Yemen Jews Smuggled to U.S. Amid Rising Inter-faith Tensions

Ongoing battle with Shi'ite rebels reportedly preventing Sana'a from protecting Jewish community.

About 60 Yemini Jews have been secretly flown in to the United States since July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, adding that 100 more were scheduled to arrive in the coming months.

Earlier in the year Haaretz reported that the U.S. government was taking part in efforts to extricate Jews in Yemen as result of the physical harassment they had suffered from their Muslim neighbors.

The issue took on more urgency following the murder this past December of a prominent activist in the Jewish community, Moshe Yaish Nahari. It is unclear if the U.S. involvement in helping facilitate the Jews' exit from Yemen is the result of an initiative by Washington or an appeal from Israel.

The operation was reported as being the brainchild of the umbrella group United Jewish Communities, which is being aided by other organizations specializing in absorbing and resettling refugees.

The Wall Street Journal stated that there were an estimated 350 Jews left in Yemen prior to the operation, with some of which expected to emigrate to Israel, with others likely to stay behind, protected by the government in a specially-made enclave.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the operation, which was plotted with Jewish relief groups, came after a year which saw mounting harassment against Jews in Yemen.

Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been trying to protect the country's Jewish community, but his inability to quell the Shi'ite rebellion in the north hindered his efforts, prompting the U.S. to step in.

"If we had not done anything, we feared there would be bloodshed," says Gregg Rickman, former State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Shaker Yakub, who was taken out of Yemen along with half a dozen members of his family out of the town Raida, told the Wall Street Jounral the operation saved his family from a life of almost unbearable intimidation.

Jews are believed to have reached what is now Yemen more than 2,500 years ago as traders for King Solomon. They survived -- and at times thrived -- over centuries of change, including the spread of Islam across the Arabian Peninsula.

"They were one of the oldest exiled groups out of Israel," says Hayim Tawil, a Yeshiva University professor who is an expert on Yemeni Jewry told the Wall Street Journal, adding that "This is the end of the Jewish Diaspora of Yemen. That's it."