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One of the last Jews in Yemen is a prisoner. The U.S. is trying to get him released.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Yemen’s Houthi militia to release a Yemeni Jew they’ve held prisoner for four years, in a statement released Tuesday

Levi Salem Musa Marhabi was taken captive by the Iranian-backed militia in 2016, after he allegedly helped a Jewish family emigrate to Israel with an 800-year old deer-skin Torah scroll in tow, claimed by Yemen as a national treasure, according to Ami Magazine.

“Mr. Marhabi is one member of an ever-shrinking community of Yemeni Jews, who have been an important part of Yemen’s  diverse social fabric  for thousands of years,” said Pompeo. “We call on the Houthis to respect religious freedom, stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population, and immediately release Levi Salem Musa Marhabi.”

Though there were once tens of thousands of Jews in what is now Yemen, today Marhabi is one of the last Jews remaining in the country. The bulk of the Yemenite Jewish community was airlifted to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet during the first years of the Jewish state, but a final exodus came earlier this year, when some 100 Yemeni Jews were set to be transferred to the United Arab Emirates following its normalization agreement with Israel.

Marhabi’s captors, the Houthi movement, have been embroiled in a civil war with the internationally-recognized Yemeni government since 2014.

The Houthi flag bears the slogan, “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”

According to the State Department statement, Maharbi’s health is deteriorating as he remains in the Sanaa Prison.

Marhabi’s predicament had also caught the eye of Elan Carr, the Trump administration’s ‘antisemitism czar’ who had called for his release on Twitter in August.


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