Houthis dance in Yemen (illustration)
Houthis dance in Yemen (illustration) Reuters

With the takeover of Yemen by Shia Houthi rebels, who are closely allied with Iran, life for the few Jews who remain in Yemen is becoming intolerable, witnesses who escaped to Israel said.

Last week, six Yemenite Jews, all members of the same family, arrived in Israel and told members of the community in the Jewish state that Jews have been even more limited in their movements since last September, when the Houthis began making major inroads in areas where the last Jews live.

In an interview with Reuters, Chief Rabbi Yahya Youssef said that the few Jews who remain in the country were having a very hard time, as the Houthis are extremely anti-Semitic. Indeed the official Houthi slogan - chanted at rallies and events and emblazoned in red and green in signs in Houthi-controlled territory - is "Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews."

In 2009, dozens Jews were evacuated by the government from the province of Saada after the rebels essentially took it over.

Now that the Houthis have taken over the rest of the country, members of the community have received death threats and demands to convert to Islam. According to a top Houthi figure, the group intends to protect Jews, and speaking to Reuters, Abu al-Fadl said that “no harm will come to the Jews. The problem of the Houthis is not with the Jews of Yemen but with Israel, which occupies Palestine.” al-Fadl said that he had given Rabbi Youssef personal assurances to that effect last week.

In 1949, some 40,000 Jews lived in Yemen, but the vast majority were brought to Israel; today, barely 100 remain, many elderly and unable to travel.

Israeli officials are generally reticent to discuss bringing the remaining Jews to Israel in order not to jeopardize their safety, officials told Reuters.