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As few as seven Jews remain, one in jail

Houthi persecution, civil war emptying Yemen of nearly all Jews, UN says

Report details dangers faced by the few Jews left in areas controlled by Iran-backed rebel group, which preaches antisemitic violence to children

Yemeni Rabbi Youssef Moussa, left, and his brother Salem sit in an apartment in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 10, 2009, after fleeing a conflict in the northern part of the country. (Marwan Naamani/AFP via Getty Images/JTA)
Yemeni Rabbi Youssef Moussa, left, and his brother Salem sit in an apartment in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 10, 2009, after fleeing a conflict in the northern part of the country. (Marwan Naamani/AFP via Getty Images/JTA)

JTA — Systematic persecution of Jews in Yemen by Houthi rebels and a previous government has driven the ancient community almost entirely out of the country, with as few as seven individuals remaining, a United Nations panel said.

The revelations, first reported this week by Jewish Insider, were included in a report commissioned by the UN Security Council on the civil war ravaging the country.

According to the report, one of the seven verified Jews in Yemen is imprisoned. The community once numbered some 50,000.

“The panel documented the systematic persecution of Jews in Houthi-controlled areas,” said the report, released January 26. “Most of Jewish population left Yemen after several years of persecution, which started under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh but intensified under the Houthis. The panel knows of seven Jewish individuals still in Yemen, including one who remains detained despite an order to release him issued in July 2019.”

That appears to refer to Levi Marhabi, arrested for his role in bringing an ancient Torah to Israel.

The Houthis, a Shi’ite faction backed by Iran, assassinated Saleh in 2017 after allying with him in a bid to unseat his successor.

The final group of Jewish immigrants from Yemen arrives in Israel accompanied by an ancient Torah scroll, March 20, 2016. (Arielle Di-Porto/The Jewish Agency for Israel)

The report said that the Houthis preach anti-Jewish violence to their school-age children.

“Children were expected to regularly shout the Houthi slogan ‘Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam’,” the report said, describing a Houthi summer camp.

The report laid much of the blame for the conflict with the Houthis, describing their practices as “posing a constant threat to the civilian population.”

Houthi Shiite fighters wearing army uniforms ride on a pickup truck as they guard a street during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen, January 23, 2015. Their sign reads ‘death to Israel, cursed be the Jews’ (AP/Hani Mohammed)

It noted also that airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government “also continue to result in civilian casualties.”

The remaining Jewish population in Yemen was already thought to be quite low, with estimates in 2021 placing the total at fewer than 10 people amid regular reports of anti-Jewish persecution in the country.

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