Thursday, December 18, 2008

Troubled Times for Yemen’s Jewish Remnant

In a sensible world, Rabbi Moshe al Nahari could have been a propaganda windfall to those who oppose a Jewish State. He was an orthodox rabbi who was born in Yemen and educated in the anti Zionist yeshivas of Satmar. Rather than live in Israel, he returned to Yemen and became a rabbi and shochet (ritual slaughterer) in Raidah , a small town in Yemen that is off the beaten path and under only tenuous government control.

Instead of being held up as an example of Islamic tolerance, the Jewish community of Raidah lives in fear. Acting in the name of Islam, Raidah’s Jews are threatened by Islamic militants who order them to convert to Islam or expect death.

Back in the late forties, there were tens of thousands of Jews in Yemen. Then as today, they preserved a pure Hebrew with nuances and details lost elsewhere in the Jewish world. They are a distinct When they moved to Israel, it was a bittersweet victory. Although physically, the community was saved, the socialist government in Israel in the 1950’s and sixties sought to undermine Yemenites loyalties to their traditions. Some resisted assimilation into a secular life style. A few hundred Jews remained in Yemen, where their ancestors had lived for many centuries.

It is hard for a westerner to imagine the sacrifices that Moshe al Nahari and his small congregation endured to remain in Yemen. In past years, even under tolerant governments, Jewish orphans were handed over to the Islamic authorities to be raised as Muslims. To avoid this, parents had to marry them off as toddlers so that they would not be in danger of being kidnapped.

Where Muslim men are required to carry a ceremonial sword, Jewish men are forbidden to do so. It is difficult to secure reliable pledges of safety for the Jewish community. Although the government expreses sympathy, in many areas they are only in nominal control. The central government has offered to relocate the Jews to the capitol, Sanaa but seems unable to protect them in the town they have lived in for centuries.

News Yemen reports of chaos that persists even as the government has announced the arrest of eight suspects in the killing.

Some suspects allegedly continue to threaten a group of Jews in Al-Souk al-Jadeed area of Kharef district of Amran province, north Yemen, and prevent them to leave homes.

Rabbi Yehiya Yaish, one of the leaders of Jewish community in Yemen, said that he and other Jews are home arrested as eight suspected of killing his brother Moshe Yaish Nahari last Thursday are surrounding their houses since Saturday evening.

“We are home arrested and cannot even open doors due to threats by the gang that is surrounding houses in the area and throwing stones to windows and doors,” said Rabbi Yaish in a telephone call with NewsYemen.

Yaish said that the “gang” is led by a companion of “a powerful” figure in the area, denying any official or unofficial procedures taken to stop threats and assaults against Jews.

Yaish said the order of the Interior Minister to arrest the eight suspects was “just for media coverage, but what is happening is that we are being attacked in broad daylight.”

Yaish refused to bury his brother Moshe and said Moshe would be buried together with the killer, calling Muslims to protect Jews.”

The Jews still living in Yemen are a tiny group that lives in peace with its Muslim neighbours. They have sought only to live quiet lives, following their ancestral faith and earning their living in occupations permitted under local interpretations of Islamic law. Their appeals to the government in Sanaa, their neighbours and world opinion are for rights to which they are entitled under the dhimmi statutes of shaaria, which assure peaceful coexistence of “people of the book” with the Islamic majority.

The western news media is eager to write this off as an act of mental illness. News Yemen reports as follows.

Ahmed Yahya al-Suraihi as saying that Abdul Aziz al-Ubadi, 40, had confessed to committing the murder but showed no remorse as he said that he killed Masha Yaesh Bin Yahya Yahuda for the sake of Allah.

Mental illness has also been cited as a possible cause. al Ubadi, the confessed killer had killed his wife two years prior to Rabbi al Nahari’s murder. It is reported however that he had a “tribal reconciliation” with his murdered wife’s family.(indicating that murdering one’s wife is just not so serious in that country) It is interesting that only now is the killer’s alleged insanity being discussed.

The murder of the rabbi is a part of an escalating pattern of violence against the tiny Jewish community of Yemen. News Yemen reports as follows.

The rabbi claimed all Jews in the two district of Raida and al-Souk al-Jadeed suffer many violations and continuous attacks.

He said that he filed several complaints about this to tribal elders and officials in the area but all went in vein, saying all people are unable to protect us.

” The situation of Jews has more worsened as my brother was killed in the daylight, in a market before the eyes of many people, but none was moved.” The rabbi said.

He said Jews are prevented from carrying weapons and wearing the traditional danger Jampyah.

He urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to take actions to protect Jews as they are free non-Muslims.

” If the government can’t do something for us, so.. pay for our properties and help us leave the country.” The rabbi noted.

The rabbi said Jews are maltreated in the area and people inspect their homes and investigate their guests.

Sometimes they are beaten and threatened, but no official bodies do anything to help them, he added.

Some of the relatives of the victim have arrived from outside to pay respects and further relatives are expected to arrive later.

But the date for the funeral has not been set yet in fears that other murders could be committed towards the arriving relatives. (emphasis mine)

The Jews of Raidah are not Zionists. Rabbi al Nahari left Israel. He preferred the protective isolation of Yemen, away from modernising influences. He could have been an example of Islamic tolerance, along with his community. The only way his murder is logical is if in fact, Jews everywhere are targetted by jihadi Muslims.

Some people look for leniencies in religion to find an outlet for their passions. Some find loopholes for bingo. Some find religious loopholes into which larger quantities of alcohol can be poured. The passion of fanatical Muslims seems to be murder. These are people who will avert their eyes from a woman’s uncovered wrist who gleefully record and watch videos of beheadings. These individuals are worshippers of a god created in their own image. They wrongly appropriate a name of G-d for their god of murder. It is the responsibility of silent Muslims who privately believe in tolerance to rein in these murderous bands. If they do not, then the blood lust that now threatens Jews will consume Muslims as well.

It is a step in the right direction that the central government in Yemen is offering relocation and some protection to the Jews of Raida. But the world must continue to monitor the situation and hold the government to their promises. A vocal and active faction in the Islamic world has declared yet another war of extermination against the Jews. As during World War Two it is the silent majority that makes their evil work possible. Wherever the Jews of Yemen choose to live, they must be defended in their choice. Those who attack them today will turn on their Muslim neighbours tomorrow. The eternal blood lust of Rabbi al Nahari’s killers will always garb itself in new excuses. May G-d avenge Rabbi al Nahari’s death.

Yemenite Jewish "Elegy to G-d"

Situation of Jews in Yemen

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