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March 25, 2016  RSS feed
World News

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Final group of Yemen Jews airlifted to Israel in secret

The final group of Jewish immigrants from Yemen arriving in Israel, March 20. 
Photo by Arielle Di-Porto for The Jewish Agency for Israel The final group of Jewish immigrants from Yemen arriving in Israel, March 20. Photo by Arielle Di-Porto for The Jewish Agency for Israel 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, March 20, include 14 from Raydah, including the community’s rabbi, and a family of five from Sanaa, the capital.

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.

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 Yemeni Jews have risen sharply since 2008, when Jewish teacher Moshe Yaish Nahari was murdered in Raydah. In 2012, Zindani was murdered 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.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government reportedly has imprisoned a Jewish man for allegedly helping smuggle a historic Torah scroll out of the war-torn country and into Israel. The man and a Muslim airport worker were arrested for their suspected roles in moving the more-than-500-year-old sefer Torah, of which the government claims ownership, the London Jewish

Chronicle reported.

According to the Chronicle, the two were arrested after local authorities saw media coverage of the covert airlift of Yemeni Jews, which included photos of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reading the Torah scroll with the rabbi from Raydah, who arrived with the Torah.

Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer said he could not confirm whether a Jewish man was currently being detained in Yemen, but 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.”

Mayer added: “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.”

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