The last three Jewish families in Yemen were quietly deported from the country by the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels, leaving only five elderly Jews in the country, according to a report over the weekend by the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
The families, comprised of 13 Jews, initially resisted their deportation but ultimately agreed to leave as part of a deal with the Houthis in which Levi Salem Marhabi, a Jew arrested six years ago for helping to smuggle a Sefer Torah to Israel, will be released. Although a court ruled that Marhabi was innocent, the Houthis kept him imprisoned as a potential bargaining chip, a Kan News report said. The 13 remaining Jews are Marhabi’s relatives.
“They gave us a choice between staying and enduring harassment, with Levi remaining imprisoned, or leaving and Levi being released”, one of the Jews told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Therefore we decided to leave. We’ll be remembered in history as the last of the Yemeni Jews who clung to their homeland until the last moment.”
The report added that the Jews have settled in an Arab country and an attempt has been made to bring them to Israel. Their deportation from Yemen is the apparent end of the Jewish community in Yemen, which stretches back thousands of years.
In 2016, 17 Jews Yemini Jews were brought to Israel and were photographed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with an ancient and rare deerskin Sefer Torah that they brought from Sana’a. The Houthis were furious when they saw the news reports and realized that the Jews had taken the Sefer Torah out of Yemen, claiming that the Torah, which is believed to be about 500 years old, is a national artifact. They opened an investigation and carried out a series of arrests, including Marhabi.
The Saudi report may signal the end of the saga that began in July 2020, when Egyptian media reported that Houthi forces were carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” of the remaining Jews in Yemen.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)