Disturbing accounts of the mistreatment of Jews in North Yemen are being reported to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith by visitors returning from that country.
According to Abraham Foxman, ADL’s associate director, these confidential reports indicate that the condition of the surviving remnant of the North Yemen Jewish community is deteriorating with oppression intensifying as a result of an influx of PLO terrorists after the war in Lebanon.
The ADL official quoted visitors’ eyewitness accounts of attacks upon Jews, of Jews being isolated from contact with foreigners and of surveillance by security agents who report on any contact foreigners make with Jews.
Foxman said that it is difficult to obtain a clear picture from the various reports of the full ramifications of the Jewish plight in North Yemen but that, nevertheless, the accounts leave no doubt that the Jewish community suffers many restrictions and prohibitions that are not applied to the rest of the population.
He pointed out that, according to some accounts, the Jews of North Yemen trace their origin in that country to 612 B.C.E. at the earliest and to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE at the latest. Most of North Yemen’s Jewish population of about 50,000 migrated to Israel shortly after the founding of the Jewish State.
Foxman said that the Jews who remained behind, now estimated at between 1,000 to 1,200 men, women and children, are treated as pariahs by the authorities and their Moslem countrymen.
He gave the following examples of the ways in which Jews are restricted: They are forbidden to hold community or religious activities, to become professionals or landowners, to bear arms. to send or receive mail from abroad, to trade in some markets and their children are not admitted to various regional schools. Reports also indicate, he said, that many synagogues have been turned into mosques and that Hebrew prayers have been erased from the interior walls of existing Jewish houses of worship.
Representations to the government of North Yemen have been attempted, Foxman said, but have proven fruitless and officials have not responded even to requests for information.
In view of the government’s intransigent position, Foxman said that it has become necessary to expose the situation in order to enlist public opinion in behalf of this isolated Jewish community.
“We are seeking fundamental human rights and an end to discrimination for Yemen’s Jewish community,” he declared. “This means that the government must eliminate restrictions on religious activities, permit families to be reunited and remove prohibitions on the receipt of mail and visitors.”
Permission will be sought from the government of North Yemen for a delegation of American Jewish leaders to visit the Jewish community there and see the situation first hand, he said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.