PARIS (Mar. 10)
A French Jew who visited the Jewish community of Yemen says the some 1,800 Jews still living there suffer no discrimination and enjoy complete freedom of movement.
Still, a substantial number want to leave to join relatives abroad, said Roger Pinto, who headed a delegation to Yemen last week.
Pinto, who is vice president of CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, and president of the International Committee for the Defense of Jewish Communities in the World, met with representatives of the Yemeni Jewish community as well as ranking government officials.
He emphasized that his trip had been facilitated by the French authorities.
Pinto told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Yemeni officials put no obstacles in the way of Jews leaving the country, although they consider them “a tremendous historical asset” and wish they would stay.
He and his group met with the Yemeni foreign minister, Abdel Karim al-Ariani, who said he did not oppose the emigration of Jews, provided their destination is not Israel.
Yemeni Jews experience no social ostracism, Pinto said. Nevertheless, they are easily distinguishable from the general Moslem population.
He explained that “in Yemen, every man carries a traditional dagger in his belt, a right denied to Jews. Add to that the Jews wear sidelocks and you can understand why anyone can tell a Jew from a distance,” Pinto said.
He ascribed their desire to leave Yemen to economic difficulties.
Pinto also claimed there are no restrictions on the Jews’ movement in Yemen.