But I really don't mean to make light of this story. Via Lippman comes this heart-breaking story about the how the Jews in Yemen are vanishing, being harassed out of the country in which they have lived for centuries, emigrating to more forgiving environments. The article mostly focuses on one man, Abraham Zahry, who says he used to chew qat daily with Muslim friends.
Zahry, who stands out with his long locks of hair hanging from the side of his head, says he is sometimes verbally harassed on the streets.
“They call me things like Jew and dog,” he said.
He also remembers how one time someone grabbed his locks and pulled them.
While educated Yemenis differentiate between local Jews and despised Israelis, “the ignorant don’t," he says.
He says he and his community are scared of the “radicals” who have increased in number.
“There are much more radical people than before who think Jews are a horrible thing and that they don’t believe in God," he said. "Those who know and understand Islam know this is not the case…but others just base their information from what they hear on TV and from people."
There is a lot of interesting stuff going on here. Someone once said that you can measure the moral nature of society by how they treat their Jews. This might be putting too fine a point on it, but I think it has some worth. It is the small and vulnerable minority being targeted as individuals for the "sins" of the group. This is sadly normal in a society that is undergoing convulsions. Blame Israel, blame all the Jews, even those who are suffering as much as you and who have lived among you for generations.
I also think it is half-heartening/half-sad how Zahry distinguishes between "educated" and others. This is nice, because it shows that anti-Antisemitism is not, like, genetically inherent in Muslims, as the fanatics on our side basically insinuate (looking over your way again, Peretz). It is sad to once again realize how dangerous TV and radio, with the intimations of authority, can be in a semi-literate society.
So I am kind of torn. Yemeni Jews have long been part of what makes the country such a vibrant, fascinating place, unique in the world. It would be shame to have them all air-lifted out of there. But my Orientalist fascination shouldn't be enough to convince a persecuted people to stay in danger. It is just another sign of a nation on the brink.