Jews in Yemen have been given a choice: convert or leave the country. The ultimatum was made public by the Israeli Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara. The information was passed to Kara through a Yemenite Jew who escaped the country by posing as a Muslim.
Kara related that the man travelled first to Saudi Arabia and then to Jordan before he finally reached Israel. Kara, who is known for his efforts to aid persecuted minorities in Muslim-majority countries, is himself Druze and a member of the Israeli parliament. He has contacts across the Arab world and oftentimes appears on Arab media.
According to the information he received, Kara said that if the Jews did not comply, the Yemeni government has indicated that it would “not be able to protect” them.
Although 50,000 Jews lived in Yemen during the 1940’s, most of them immigrated to Israel after the establishment of the country in 1948. It is estimated that less than 100 remain in the capital, Sanaa, including those who fled from the town of Saada after being threatened by the Houthi rebels in 2007.
“We warn you to leave the area immediately… Ignore this message, and we give you a period of 10 days, and you will regret it,” a Houthi representative told the Saada Jews at the time.
A similar number of Jews also remains in Raida. Between 2009 and 2013, over 150 Yemenite Jews fled to Israel.
When Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in February of 2012, the situation for the Jews became more precarious.
By 2014, when Houthi rebels marched into the capital last year, chants were heard in the streets calling for, “Death to America! Death to the Jews! Victory to Islam!” The logo for the Houthis is emblazoned with the words “Death to Israel” and “Damn the Jews.”
The Iranian-backed Houthis are a Shiite separatist terror organization that have been involved in warfare against the central Yemini government for the last decade. They took over the capital last year.
Israel’s Jewish Agency has been active over the past number of years in efforts to rescue to Jews of Yemen. When asked by the Jerusalem Post to comment on the current situation, an Agency official said, “There are some things that cannot be discussed publicly, for obvious reasons.”