TEL AVIV – The 67 Yemeni Jews who chose to stay in their war-torn country instead of joining the recent secret airlift to Israel are now having second thoughts amid ongoing harassment from their Muslim neighbors, the Media Line reported.
In addition to abuse from Muslims, sources in Yemen report that the group, comprised mostly of children and the elderly in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, fear that there will be no one left to bolster religious life and educate their children.
According to the report, the Jews who remained behind said the publicity surrounding the Jewish Agency-led mini-exodus and the showcasing of the 600-800 year old Torah scroll that the emigrants took with them has effectively drawn targets on the backs of those who opted out of the airlift.
“The Jewish Agency’s decision to release the news about the manuscript arriving in Israel caused us even more seclusion. In Raydah [a city in Amran], they treat us like strangers, even though we are Yemenites just like them. Our religion, which is different from theirs, has made them look at us as [in an inferior manner],” a Jewish source who asked to remain anonymous said.
“They have fenced our houses in with stones and cut off the roads leading to our homes (to prevent) us from escaping and to make it difficult for us to get food or any other supplies we need into our homes,” the source continued.
“After the news about the manuscript became public, people became very wary of us, accusing us of treason against our country, Yemen. Now they are always watching us. We cannot stand to live here anymore.”
Of the few Yemeni Jews who were willing to talk, some expressed economic reasons as being behind their decision to stay behind.
Saeed Al-Natehi and his wife Muzal Bint Uda were unable to sell their home in time but said they will join the others as soon as they do. Despite her love for Yemen, Muzal said that “currently the best solution is to leave.”
The Jews in Sana’a, unlike Raydah, largely refused to discuss their reasons staying. One Sana’a resident said the silence was for “security reasons,” while another said that he cannot afford to buy a ticket to leave – which isn’t really relevant since the Israeli government would cover all costs of relocation.
Yemenite officials reject accusations that the country does not permit Jews to leave.
“They are Yemenites who are subject to the same rules as other citizens. We check their bags, and see their exit and entrance visas. Being Yemenites, we treat them as such; there is no religion-based bias at all,” said Khalid Al-Shaif, chief of Sana’a’s International Airport.
In response to the Media Line’s request that the Jewish Agency comment on reports that the airlift failed to rescue all of those who want to go to Israel, spokesman Avi Meyer said, “It was supposed to be the last massive operation. Our understanding was that those people remaining intended to stay there. We said that if any individual who wishes to make aliyah, we will facilitate and they should know that they are welcome in Israel.”