JERUSALEM – Many of Yemen's Jews this weekend fled their homes for a hotel after receiving death threats from Islamic militants accusing the country's tiny Jewish community of serving as agents for "global Zionism."
The Jews said they feared for their lives. It was disclosed they had been forced to pay special taxes that Islam imposes on Jews and Christians in return for protection and security.
About 45 Jews left their village in Sa'ada county in Yemen after Dawoud Yousuf Mousa, one of the heads of the local Jewish community, was warned Jan. 10 if the Jews don't leave within 10 days they would be exposed to killings, abductions and looting.
Four masked militants approached Mousa and delivered a letter to him warning the Jewish community had been under Islamic surveillance.
"After accurate surveillance over the Jews residing in Al Haid, it has become clear to us that they were doing things which serve mainly global Zionism, which seeks to corrupt the people and distance them from their principles, their values, their morals, and their religion," the letter stated.
"Islam calls upon us to fight against the disseminators of decay," the letter said.
The threats have been attributed to disciples of Shiite religious leader Hossein Bader a-Din al-Khouty.
Mousa reportedly told local authorities the militants told him if the Jews don't flee within 10 days "the Jewish community would bear the consequences."
According to a recent Yemeni immigrant to Israel with contacts in Sa'ada, the Jewish community there received another letter Friday warning, "whoever remains at his home, will be killed or his children will be taken away."
Sa'ada's Jewish community had lived in the village for generations.
They were forced to evacuate their homes and leave some of their possessions with local sheiks.
The displaced Jews are staying at a hotel in the center of Sa'ada, where they have been petitioning local authorities for protection. The Yemen Jews say the government has refused to offer assistance other than to temporarily pay for the hotel stays.
The Jews reportedly spoke of long-term Muslim intimidation and of having to pay special taxes because they were Jewish.
Salem Al Wehayshi, Sadaa deputy governor, told the Gulf News agency the Jews are being asked to go home.
"Yes, they received threats from Al Houthi supporters. They are now here in the hotel but I can assure you that the problem will be solved today, and they will return to their villages," Wehayshi said.
The Jewish community in Yemen consists of several hundred members. According to recent immigrants to Israel, the Yemeni Jews don't want to leave their country.
Aside from Israeli, Jewish and Arab media, as far as I can tell this story has been picked up only by World Net Daily, UPI and the Washington Times. No Associated Press coverage, no al Reuters.
Someone named Mandy Moore struggled with depression and Austrian scientists are warning that the Alps glaciers will melt by 2050. These are the report that make the list of AP's Top Stories, but there is nothing, nothing, about the Jews in Yemen, not in Top Stories, not in any stories.
UPDATE of sorts:
I thought it worth reposting this bit I wrote pre-Disengagement (Feb. 2005) - to give you some background on Jews in Arab countries. Some of the links, but not all, have since died.
Look at what has already happened:
The Jewish community in Iraq was one of the oldest and largest in the Middle East; the overwhelming majority has "relocated."
There is one Jew left in Afghanistan.
Egyptian Jews? There may be 100 left.
Iran has the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East, next to Israel. There, the Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians and Baha'i together account for the 2% of the population.
There are perhaps 300 Algerian Jews today, when once Algeria was home to one of North Africa's largest Jewish communities.
2004 (municipal) elections in Lebanon saw only one Jewish voter.
Fewer than 100 Jews remain in Syria, denied free movement or any contact with the outside world.
While the Jewish community of Morocco dates back to the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 BCE, it numbers less than 6,000 today. The younger generation goes abroad for higher education, and "tends not to return."
By 1974 there were no more than 20 Jews in Libya, and "it is believed that the Jewish presence [there] has passed out of existence."
Yemen? 200 Jews.
Hullo? Can you see the trend? One day very soon, the Jewish Virtual Library will sport an article stating that Gush Katif, a community of 8,000 Jews in the Gaza strip, no longer exists. It will cite Arutz Sheva, 2005 - 25 communities destroyed, handed over to the Arabs - possibly under some headline containing the word "peace," as with Yamit and Taba.
There were an estimated 8 million Jews in the world in the year 48 C.E.. Less than that in 1882. Almost 17 million prior to the Holocaust, and about 13 million in the world today. One of the worst things about this Disengagement is that it is so pessimistic and short-sighted. While the politicians talk about our children and grandchildren's need for peace, they don't address the fact that they and their children and their children's children will need a place to live.
We make no provision for the future sanctuary of the world's Jews, and certainly none for their possible increase.