Yemen’s last remaining Jews are to emigrate to Abu Dhabi following the announcement Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship, a Yemeni Rabbi has told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.
Over 50,000 Jews lived in Yemen prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen’s Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, while smaller communities live in the United States and elsewhere. Only a few dozen remain in Yemen. Their exact number is unknown.
The Rabbi, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that plans are under way to end the Jewish presence in Yemen and transfer 100 people to Abu Dhabi.
The remaining Yemeni Jews have rejected previous proposals to emigrate to Israel and to the United States, despite the brutal war which has affected Yemen since 2015 and anti-Semitic discrimination against them by the Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and whose slogans include the words “A curse on the Jews.”
According to the report, 40 Jewish Yemenis have already agreed to move to the UAE, which has offered to take them in following a request from the U.S., while the others are being persuaded to move on the grounds that they will have no problem integrating into Emirati society.
The UAE has reportedly requested that Iran, which backs the Houthi movement, help facilitate the travel of the Yemeni Jews to Abu Dhabi.
The Gulf country is currently undertaking a global publicity campaign to position itself as a center of religious tolerance which is friendly and welcoming to Jews.
Last Sunday, Emirati and Israeli media reported that the UAE had facilitated the reunion in Abu Dhabi of a Yemeni Jewish family who had spent 15 years apart in various countries around the world.
Chabad Rabbi Levi Duchman, who serves as the Rabbi in the Jewish community in Dubai, told Yisrael Hayom on Thursday: “We are extremely excited [about the deal]. This is a historic day for all people in the Middle East and for humanity at large.”
“We built a Jewish community, we have Torah study, kashrus, a community and strong support from the government. I’m not surprised that our leaders are so special. I believed this would happen,” said Rabbi Duchman. “The United Arab Emirates is a leader in all that is good for humanity. I believe that as a result of the peace agreement more Jews will join our community. We are prepared; the infrastructure is ready.”
The Jewish community in the UAE consists of 2,000 people. Dubai’s Jewish congregation operates out of an unmarked villa in an upscale neighborhood.
The UAE’s rulers have sought to boost the community by hosting interfaith events and pledging to build a massive multifaith complex that includes a synagogue, part of their efforts to burnish the country’s image to the West.