Preserving a Jewish Cemetery amid the Yemeni Civil War

Aug. 23 2022

As of February, only seven Jews remained in war-torn Yemen, the remnants of a venerable community famous for its piety. Yet in the port city of Aden, in the southwestern part of the country—currently controlled by UAE-backed forces—authorities have reportedly been restoring the Jewish graveyard. The Times of Israel relates a recent interview with the local journalist Ahmad Shalbi by the Kan news channel:

Initially reluctant to speak with an Israeli news site, Shalbi, who has covered the cemetery’s renovation in Yemen for months, said the move came after years of neglect. “This cemetery was neglected and ruined. Parts of its surrounding wall were damaged,” he said, adding that efforts to renovate the site were first led by voluntary civil organizations before General Aidarus Qassem Abdulaziz al-Zoubaidi, the president of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council, [which governs the area], got involved.

The Jewish cemetery in Aden has existed for more than 160 years and is believed to house hundreds of graves belonging to members of a community that no longer exists. A local researcher told local media that, according to Jewish tradition, the cemetery is the burial site of the biblical figure Abel.

[T]he Yemeni initiative to restore the cemetery should not be taken lightly, and is even more surprising considering the civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, which the country has been embroiled in for years. . . . Houthi rebels have carried out systematic persecution of Yemen’s few remaining Jews, pushing the ancient community out of the country almost entirely.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Jewish cemeteries, Yemen, Yemenite Jewry

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy