Yemenite Jews flee due to threats

Residents say gov't sent letters warning them that group planned to kill them.

bin laden 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
bin laden 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Forty-five Jews in a village just north of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, were forced to leave their homes this week due to threats from radical Muslims. One resident confirmed the reports in an interview with Israel Radio on Monday, saying that the Jews in her village had received letters from the government warning them to flee because al-Qaida threatened their lives. The resident said she and her friends had left the village and were currently staying in a hotel. She said they were afraid to return home, but that they nonetheless had no plans to make aliya to Israel. A Yemeni Israeli, after speaking with his family back home, recounted a similar story, saying that the refugees from his family's village were currently holed up in hotels in terrible condition following the government's warning. "They're afraid," he said. Yemen, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland, is known as a hotbed of the organization's sympathizers and has long tolerated Muslim extremists. However some believe that the threat is an isolated incident and the Jews are safe in their homes. Prof. Aharon Giamani, a former radio broadcaster from Kol Yisrael to Yemen and an expert in Yemenite Jewry from Bar-Ilan University, called the incident 'fleeting.' "These are extremists threats, not threats from the government. The issue will. pass and these Jews will return to their homes," he told The Jerusalem Post. The Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported that last week, four masked men approached Yehie Moussa Merhavi, a member of the Jewish community, to emphasize that they 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. The community has since left their homes, which they have inhabited for generations, and been forced to leave their home town under the protection of tolerant local sheikhs. "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. Jews are a small minority in the mostly Muslim country. Most of Yemen's Jews were brought over to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50, following the 1948 Muslim riots that ruined the Jewish community in Aden and killed 82 people. "This is the last generation of Jews in Yemen and they appear to be happy there for the most part. Their isn't much of a community, there isn't a leadership and they consult with rabbis abroad. The government does not object to them leaving, but on the whole, they do not want to come to Israel, New York or London for that matter," Giamani said.