Jewish man detained in Yemen after smuggling out Torah scroll

A member of Yemen’s dwindling Jewish community has been detained by the intelligence services of the Shi’ite Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, AP reports.

Yahia Youssef Yaish is suspected of having helped smuggle an 800-year-old Torah scroll out of the country to Israel, according to the report. Three employees at Sanaa’s airport have also been detained on the same grounds.


Jewish Agency spokesperson Avi Mayer confirmed from Israel that the scroll had been smuggled out of Yemen in March along with a rabbi and 19 members of the country’s Jewish minority.


Meanwhile, the 67 Yemeni Jews who stayed behind rather than moving to Israel last month are reportedly reconsidering their decision to turn down the offer to emigrate.

The group, mainly children and the elderly who live in Sanaa and next-door Amran, say they are experiencing harassment and abuse and are concerned that there is no one left to give the young a Jewish education.

The group also said that the flight of the 19 Yemeni Jews who left in March, along with the Torah scroll, has drawn attention to them.

“The Jewish Agency’s decision to release the news about the manuscript arriving in Israel caused us even more seclusion,” one community member told The Media Line, speaking anonymously.

“They have fenced our houses in with stones and cut off the roads leading to our homes (to prevent) us from escaping” he added.

“After the news about the manuscript became public, people became very wary of us, accusing us of treason against our country, Yemen. Now they are always watching us. We cannot stand to live here anymore.”