Dr. Yigal Ben-Shalom, who heads an organization which preserves the culture and heritage of the Yemenite Jewry, told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that it is imperative that the Jews who still remain in Yemen be brought to Israel.
He was speaking just one day after Aharon (Harun) Yusuf Zindani was stabbed to death in the Yemenite capital Sana’a.
The fatal stabbing has raised fears for a community that has been living under the spectre of the Arab Spring uprisings for more than a year.
“We are in constant touch by phone with the community in Yemen,” said Ben-Shalom. “This is an extremely distressing incident and it is certainly of an anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish background. Zindani is well-known also among the Yemenite community in Israel, and we send our condolences to the family. We all hope that the remaining members of the community will come to Israel because they have nothing to do there.”
Dr. Ben-Shalom said that about 200 Jews live in Yemen today, most of whom live in Sana’a.
“Most Yemeni Jews made aliyah in 1948, and then there were three waves of immigrants,” he said. “Unfortunately, due to problems with their absorption and some cultural differences, some of them went back to Yemen or went to Western countries. Some went back because they were not accustomed to the culture in Israel, so they returned to Yemen to make a living the way they know best: from metalwork and trade.”
Recalling that Jewish community leader Moshe Yaish Nahari was executed by Islamists in the market in Amran by Islamists for his Jewish faith in 2008, Ben-Shalom expressed hopes that the Yemenite Jews will understand they must make aliyah.
“Yemen is a hostile country with Al Qaeda elements roaming around,” he said. “Even though most people have neighborly relations with their neighbors, the situation today is not good.”
He added that certain difficulties have recently arisen which make it hard to bring the Yemenite Jews to Israel.
“Unfortunately today there are difficulties due to bureaucratic problems both in Yemen and in Israel,” said Ben-Shalom.