In response to heightened security concerns in Yemen, the Jewish Agency brought 17 Yemenite Jews to Israel on Wednesday.
The group consisted of two set of parents, who were brought directly to Israel from Yemen, and ten of their children, who were brought to Argentina two years ago through the efforts of the Satmar community. These new immigrants landed in Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel on Wednesday night and were brought to their new homes at a Jewish Agency absorption center in the South where they will begin the next chapter of their lives as free and protected Jews living of the State of Israel.
According to data collected by the Jewish Agency, a record number of 151 Yemeni Jews have come to Israel since 2009, reflecting the uptick in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Yemen.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky noted, “Tonight we are privileged to engage in a mission that combined the saving of lives, the reunification of a family, and immigration to Israel. Behind the scenes of this operation lie the dedication and expertise of the Jewish Agency and our partner organizations who all contributed to the mission’s success.” Sharansky added, “The Jewish Agency stands at the ready to bring any Yemeni Jew who expresses interest in making aliyah to Israel, and to help the local community in any way possible.”
The timing of the covert mission coincided with increasing security tensions in Yemen. Several international bodies, including Israel’s Ministry of the Interior, Foreign Office, and Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency, worked expediently, hand in hand to deliver the Yemeni parents from danger and to reunite them with their children in Israel.
The roots of this mission began in August 2011, when the Satmar chassidic community convinced a group of 30 Jews in Yemen to move to London, where they would receive refugee status. After leaving Yemen, the group learned that they were denied entry to the United Kingdom and would be brought to Argentina instead. Ten of these kids (six belonging to Yahia Karni and four belonging to Haim Karni) were on this week’s flight to Israel.
In recent years, Yemenite Jews have been the targets of threats by Muslim extremists, including those identified with al-Qaeda. The number of anti-Semitic threats and attacks against the Jewish community there has been on the rise since 2008, when Jewish schoolteacher Moshe Nahari was killed, spiked in 2010 with the murder of Jewish community leader Aaron Zindani, and again in 2012 after the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
As a consequence, the number of Yemenite Jews immigrating to Israel in the past few years has reached record highs.
Currently, fewer than 90 Jews live in Yemen, according to Jewish Agency estimates. Half reside in the capital, Sana’a, in a protected area, while the rest are in Omran province’s city of Rida. v