Yiddish in Yemen
The rabbi’s brother murdered in Yemen.
Yemen’s Jewish minority has demanded government protection, or the means to leave the country after a religious extremist killed one of them medio December 2009.
“If the State is unable to protect us and secure us in our homeland, the only alternative should be for the state to buy our houses and properties and grant us the money to leave the country,” said Rabbi Yahya bin Yaish, brother of the murdered Mousa Yaish.
The Rabbi has revealed abuses and assaults over the past few months against the country’s Jewish community, which totals less than 500 people out of Yemen’s population of 22 million.
“Over the past months we have been suffering from repeated assaults and threats, and we have been reporting these to the official bodies and tribal chiefs without success,” he said.
He accused “some local people, including bodyguards of some influential officials” of committing such repeated “assaults, abuses, harassments” against the Jews in Raida and Kharef in Amran province, where about 400 Yemeni Jews live.
The Ministry of Interior said they had arrested eight people accused of abusing the Jews. “The assaults and threats turned to murder, my brother was killed in cold blood in the market,” The rabbi said.
“They search us when we come and go, they search our visitors, and investigate our guests, they sometimes attack our houses, beat us, and threaten our women with guns, and nobody rescues us from them, it seems that everybody is helpless to protect us from those assailants, or maybe it is organized assaults,” he added.
Former pilot Abdul Aziz Hamoud al-Abdi confessed to killing the Jew Mousa Yaish, and showed no repentance for the crime, according to sources familiar to the investigations.
Official sources said the perpetrator claimed he carried out these actions to “get closer to Allah”, and he warned the Jews in writing one month prior. In his alleged letter he told the Jews: convert to Islam, leave the country, or face the sword.
At first Al-Nahari’s murderer, Abdel Aziz Hamoud al-Abdi, was sentenced to pay a fine, found mentally unstable and then released, leading the Jewish community to complain that he was lightly punished because his victim was a Jew. The Yemeni Jews also complained about threats from Muslim neighbors against themselves and their property.
Abdul Aziz al-Abdi confessed on Monday December 21, 2009,
that he killed the brother of the rabbi in Yemen.
“I killed the Jew,” Abdul Aziz Yahya Hamoud al-Abdi, 39, screamed from the dock,
referring to Masha Yaeish al-Nahari, whom he shot dead over a week ago
in the town of Raydah, in the northern province of Amran.
“I have told them in a letter that they should either
convert to Islam or leave Yemen, or I would kill them,”
he said, speaking of the minority of a few hundred Jews who continue to live in Yemen.
Only the immediate relatives of the victim were in court
which was filled with members of Abdi’s tribe,
along with five lawyers who volunteered to defend him.
The hearing was the second, following the opening
of the trial on December 19, 2009.
Abdi said his act was “in accordance with a masters’ dissertation
I wrote … and jihad (holy war) in the name of God.”
Defence lawyers retorted that Abdi was “mentally disturbed”
and had quit his previous posting as an air force pilot due to his mental illness.
They added that he had killed his wife two years ago.
“He does not understand what he has done,” the defence said,
requesting a referral for psychiatric tests.
“Such statements help the Jews against me… I want an American lawyer,”
Abdi screamed in response, calling upon his tribesmen to sack his legal team.
However, Rabbi Yahya bin Yaish denied that they had received a letter from the perpetrator or anyone else before the murder.
The sources also said the investigations had shown that the perpetrator traveled to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon during 2008 but gave no further information about the reasons behind the visits.
The perpetrator was fired from his work about four years ago for his extremism in dealing with others, the sources said.
Deputy Director for security in Amran province Ahmed Al Suraihi confirmed that investigations were complete, and the case will be referred to the prosecution in the coming days.
Relatives of the victim have arrived in Yemen from Israel, the US, and Britain to participate in the funeral which will be held this week. In a separate incident, two of the victim’s sisters were injured, one seriously, in a car accident on their way from Raida to Amran on Friday after they arrived from Israel.
“Now, they are in a hospital in Sana’a, and the funeral may be delayed until his sisters have recovered,” said one of the relatives who accompanied the two sisters to the hospital.
During the second court session of the trial of Abdul Aziz Al-Abdi, who is accused the murdering Jewish citizen Masha Al-Nahari this past December 31, journalists and lawyers said that “the court session was full of chaos and quarrels. A soldier was attacked by one of the family members of the accused. In addition, the Jewish family received death threats from the murderer’s relatives.”
Advocates of Al-Nahari demanded to transfer the case and trial to Sana’a due to lack of proper security at the Amran Court and dominance of Al-Abdi’s relatives who “control the events of the session and create chaos inside the court hall,” said Abdul Rahman Barman, a lawyer from Allaw Law Foundation which volunteered to defend Al-Nahari’s case in the court.
“Amid lack of security and the chaos that Al-Abdi’s relatives create, the trial will not be safe,” Barman said.
Today, the Yemeni Jews in Amran, some 70 kilometers northwest of Sana’a, are living in a state of horror after receiving threats from some Salafia supporters. The threats are increasing.
Although the government took security precautions to protect relatives of Al-Nahari from any potential aggression particularly since the situation in Palestine has escalated, the Jewish community expressed their apprehensions that Al-Nahari’s case may not be taken seriously by the court. They also refuted Al-Abdi’s family’s assumption that he is mentally sick by saying that he had threatened to kill them if they don’t embrace Islam or leave the country, which a mentally ill man cannot do or plan.
During the recent court session, head of the court ordered to imprison three of Al-Abdi’s relatives and transferred two others to the General Prosecution for investigation. The session was adjourned until January 12, 2010.
Al-Abdi confirmed during the previous hearings that he killed Al-Nahari to be closer to God. He maintained that he had warned the Jews a month before he carried out his threats. He further said that he had warned the Raida district security six months before he murdered Al-Nahari demanding that the Jewish community in Raida be relocated from the area as they arouse concerns and have relations with Israel.
While relatives of Al-Abdi say that he suffers from mental and psychological problems, he confirms that he killed Al-Nahari because he rejected to embrace Islam. Al-Abdi’s tribe had threatened to avenge from the other Jews if the court issues a death penalty against him.
The judge had ordered a mental check to identify whether the killer is truly crazy or not. However, the mental health check has not taken place so far.
“Someone who carries weapons in public, who follows the news, and who knows who is who, is certainly not crazy,” commentedKhaled Al-Anisiexecutive director of HOOD, the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms who had volunteered to represent Nahari’s family.
Five lawyers on the other hand volunteered to defend Al-Abdi, accusing Al-Anisi of not being a good Muslim and of defending a Jew.
“They told me that Muslims should stick together and not do as we are doing in HOOD by defending a Jew, and recited a verse from the Quran saying the same.
I answered by another verse from the Quran which means that a murder is a murder and killers must be punished whatever they are,” explained Al-Anisi remembering a verse exchange debate happening in court between him and his opponents. Al-Anisi explained that the lawyers demand to refer Al-Abdi to mental check is not valid since he, Al-Abdi, refused their attorney, and hence they should not be allowed to defend him. According to the law, only those who are absolutely insane are exempt from legal liability. In Al-Abdi’s case, he is a normal man who acts based on his fanatic beliefs, explained the lawyer.
“There are so many complications and mishaps in this trial, this is why we want to transfer it to Sana’a,” explained Al-Anisi.
The Jewish community is intimidated in the neighbourhoods where they live and the markets where they have been working many years. They also say that some conservative Muslims enter the Jewish synagogue and chew qat inside in an attempt to provoke them. They say that some people intimidate Jewish women on the streets and demand them to convert to Islam so that they can marry them.
In addition, anonymous groups close the houses of the Jews from outside, throw stones at them and threaten them to kill them.
Many Jews who earn their living as carpenters or silversmithsquestion how they can continue to do so without leaving their homes. Barman maintains that they are no longer able to practice their life normally and most of them have stopped work after they received death threats.
The Jewish citizens in Raida expressed their eagerness to be moved into secure areas such as Ibb, Taiz and Sana’a.
“People in those areas are educated and don’t bear grudges against the Yemeni Jews,” they said. But they maintained that they don’t want to leave their villages quickly as they are afraid that they may lose their property as happened to the Sa’ada Jews in 2007. They said that they cannot leave their houses and lands unless they are given guarantees and decent compensations.
Malikah Ya’ish Al-Nahari, one of Masha’s sisters who have come from Israel as soon as they learned their brother’s death, said that going to court without protection endangers the life of the family as “Al-Abdi’s relatives carry weapons”. “We had to reach the court through alleys. We received threats from Al-Abdi’s relatives who told us that they will claim the lives of every Jew and kidnap the Jewish women,” said Malikah. “They say that if Al-Abdi is killed by the court, they will kill 20 Jews, instead.”
Around one thousand Jews currently live in Amran. Some of them travel to Israel, the US and Britain to visit their relatives and come back. Some efforts have been exerted during the last few days to accommodate the Jews of Amran after the recent threats. The sources said that Yahya bin Ya’ish, son of the ex-rabbi of the Jewish community in Yemen, received death threats through text messages to his phone. The rabbi demanded the government provide them with proper security.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised to grant a piece of land and one million YR to every family of the Jewish community. However, the government may prepare private apartments to accommodate them until the situation becomes clearer in the future with regard to the devastating situation in the occupied lands.
Al-Nahari, who had two sisters who live with their husbands in Israel, was an only son. He left behind nine children and his father suffers from a stroke.
The secret evacuation of Jews from Yemen
Shaker Yakub, a Yemeni Jew, folded a large scarf in half, wrapped it around his head and tucked in his spiraling side curls. “This is how I passed for a Muslim,” said the 59-year-old father of seven, improvising a turban that hid his black skullcap.
The ploy enabled Mr. Yakub and half a dozen members of his family to slip undetected out of their native town of Raida, Yemen, and travel to the capital 50 miles to the south. There, they met U.S. State Department officials conducting a clandestine operation to bring some of Yemen’s last remaining Jews to America to escape rising anti-Semitic violence in his country.
In all, about 60 Yemeni Jews have resettled in the U.S. since July; officials say another 100 could still come. There were an estimated 350 in Yemen before the operation began. Some of the remainder may go to Israel and some will stay behind, most in a government enclave.
The secret evacuation of the Yemeni Jews — considered by historians to be one of the oldest of the Jewish diaspora communities — is a sign of America’s growing concern about this Arabian Peninsula land of 23 million.
Also read about censorship
in The Arab World.
and watch the slideshow from Sana’a made by photojournalist Rachael Strecher.