Tag: Jews of Yemen/ Aden

‘Arab Jew’ invention erases Mizrahi history and identity

The narrative branding Mizrahi Jews as ‘Arab’ is part of the ‘colonialism’ lie, intended to distort their identity and deligitimise the state of Israel, writes Adiel Cohen in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Yoel, Lily):
Adiel Cohen
Truth be told, Jews in Arab and Muslim societies kept their Jewish identity while not consider themselves Arabs, but rather Iraqi-Jew, Moroccan-Jew,  Egyptian-Jew, etc. This distinction is made clear in early Islamic writings, which refer to the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) as foreigners, whereas the Christian Arab tribes were considered as fellow Arabs.
For example, in Yemen, where my family spent the diaspora, Jews were prohibited from wearing their traditional headdress, because it was considered “too fancy”. They spoke a dialect of Judeo-Yemenite, which incorporated biblical Hebrew phrases and were prohibited from learning how to read and write in Arabic. Their cuisine was distinctly different from the Arab-Yemeni one, and they considered themselves nothing but Jewish.
The status of Jews under Islamic rule varied between different regions, but generally, they did not enjoy the same rights as their Arab neighbors and were often persecuted. When the State of Israel was established, those same Jews were not “Arab enough” to their neighbors to be spared from violence and expulsion. Even the Jews of Iraq, who somewhat managed to integrate into the local society, were the targets of a violent pogrom in 1941, which became known as the Farhud.
These very same struggles are often erased by anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). In 2019, a coalition of Mizrahi organizations issued a statement against the appropriation and distortion of the history of the Jewish communities of the Middle East by JVP, who seek to strip the Jewish people of their indigenous origins.
However, why are anti-Israel media outlets like Al-Jazeera and antizionist groups like JVP trying to push this false narrative?
This false narrative is part of their bigger “Colonialism” lie. Anti-Israel forces have tried to delegitimize the Jewish State by calling it a colonialist project, claiming that Zionism is a Jewish-European colonialism project, despite it being a project of indigenous awakening.
Since more than 50% of Jewish-Israeli citizens are originally from families that have lived in the Middle East and North Africa, and not Europe, these anti-Israel forces had to make up a story to isolate the European Ashkenazi Jews from the broader Israeli-Jewish population, to fit their “colonialism” sham. They have totally falsified history and are spreading lies, to push their narrative of delegitimization and that the State of Israel shouldn’t exist.
Attempts to strip Jews of their Jewish identity and homeland always result in historical revisionism.
The existence of Jews in Arab societies has always been conditional, much like the existence of Jews in European societies has, not only in the 20th century, but throughout the entire history of the diaspora. Now that Jews finally have a place to rest, where we can feel safe in our indigenous homeland, we won’t let our adversaries distort our identity and history, just to delegitimize our very own existence.

Yemen Jews’ plight evoked at Geneva conference

A recent conference on minority and women’s  rights and religious freedom invited Ellie Cohanim, former US deputy envoy to combat antisemitism, to speak on the plight of the Jews of Yemen. A community of 50,000 is now reduced to six people, including Levi Salem Marhabi, wrongfully imprisoned by the regime. Cohanim traced the anti-Jewish ideology of the dominant, Iranian-backed Houthis back to their founder, Hussein al-Houthi, who first chanted the official Houthi slogan’ Death to America, death to Israel and curse the Jews’ in a school hall in 2002. The Jerusalem Post reports: 


(From left) Human-rights activist Dr. Arwa al-Khattabi, head of the Yemeni Broken Chair Organization for Mine Victims, former U.S. Deputy Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Ellie Cohanim and Andy Vermaut, president of human rights NGO Post Versa speaking at the “Terrorism and Rights Violations of the Minorities in Yemen” conference in Geneva on 21 September 2021.

Speaking at the conference, former U.S. Deputy Envoy to Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration, Ellie Cohanim, noted the deeply anti-Semitic, Nazi-like nature of the Houthis.

“We have to be very careful when making any comparisons with the Nazis,” she explained. “But incredibly enough, there is much video evidence which has surfaced online over the years with the Houthis mimicking the Nazis, and expressing anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric during their ceremonies, military recruitments and other large gatherings, including videos in which the Houthi militia performed the Nazi salute.’ ”

Underscoring the close ties between the Houthis and Iran, Cohanim noted that while Iran chants “Death to America, Death to Israel,” the Houthis’ official slogan goes one step further. “They chant ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Curse the Jews.’ ”

She said the Houthis’ founder—Hussein al-Houthi, for whom the group is named—took credit for coming up with the hateful slogan. “In a sermon at a school hall in January 2002, Hussein al-Houthi announced that he was the first to start a chant against America, Israel and Jews.”

Cohanim said “the Houthis have engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing of Yemen’s Jews. Even prior to the civil war in 2015, we saw the Houthis begin their campaign against the indigenous Jewish community with their 2007 expulsion of approximately 70 Jewish individuals who lived in the Houthi stronghold town of Sa’adah.

“Nearly all of the last Jews, 13 from three different families were driven out in March,” she continued. “There is now only a handful left of the once 50,000-strong community. Most of them were flown to the Jewish state during an Israeli operation in 1949 to 1950.”

One of the few still in the country, Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, has been imprisoned since 2016, jailed for allegedly helping a Yemeni Jewish family flee to Israel with a Torah scroll. The Yemenis were particularly aggrieved about the loss of the scroll, which despite their mistreatment of Jews, they consider a national treasure.

Read article in full

The Houthis and the Jews by Ellie Cohanim (JNS News)


Muslims in Aden pose with book by Israeli

How come a book about the Jews of Aden is suddenly appearing on the streets of this war-torn port at the tip of the Arabian peninsula?

Adenis pose with ‘Passage from Aden’ in front of the Selim school, where Jewish children once studied, and in the main streets of Crater. Here 8,000 Jews once ran businesses and shops. Not a single Jew still lives in the city,today.  Before it became part of the independent state of Yemen,  Aden was under British rule for over 100 years.

What is more startling is that Passage from Aden was written by an Israeli, Sarah Ansbacher,  and is about a museum in the heart of Tel Avi at 5 Lillienblum Street.


Above: Esplanade Road  in Crater as it was in 1947 (left) and the same street today (‘Before’ photo: The Aden Jewish Heritage Museum)

Sarah Ansbacher is the manager of the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum. Passage from Aden is a compilation of remarkable stories that Sarah collected from visitors to the museum, both tourists and Jews with links to Aden.

The photos were taken at the initiative of an Adeni Muslim historian who still lives in the port. It was on a visit to the Adeni Jewish community in Stamford Hill in London that he bought a copy of Sarah’s book and took it back with him to Aden. He and Sarah have since been in touch on line.

Is this a promising sign that Yemen will be the latest Arab country to sign the Abraham Accords? Do not hold your breath. Yemen is controlled by the Houthis, a fanatically antisemitic group which has chased out the last few Jews from the country. The Houthi watchword is ‘Convert or die’.


The Selim school in Crater is unchanged in over 70 years (‘Before’ photo: The Aden Jewish Heritage Museum).


Trading stories from Aden

Biden administration calls for release of Yemenite Jew

According to Arutz Sheva, the  Biden administration has called for the release of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, who is still in jail in Yemen for allegedly helping to ‘smuggle’ out a Torah scroll. The scroll accompanied the last party of Jews to be airlifted out of Yemen in 2016. The former ‘antisemitism Tsar’ Elan Carr has drawn atention to Marhabi’s case and the American Sephardi Federation has been running  a campaign for Marhabi’s  release. There are six Jews still in Yemen, or fewer.

Benjamin Netanyahu poses with the Torah scroll which Marhabi is accused of helping to smuggle out to Israel

US State Department spokesman Ned Price has announced that the Biden Administration is calling for the release of Levi Marhabi, a young Yemeni Jew accused of helping Jews who immigrated to Israel take an ancient Torah scroll from Yemen with them.

For about four years, Levi Marhabi has been imprisoned in Yemen. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels say the Torah Scroll as a ‘stolen national treasure.’

Among the detainees was Rabbi Yahya ben Yosef, who was arrested by the Houthi rebels on suspicion of aiding in the smuggling of a Torah scroll.

Three workers at the Sanaa airport were also arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting smuggling. But in the end everyone was released except Levi Marhabi, who remains imprisoned until this day.

A State Department spokesman said the US had repeatedly raised Marhabi’s plight in the UN Security Council. The representative also confirmed the statement issued by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November 2020, calling on Houthis to “respect religious freedom, stop oppressing the Yemenite Jewish population and immediately release Levi Marhabi.”

American Sephardi Federation (ASF) executive director  Jason Guberman said the US should be more aggressive on the issue. “The State Department has called for the release of Marhabi, but it is not enough” Guberman said.

Read article in full

Jerusalem memorial to Jewish refugees is completed

A memorial to the 850,000 Jews driven from Arab countries has finally been completed and sited on the Haas promenade in Jerusalem. The family group is inspired by a photo of the Zviv family, who fled Yemen for Israel in 1949. Understanding the pain of the Other is a leap forward to thwarting one-sided bigotry and increase understanding, argues Jerry Klinger in this Times of Israel  article: 

 As the missiles of terror and death to the Jews crashed randomly into Israel without regard or concern for civilian life, a unique memorial, the first ever in the world and certainly Israel, was erected prominently sited on Jerusalem’s Haas Promenade.

 It is a memorial messaged that very few in the non-Jewish world, especially the Muslim world, know about. 

Unfortunately, too many in the Jewish world know little about it too.

The Memorial is formally titled the Departure and Expulsion Memorial. The title follows the theme of a long-overdue Knesset Law passed in 2014. 

 The law requires the teaching of what happened to the Jews from Arab lands and Iran with the birth of Israel. 

 Read article in full

Memorial to Jewish refugees to be sited in Jerusalem


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