“All the Yemeni Jewish families need support because they are very poor.” [Archives:2005/834/Community]

April 18 2005

Mohammed bin Sallam
Many people speak out calling for human rights, equality, justice, against religious, racism and color discrimination, adopt a lot of captivating mottos but they do not, though slightly, tackle the state of misery the Yemeni Jews live in.

By chance, for a short time I meet with one of the Jewish figures, Moshe Harir, who sacrificed his time and money for this class whose fate is to be attached to more than 2500 years despite of misery and deprivation.

Q: Can you give us a brief account about yourself and the nature of your visit to Yemen?

A: My name is Moshe Harir. I was born in Yemen in 1948 in Sana'a city, namely in Qa'a al-Yahood (Jews Quarter). My family and I left Yemen in 1949. Since that time we have been unable to keep in touch with our families and friends who stayed in Yemen. At the beginning it was almost impossible to keep in touch with them. But for the past 15 years, the door has been opened so we are able to come here, to see and help our needy brothers. The reason I come to Yemen is to help assist fellow Jews with what they need, and to help them if they want to leave Yemen for any reason. I help the families who want to give their children a decent education to move to the United States or England. I help the families who choose to leave Yemen to get new passports and visas. I also help Yemeni Jews by buying religious books or any thing related to religion from abroad for them.

Q: Could you further explain services you offer to the Jewish community in Yemen?

A: I am always trying to help all the Jewish families in Yemen as much as I can, and support them in whatever they need. Most of the Jews living in Yemen do not have decent jobs because they lack the proper education. That is why it is almost impossible for them to find a respectable job. They, therefore, live in very poor conditions.

Q: Are you allowed to support Jews in Yemen? Is there another organization that you are working through?

A: No, I work by myself. There are other organizations that help the Jews. These organizations are mainly based in the United States, because they have a higher ability to help.

Q: How many Yemeni Jews are there in the United States? It was once mentioned that there are about 8,000, is this number accurate?

A: There are about 10,000 Yemeni Jews in the United States today, living all around America.

Q: Who are the people more entitled to support?

A: All the Yemeni Jewish families need support because they are very poor. They do not have an education and therefore they do not work, and do not earn enough income. So it is very hard for them to live. There are many elderly people who need much assistance, and there are men and women who are interested in getting married. So we try to help them from time to time. We also help release people who occasionally get arrested and jailed for different reasons. Therefore there is much to do, and they use up all the help and support that we are able to give.

Q: How much support do you allocate for them yearly?

A: It is hard to specify as it varies from year to year.

Q: Do you support the Jews from your own money, or do you get some help from others?

A: I collect support from my friends in the United States.

Q: What kind of education do the Yemeni Jews have in Yemen, and how is it different from the education they get in the United States?

A: In Yemen, Jews have religious education, and they learn how to read and write.

In the United Sates they learn general studies like mathematics, basics of literacy, and religious studies.

Q: How about Jewish females?

A: In Yemen, women do not get much of an opportunity to learn in schools, whereas in the United States the women attend school, learn how to read and write, and have access to quality education.

Q: Why doesn't America help build schools and hospitals for Jews here in Yemen?

A: I do not think the United States can, or would like to get involved in building schools or hospitals for the Jews.

Q: How many Jews are left behind in Yemen?

A: There are not many Jews left.

Q: Can we say that some 1,000 remain?

A: May be a bit more. But they are not so many that we should build schools and hospitals for them.

Q: Why don't you request or demand to get some more support?

A: We do get some other support, but unfortunately it does not suffice.

Q: Why don't you call upon Jews to stay in Yemen?

A: In Yemen, people are very poor, and do not have decent education due to the lack of Jewish teachers. Unfortunately this is contributing to the loss of our Jewish tradition. But whoever wishes to stay, they are more than welcome.