Will the Last Jews of Yemen Be Able to Escape?

Expert in touch with Sana'a's Jews warns of 'great danger' from Iranian backed Houthis taking control, details efforts to get them out.

Benny Toker, Ari Yashar,

Yemenite Jews in Sana'a (illustration)
Yemenite Jews in Sana'a (illustration)
Reuters

With Iranian backed Houthi Shi'ite rebels having taken over the capital city of Sana'a and expanding their control over the rest of Yemen, what is to become of the country's small remaining Jewish population?

To find out, Arutz Sheva spoke with Dr. Yigal Ben-Shalom, chairperson of the Association for Yemenite Jewish Tradition, who is in daily communication with the remaining Jews of Sana'a.

According to the chairperson, the Jews have been put in great danger since the Houthis seized the capital.

"As is known the aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Yemen never stopped, but still there are Jews left there who due to social and financial constraints are left in Sana'a and its surroundings," Ben-Shalom said.

Explaining the circumstances of the Jewish community, which has been in Yemen for roughly 2,500 years, he said "up to today when there was a presidential rule, they (the Jews) were protected. But three weeks ago when the president was ousted, the situation became unclear."

"It isn't completely clear to us what is happening in Sana'a, there are rebels there connected to Al-Qaeda, and it isn't clear what will happen to the Jews," Ben-Shalom warned.

The doctor noted that attempts are being made to try and convince Sana'a's Jews to make aliyah to Israel, saying "all the sources are involved and trying to act, we have daily contact with them and we hope that nothing bad will happen to them, we are trying to prepare for any situation and in parallel are dealing with the olim (immigrants) who arrived in Israel."

"The situation currently is unclear, all the Arab embassies closed - in the past they (the Jews) would receive exit permits through them," he added.

Ben-Shalom clarified that a portion of the Jews remaining in Yemen are unaware of the serious danger looming over them.

"Up till today they could leave the state but stayed their of their own volition; today a portion wants to leave and a portion is considering it," he said. "We're trying to convince them, they're not aware of the situation, they're complacent, they sit in their places and don't appreciate the greatness of the danger."

The chairperson acknowledged "we're pretty concerned about their fate."

"These are Jews with a Jewish appearance wearing galabiyot (traditional cloaks), among them are children and elderly," he warned. "The young girls are in the most danger because if they become orphans according to the law they have to convert them to Islam."




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