Report: Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Exile the Last Three Jewish Families in Yemen

Supporters of Yemen's Huthi rebels attend a rally denouncing the United States and the outgoing Trump administration's decision to apply the "terrorist" designation to the Iran-backed movement, in the Huthi-held capital Sanaa on January 25, 2021. (Photo by Mohammed HUWAIS / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images

Asharq al-Awsat, a Saudi newspaper based in London, reported Sunday that Houthi terrorists had “deported” the last three Jewish families living in Yemen.

“All that remains from the several–thousand-year-old community are four seniors,” the report said.

The Houthis exiled 13 members of the three remaining Jewish families, according to Asharq al-Awsat, as “part of a deal to free Levi Salem Marhabi, a Jew who was captured by the Iran-backed group’s intelligence around six years ago.”

The Houthis arrested Marhabi in 2016 for allegedly helping a Yemeni Jewish family steal a “national treasure,” a rare 500-year-old Torah scroll inscribed on deerskin. He was sentenced to two years in prison but has been held ever since, even after a court ordered him to be set free in 2019.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Marhabi’s immediate release in November 2020, citing reports that “his health continues to deteriorate as he languishes in a Sanaa prison, where the threat of contracting Covid-19 is a real possibility.” Reports from Sanaa have also claimed Marhabi was tortured in prison and left partially paralyzed by a stroke.

Pompeo called on the Houthis to “respect religious freedom” and “stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population,” to no avail.   

“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 departing Jews explained.

“History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment. We had rejected many temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced,” the three families stated.

“Though the report said the Jewish families were refusing to go to Israel, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday that they had already arrived in another unspecified country and efforts were being made to bring them to the Jewish state,” the Times of Israel (TOI) wrote Monday.

TOI said it is uncertain if all of Yemen’s few dozen remaining Jews have indeed left the country, save for the four elderly individuals mentioned by Asharq al-Awsat, but noted the Houthis “view the tiny remaining Jewish population as an enemy and are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that includes ridding Yemen of its Jewish community.”

The Houthi motto, emblazoned upon their flag, reads “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.” The Houthis were delisted as a terrorist organization by President Joe Biden in February.

The Jerusalem Post reported the three exiled Yemeni Jewish families have arrived in Egypt and are considering either immigrating to the United Arab Emirates or moving to Israel. At least one member of the family is said to be “opposed” to living in Israel. The vast majority of Yemen’s Jewish community evacuated to Israel in 1950, but some of those who remained believe they are not treated with proper respect by the Israelis. Ironically, the imprisoned Levi Salem Marhabi has been credited with convincing many of his fellow Yemeni Jews not to emigrate to Israel because he had a poor experience when he visited.

Asharq al-Awsat said the families are “waiting [for] the UN refugee agency to transport them to any country that grants them asylum.”

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