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Israeli MK: Yemen’s Persecuted Jews Want Out ‘Fast’

Likud lawmaker Ayoub Kara said the Yemeni government has told members of the remaining Jewish community to ‘convert or leave the state.’ The report has been refuted.

by
Jonathan Zalman
October 13, 2015
Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni Jewish youths play football at their temporary residence in the tourist city hotel compound in Sanaa, June 23, 2008. Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images
Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni Jewish youths play football at their temporary residence in the tourist city hotel compound in Sanaa, June 23, 2008. Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images

Yemen’s Jewish population, a once thriving community of tens of thousands of people in the 1940s that is today estimated at around 100 “at best,” is reportedly under even more duress. On Sunday, The Jerusalem Post published a story citing Druze-Israeli MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) who said Yemen’s Jewish community had been told to “convert or leave the state.”

Yemen’s Jews “want to leave there fast,” said Kara. “We need to act fast to get them out and we will do that, God willing. The whole world ought to know that there is a problem with the Houthis.”

The ultimatum was reportedly written by the Yemeni government. A spokesperson for former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, however, a man described by The New York Times as “the Yemeni strongman who for three decades was the Jews’ protector,” refuted the report. (Saleh is no longer Yemen’s president.)

Kara received his information from a Jewish Yemeni man “who was able to come to Israel by disguising himself as a Muslim,” reported Algemeiner. “According to Kara, the man left Yemen a few days ago, traveling via Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Israel:”

Kara said he was contacted because of his appearances in Arabic media outlets, and his efforts to aid minorities— including Jews, Christians, Druze and others—living in fear in Muslim countries.

In February, the Times published a report about the persecution of Yemen’s dwindling Jewish population:

The last of Yemen’s once numerous Jews, who predated Muslims by many centuries, have seldom been so threatened and had so few protectors. The Houthis, who now dominate the country, are particularly strong in the two places with confirmed remaining Yemeni Jews: here in Raida, where there are 55 Jews, and in Sana, the capital, where a small number live under what amounts to house arrest by the Houthi leadership…



…Yemeni Jews, like those in other Arab countries, have suffered wave after wave of persecution. Originally many of them lived in Saada Province in the north, which was predominantly Zaydi, members of an offshoot of Shiite Islam that historically were anti-Semitic. The Houthis, whose base is in Saada, embedded that attitude in their slogan, “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.”

A representative of the Israeli Foreign Ministry would not provide The Jerusalem Post with an illustrative comment. Kara was reportedly set to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, but nothing is yet to be reported about that meeting.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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