Iran-backed rebels in Yemen expel country’s last Jews

Anti-Semitic Houthi rebels conditioned the release of a Jewish hostage on families leaving Yemen.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The three families of Jews expelled from war-torn Yemen have arrived in Egypt and await a decision on their fate, Kan News reported Monday.

Thirteen members of an extended family are considering settling in either Israel or the United Arab Emirates, the report said. Family relatives from Israel are pressuring them to come to the Jewish state, but one figure within the family is opposed, so the move is delayed.

Their other option appears to be to move to the UAE, where other Yeminite Jews fled last year to escape anti-Semitism at the hands of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who are trying to take over Yemen.

Their expulsion by the Houthis brings an end to the Jewish community in that country that dates back almost 2,600 years, the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on the weekend.

The families apparently agreed to leave their homes in the capital city of Sanaa in return for the release of Jewish hostage Levi Salem Marhabi, who was captured by the Houthis some six years ago, the London-based Saudi-owned paper reported.

However, Marhabi remains in prison, and with him there are only four or five elderly Jews who are the final remnant of a once-thriving community of tens of thousands who now live mostly in Israel, with other sizeable communities in the U.S. and Britain.

Armed and funded by Iran, the Houthis expanded on the Iranian leaders’ calls of “Death to America, death to Israel” by adopting their own slogan, “God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

So strong is the Houthi hatred of Jews that the rebels who are trying to take over the country refused to honor their own court’s ruling to release Marhabi, using him as a hostage to expel the remaining Yemenite Jews from areas under their control.

“They gave us a choice between staying in the midst of harassment and keeping Salem a prisoner or leaving and having him released,” one of the Jews being expelled told Asharq Al-Awsat. “History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment.”

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

Marhabi was arrested for helping a Jewish family rescue a very rare 800-year-old Torah scroll out of the war-torn country that arrived in Israel in 2016 together with 17 Yemeni Jews who were welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and photographed together with the ancient scroll.

That picture enraged the Houthi rebels. They arrested Marhabi, who was reportedly tortured and suffered a stroke while imprisoned under harsh conditions.

In November, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “for the immediate and unconditional release” of Marhabi.

“Mr. Marhabi has been wrongfully detained by the Houthi militia for four years, despite a court ordering his release in September 2019,” Pompeo said at the time.

“Mr. Marhabi is one member of an ever-shrinking community of Yemeni Jews, who have been an important part of Yemen’s diverse social fabric for thousands of years. We call on the Houthis to respect religious freedom, stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population, and immediately release Levi Salem Musa Marhabi,” Pompeo said.