Final group of Jews from Yemen airlifted to Israel in secret mission


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A group of the last remaining Jews from Yemen arrived in Israel in a secret operation coordinated by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The 19 Jews who arrived Sunday include 14 from Raydah, including the community’s rabbi, and a family of five from Sanaa, the capital. The rabbi brought with him a 500- to 600-year-old Torah scroll, the Jewish Agency said in a statement issued Monday.

The Sanaa family included the son of Aharon Zindani, who was killed in an anti-Semitic attack in 2012. Zindani’s widow and several of their children made aliyah shortly after the attack, and his body was brought to Israel for burial.

Some 200 Jews have been secretly brought to Israel from Yemen by The Jewish Agency in recent years, including several dozen in recent months, as attacks against the Jewish community have increased and the country has become embroiled in civil war.

“This is a highly significant moment in the history of Israel and of aliyah,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, said in a statement. “From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, The Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close.

“This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”

More than 51,000 Yemenite Jews have immigrated to Israel since the country’s establishment in 1948. The majority of the community — nearly 50,000 people — was brought to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950.

Attacks against Jews in Yemen have risen sharply since 2008, when Jewish teacher Moshe Yaish Nahari was murdered in Raydah. In 2012, Zindani was murdered in Sanaa and a young Jewish woman was abducted, forced to convert to Islam and forcibly wed to a Muslim man.

Some 50 Jews remain in Yemen by choice, including approximately 40 in Sanaa, where they live in a closed compound adjacent to the U.S. Embassy and are currently under the protection of Yemeni authorities.

“The Jewish Agency will continue to assist any Jew who wishes to make Israel his or her home,” the statement concluded.

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