Report: Seeking retribution Yemen arrests 2 for aiding Torah smuggled to Israel


Yemeni Orthodox man and airport worker were arrested of aiding in the operation that brought 19 Yemeni Jews, accompanied with their community’s ancient Torah, to Israel.

By Jessica Satin


A Jewish man and an airport worker in Yemen have been arrested under the accusation of aiding in the smuggling of an antique torah from the war-torn country to Israel, the Jewish Chronicle reports.

Yemeni Jew, Sliman Ychya Yakov Dahari (L), arrives alongside other Yemeni Jews to an immigration centre in the Israeli city of Beersheba on March 21, 2016 following a secret rescue operation. – PHOTO: Menahem Kahana (AFP)

Earlier this week 19 Yemini Jews were airlifted to Israel in what officials called a “complex, covert operation” that was carried out with the assistance of the Jewish Agency and the US State Department.

The group from Raydah included the community’s rabbi, who brought a Torah scroll believed to be between 500 and 600 years old.

The airport employee is accused of purposely allowing the rabbi through security with the scrolls, said the Jewish Chronicle.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, circulating images of Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu welcoming the group of Yemini Jews to Israel, including one of Netanyahu with the Rabbi and the Torah, prompted the arrests. The Yemini government reportedly feels that the torah is the property of Yemen.

The operation to bring the Jews to Israel has not been welcomed by many in Yemen.

Social media users in recent days, criticized the rabbi’s decision to take the scroll with him, with one writing that “agents of the Zionist occupation… allowed these Jews to steal our heritage.”

Jews from Yemen who were airlifted to Israel brought with them a Torah scroll – Photo: ARIELLE DI-PORTO FOR THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL

Yemeni citizens have also taken to social media to accuse pro-Iran Houthis of cutting a secret deal with Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported, with critics now declaring that “the Houthis are Israeli agents”.

Shi’ite Houthis seized Yemen’s presidential compound in Sana’a in January 2015 and have since been battling forces loyal to President Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Saudi Arabia became involved in March 2015, forming a coalition of several Arab and Musilm states and using airstrikes to help halt the Houthis’ progress.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer was not able to confirm reports of the arrests.

Asked about the torah, Mayer said that “the ancient Torah scroll brought from Yemen to Israel this week is the property of the Raydah Jewish community, of Yemenite Jewry, and of the Jewish people.”

“The notion that the Torah should have been left, without protection, in a country torn apart by a violent civil war involving several parties that are viciously hostile to Jews, is preposterous. The Torah is part of the proud heritage of Yemenite Jewry and that heritage will live on in the state of Israel,” he added.


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