to Islam and give them the right to protection and security, in addition to the pocket of the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution and the law like all other citizens.

Evidently the Jizya poll-tax on Jews that are meant to protect them isn't quite as effective as Muslims may have you think.

To its credit, al-Watan seems to be on the Jews' side, and includes a couple of pictures of the community:


More on the remaining Yemenite Jewish community can be found in the Jewish Virtual Library.