Yemenite Jews Arrive in Israel

Ten new immigrants from Yemen arrived Thursday in Israel, including a head of the Raida community who was recently attacked by Muslims.

Avraham Zuroff ,

Operation Magic Carpet
Operation Magic Carpet
Israel News File: (archive)

Ten new immigrants arrived in Israel on Thursday afternoon from the Yemenite community of Raida, where Jews have recently been harrassed by Muslims. The special aliyah operation by the Jewish Agency for Israel was carried out in cooperation with the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America and World Magshimey Herut.

The group included Said Ben-Yisrael, one of the heads of the Raida Jewish community, and his wife and seven children, as well as another new immigrant from the community.  Several weeks ago, Muslim extremists threw a grenade into the Ben-Yisrael family's courtyard. In the wake of threats on his life, Said took his family and went to live in the capital city of Sana'a.

Upon landing in Israel, the family was expected to travel to Beit Shemesh accompanied by a Jewish Agency team. The other new immigrant was headed to the Ye'elim Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva.

Yemenite Jews have been under the special protection of President Ali Abdallah Salah. In recent years, though, there has been increased harassment of Jews against a background of anti-Semitism by Muslim extremists. The tension reached a climax this past December, when Moshe Yaish Nahari, father of nine, was murdered by a Muslim. Threats against Jews in Yemen worsened following Israel’s recent military operations in Gaza.

Executive-Director of World Magshimey Herut Karma Feinstein-Cohen told Israel National News, "The Yemenite Jews are a very special community with special needs. While their situation is precarious, it was not easy to convince them to journey to the new unknown land of Israel, even though they cherish it and refer to it as the 'land of their fathers.'" Feinstein-Cohen noted that one of the demands of the new Yeminite immigrants was that they be placed in a surrounding in which there is strict observance of Torah. She said that while they are starting in an absorption center, they will quickly be transferred to a Beit Shemesh neighborhood with a strong religious population. "The success of this operation is due to the excellent cooperation that we had with the Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Yemenite Federation," Feinstein-Cohen noted.

Moshe Vigdor, director-general of the Jewish Agency, said the organization is closely following the situation of the community in Yemen. Eli Cohen, the director-general of the Aliyah and Absorption Department, said that the Jewish Agency strives to ensure the safety of community members and is working to quickly bring to Israel most of the Jews in Yemen who wish to immigrate. The new immigrants will receive special assistance from the agency, including a grant of NIS 40,000 per family.

Jewish Emigration from Yemen
About 280 Jews currently remain in Yemen, 230 of whom live in Raida in the Omran province, and another 50 in Sana'a. The Jews now in Sana'a had fled there from their homes in Sa'ade province about a year ago due to harassment by the Huthi, a terrorist group connected to Al Qaeda. Most of the Jews of Yemen immigrated to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet in 1950. Several hundred Jews immigrated in two subsequent smaller waves – in the mid 1960's and in the beginning of the 1990's.

Dozens of Yemenite Jews have moved to the U.S. and London in recent years, brought there by Satmar Chassidim who object to aliyah to Israel due to concerns that they might abandon their religious observance, as has occurred in the past with previous groups from Yemen that have arrived in Israel.

The Satmar Chassidim are ideologically opposed to the formation of a Jewish State before the Messiah’s arrival. When representatives of the sect initially entered Yemen, their message was welcomed by the anti-Israel Yemenite government. The Satmar sect has expressed its concern for preserving the ancient Jewish community, and recently, its leader, the Satmar Rebbe wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking for assistance to enable Yemenite Jews to emigrate to the United States.