After 19 Jews were airlifted out of wartorn Yemen in a secret operation on Sunday, bringing with them an 800-year-old Torah scroll, a Jewish man still in Yemen has been jailed on charges of helping "smuggle" the ancient Torah, according to reports.
The Jewish Chronicle on Thursday said it has learned that in addition to the Jew, a Muslim airport worker was also arrested, and accused of deliberately letting the community's rabbi leave with the Torah scroll which Yemeni lawmakers consider to be the property of Yemen, even though it is a religious artifact of the ancient Jewish community.
It appears the authorities in Yemen were alerted by images of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reading from the scroll with Rabbi Salman Dahari, the rabbi of the community.
Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana, who works to rescue Jews from danger zones in the Middle East, was quoted by the Jewish Chronicle as saying there are fears the Jew is being tortured in prison after having been arrested.
"When I saw the scroll in the media I knew the Yemenite government would complain – they would say that international law was broken," he said.
Jewish Agency spokesperson Avi Mayer said he could not confirm the arrest, but regarding the Torah scroll he said, "the ancient Torah scroll brought from Yemen to Israel this week is the property of the Raydah Jewish community, of Yemenite Jewry, and of the Jewish people."
"The rabbi of Raydah, who came to Israel this week along with the last remaining members of his community, brought the Torah with him and has been proudly and openly sharing this cherished part of his community’s rich religious heritage. The Jewish community of Raydah has thus come to an end.
“The notion that the Torah should have been left, without protection, in a country torn apart by a violent civil war involving several parties that are viciously hostile to Jews, is preposterous. The Torah is part of the proud heritage of Yemenite Jewry and that heritage will live on in the state of Israel.”