Yemen Jewish community head killed outside US embassy

Attacker stabs Aaron Joseph Zindani 12 times after claiming leader put spell on him

Troops patrol outside the US Embassy in Sanaa in 2008. (photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)
Troops patrol outside the US Embassy in Sanaa in 2008. (photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)

A leader of the Jewish community in Yemen was stabbed to death outside the US Embassy in Sana’a Tuesday. The attacker stabbed Aaron Joseph Zindani 12 times before being stopped by a group of men.

Zindani was rushed to a local hospital in the capital, where he was declared dead.

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Zindani’s son, Joseph, said the attacker was a man familiar to them, who claimed Zindani had put a spell on him. His father was stabbed in his neck and stomach, Joseph said. The killer was a “well-known person who says my father has ruined and bewitched him,” the son told AFP.

A majority of Yemen’s Jewish community moved to Israel by 1950. Today, Yemen has a few hundred Jewish residents. Israel has offered to resettle them several times.

Attacks against the Jewish community in Yemen, while not common, have been a problem in the past. In 2008, a Jewish teacher was murdered in broad daylight in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Raidah, a town some 40 miles north of Sana’a.

A few days later the home of a Jewish resident, Saadia Yaakov, was attacked with petrol bombs. In the wake of the string of attacks, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to relocate the Jewish community of Raidah to Sana’a. More than 50 Jews were transferred to Sana’a as a result.

Zindani had returned to Yemen after a spell in Israel, a friend of his, Shlomo Graffi, who lives in Israel, told Army Radio Tuesday afternoon. “It was a very bad move,” Graffi said wryly. “But sometimes people insistently do the wrong thing.”

Graffi, also of Yemenite origin, said that “life is cheap” in Yemen. “It’s nothing to kill someone. Yesterday,” he remarked, “more than 90 people were killed there” — in a suicide bombing at a military parade.

Graffi said Zindani had married daughters in Israel, and had planned to make his life here — “he even had a contract on an apartment” — but he changed his mind and went back to Yemen. He said two of Zindani’s sons had been in the care of Satmar hassidim in the US, and that he had traveled to the US and brought them to Israel. Then they went back with Zindani to Yemen “and got married there,” Graffi said.

The chief rabbi of Yemen, Yahia Youssef Moussa, recently called on the country’s president, Abdrabu Mansur al-Hadi, to allow the Jewish community and other minority groups to have seats in the country’s parliament, citing the need for the community not to feel discriminated against.


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