Yemeni Liah Saeed al-Naeti is a brave woman. In one swift move, she’s attracted the attention the Yemen’s Jewish and Muslim communities.
To the shock of her relatives and clan, Liah, a Yemeni Jew from a well-to-do family deserted her Jewish husband in June ’09 and eloped with a Muslim, only to marry him a week later.
A Tale of Two Cultures
Alarabiya reports how the young Yemeni woman dumped Jewish hubby Haroun Salem a week after their marriage on June 30 and eloped with Abdel-Rahman al-Huthaifi, a Muslim with whom she was in love but who her family adamantly rejected on religious grounds.
Liah converted to Islam in Sana’a in front of a group of Muslim preachers and married Abdel. Immediately after her Muslim marriage, she annulled her Jewish one.
The Families’ Reactions
The groom’s family laid on elaborate wedding celebrations with fireworks and a procession of cars leading the newlyweds to the groom’s house.
The bride’s family were less enamoured. Naeti’s Father, prominent Yemeni Jew, Saeed bin Saeed al-Naeti Naeti, instantly reacted by giving his youngest daughter Barakha (Liah’s sister) in marriage to a Yemeni Israeli Jew.
The marriage included the condition that the couple immediately relocate to the Jewish state. Barakha’s quick marriage was a knee-jerk reaction to her sister’s elopement as the family attempted to avoid further controversy.
An Agreement of Mutual Tolerance
There are around 338 Jews in Yemen with 45 families in northern Amran and a total of 67 people in Sana’a.
Social interactions between Yemen’s Jews and Muslims are limited and while in Islam men can marry Jewish women, inter-religious marriage is a sin in Judaism.
Abducted for Love?
Shortly after Naeti eloped, the Jewish community filed a report that she was kidnapped from her husband’s home. Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujur immediately ordered the interior minister to prepare a report on the young woman’s disappearance.
The sudden news of the young Yemeni woman’s marriage put pay to that. Local Rabbi Yehia Yusuf insisted that Naeti didn’t convert out of conviction, rendering her conversion for marriage void. Nevertheless, the Yemeni Interior Ministry decided that it would not investigate her.
Two Weddings, One Outcome
Yemeni Jews condemned the wedding, labelling Naeti’s elopement and subsequent conversion a violation of all personal and religious rights.
Naeti’s Jewish wedding had been high profile, attended by many state officials. It was held in Sana’a’s Tourist City where the government has provided a residential complex for the city’s Jews after they received death threats in Sadah and Amran.
This story really touched me. At the end of the day, all the frills and spills didn’t fill this young Yemeni woman’s heart, and she broke free to marry for love. Although she will have to live with the consequences of her actions for the rest of her life, something has to be said for the courage of her decision to follow her own truth.