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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Jews in Yemen leave their homes after Islamist death threats

Jews in Yemen leave their homes after Islamist death threats

January 29, 2007


Yemeni Jews flee Islamist threat
By Ginny Hill
BBC News, Sanaa

Forty-five Jewish people in Yemen have taken refuge in a hotel in northern Yemen after receiving death threats from Muslim extremists.

The group fled their village 10 days ago when they were confronted by masked radical Islamist gunmen.

The minority community has followed a traditional way of life in the village of Salem for centuries.

But, earlier this month, the Salem Jews received a letter accusing them of spreading vice and corruption.

The message was clear - the Jews must leave the country or lose their lives.

Decade-long insurgency

Dawoud Yousef Mousa and his neighbours fled to Saada City, the provincial capital.

Since then, the group has been living in the Paris Tower hotel at the expense of a local tribal sheikh, despite the authorities' promise to guarantee their safe return home.

Saada's governor claimed the threats against the Jews came from Zaydi Shia rebels, who have fought a decade-long insurgency in northern Yemen.

The extremists are said to belong to a banned organisation known as the Youthful Believers, who want to replace Yemen's democratic government with an Islamic theocracy.

Most of Yemen's 60,000 Jewish people were evacuated to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet following anti-Jewish riots in 1948.

Now, Yemen's tiny Jewish minority numbers just several hundred people.


Yemenite Jews flee due to threats


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.

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