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Violence Among New Yemenite Olim Prompts Bid for Absorption Change

August 4, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A few violent incidents among new Yemenite immigrants at an absorption center have prompted a call by a Jewish Agency official for a change in the way these newcomers are settled.

Uri Gordon, the agency’s head of immigration and absorption, said the incidents showed that problems arise when immigrants are concentrated at centers and that the recent spate of publicity about the Yemenites’ arrival has added to the tension there.

He suggested in news reports that the next group of arrivals be absorbed directly in Israeli neighborhoods with the help of so-called benefits baskets.

Last Friday night, Yemenite immigrants living in the Oshiyot Absorption Center in Rehovot blocked traffic near the center and attacked a reporter and photographer who apparently had come to record their actions.

A policeman arrived on the scene to investigate and had his hand broken while trying to intervene in the attack.

Two immigrants taken into police custody later explained they were merely trying to prevent the desecration of the Sabbath and did not know they were violating the law.

On Sunday, a journalist visiting the center reportedly was attacked by some immigrants and had his tape recorder broken.

The center’s director, Akiva Barel, said that the attacks on reporters are prompted by fears that the publicity could harm the immigrants and their families who remain in Yemen.

He said the Shabbat violence came as a result of tension that had built up the Sabbath before, when Israeli teens rode provocatively around the center on motorcycles.

Jewish Agency spokesman Yehudah Weinraub said that the immigrants, who are deeply religious and have little or no prior experience with secular Jews, said that “when they were in Yemen, the Arabs knew it was their Sabbath and did not disrupt it, and they didn’t see why it should be disrupted in a Jewish country.”

Weinraub said that Barel and the police explained to the Yemenites they could not take the law into their own hands and that Barel urged that the newcomers be educated about Israeli law.

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