Preserving a Jewish Cemetery amid the Yemeni Civil War

August 23, 2022 | Times of Israel
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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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