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An ancient Jewish community fights to survive

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 27, 2009 | 4:54 pm

Photo: YNet

Yemen certainly isn’t Iran—just ask Karmel. But its Jewish community, one of the world’s oldest, also is feeling the pressure of subsisting in a Muslim society.

“They face,” the AP reported yesterday in a lengthy portrait of the 250 to 400 remaining Jews of Yemen, “a Yemeni government that is ambivalent—publicly supportive but also lax in keeping its promises—in an Arab world where Islamic extremism and hostility to minorities are generally on the rise.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“We complain to the police about the more serious incidents, but they never investigate,” [Yahya Yaish] Al-Qedeimi said. “Our fears have grown after Moshe’s killing. The lenient sentence against his killer will encourage others to do the same.”

By “Moshe” he means Moshe Yaish Youssef Nahari, who was gunned down on a December day near his home in Raydah. Compounding the Jews’ shock and dread, the self-confessed killer was spared the death penalty, though it’s usually mandatory in such cases.

Nahari, a father of nine in his early 30s, taught Hebrew to the children, and was also in charge of slaughtering sheep and poultry according to kosher laws.

He had Jewish and Muslim friends and occasionally invited them to his home to chew qat, the mildly narcotic leaf that is a Yemeni staple and symbol of social togetherness. He also was an active campaigner for Yemen’s president.

The killer was Abdul-Aziz Yehia Hamoud al-Abdi, a former air force pilot. He was convicted of murder in the first degree, but the judge ruled him mentally unfit, sent him to a mental institution and ordered his clan to pay the victim’s family 5.5 million riyals ($27,500).

Nahari’s family has refused to accept the money and is appealing the March 2 sentence.

It was al-Abdi’s second murder. The 38-year-old Muslim had killed his wife five years earlier but the case never reached a court because tribal leaders protected him, saying he suffered from depression.

According to witnesses cited by Khaled al-Anasi, the Nahari family’s Muslim lawyer, al-Abdi confronted Nahari shouting, “You, Jew, convert to Islam so your life is safe.” Nahari said something to the effect of “mind your own business” and al-Abdi pumped 11 bullets from a Kalashnikov assault rifle into the victim, killing him, the witness statements said.

Read the rest here.

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