Yemen's last Jews set to flee country

Israel, US said to be preferred destinations for most of 250 Jews suffering persecution and violence.

Yemenite Jews 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Yemenite Jews 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israeli sources confirmed on Thursday Yemeni media reports that the overwhelming majority of the final remnant of Yemen's ancient Jewish community, numbering some 250 people, are looking to leave the country due to persecution and violence. "About 120 of the Yemeni Jews want to move to Israel, 100 want to move to the US" - where there is a small Yemenite Jewish community - "and between 20 and 30 want to stay," the source said, citing information obtained from the community. Some of the Jews wishing to leave are unable to do so because they are having trouble selling their property, the source said. Saba, Yemen's official state news agency, reported Wednesday on a "mini-exodus" of Jews from the country "triggered by alleged harassment" and "fear of persecution." The article quoted Rabbi Yahya Yaish, chief rabbi of the Ridah and Amran districts, who said that "all Jews in the area are preparing to leave for Israel within the next [few] days." Yaish is the brother of Moshe Yaish al-Nahari, a community leader who was murdered in December by a local man who demanded that he convert to Islam. Nahari's three daughters moved to Israel shortly after his murder, while his three sons made aliya in recent days with the help of the Jewish Agency, according to reports in the Yemeni media. His killer was sentenced to death in June. According to Saba, Yaish warned that "harassment has been stepped up against Jews in the districts of Amran and Kharef, with some of the Jews killed and others kidnapped." Violent attacks and persecution have been a regular experience of Yemen's tiny Jewish community in recent years, against the backdrop of tensions and an anti-government insurrection in the northwestern part of the country, in the province of Saada, where a Muslim religious minority affiliated with Shi'ite Islam has been clashing with government forces since 2004. Most Yemeni Jews lived in nearby Amran province before fleeing either to protected compounds in the capital city of Sana'a or to Israel or the US. Those who remain offer easy targets for zealots.