Yemen’s last Jews do not want to move to Israel

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Yemen’s last Jews do not want to move to Israel

The 13 people, who left as part of a deal to release a hostage, are divided over whether to make Aliyah or seek asylum in the UAE

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Emotional embrace in Abu Dhabi as Jewish family flown from London and Yemen for reunification
An exiled Yemeni Jewish family pictured in Abu Dhabi in 2020

Three Yemeni families said to comprise the country’s final remaining Jews have been deported and are said to be seeking asylum in any country other than Israel, according to reports.

The 13 individuals left Yemen as part of a deal that secured the release of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, who had been detained by the armed Houthi movement since 2015.

Sources at the Jewish Agency told the Jewish News that the families were now in Cairo and that some had explored the possibility of making Aliyah, but that one influential member of the group preferred relocating to the United Arab Emirates.

Yemen has been torn apart in a civil war fought by multiple sides including the Houthis, which are backed by Iran.

Several other Yemeni Jews have relocated to the UAE as a result of the conflict.

The London-based newspaper Ashaq Al-Awsat reported the families had left in exchange for Marhabi’s release.

His family say he has been tortured and left partially paralysed by a stroke, after being arrested for attempting to move a rare deerskin Torah scroll out of Yemen.

“They gave us a choice between staying in the midst of harassment and keeping Salem a prisoner or leaving and having him released,” the newspaper quoted one of those who were expelled as saying.

“History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment.

“We had rejected many temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced.”

The United States had been among those calling for Mahrabi’s release, with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issuing an appeal in November last year.

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