Secret Operation Brings 19 of Yemen’s Last Remaining Jews to Israel

Moshe Dahari (2nd R), one of 19 Jews from Yemen, who were brought to Israel by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel, in what immigration officials described as the last covert operation to move members of a dwindling Jewish community dating back two millennia, can be seen at an absorption center in Beersheba, Israel March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Moshe Dahari (2nd R), one of 19 Jews from Yemen, who were brought to Israel seen at an absorption center in Be’er Sheva, Monday. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

An Israeli group says a clandestine operation has brought some of the last remaining Yemenite Jews to Israel.

The Jewish Agency said Monday that 19 Yemenite Jews arrived over the past few days. The Agency works closely with the Israeli government and acts as a link to Jews around the world.

Of the 19, most were from the town of Raydah, while the others came from Sanaa.

Seventeen people arrived late on Sunday, including a man who doubled up as the Rabbi and shochet in the northern Yemeni town of Raydah. He carried a 500-year-old sefer Torah, said officials. Two others came in a few days earlier.

The sefer Torah’s departure from Yemen marked the de facto end of a community that has lived alongside its Muslim neighbors for centuries, only to be driven out by a surge in fighting and political turmoil.

Yemenite Jews have complained of increasing harassment since the rebel Houthi movement – whose slogan is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam” – seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The Jewish Agency says the Yemenite Jews were flown in on a “complex covert operation.”  The Agency would not disclose details of the secret mission, which it named “Miktzeh Teiman,” a phrase taken from a passuk that translates as “from the ends of Yemen.” Channel 2 reported that the U.S. was involved in the mission. Yemen and Israel have no diplomatic ties.

Some 50,000 Jews have arrived in Israel from Yemen since 1949.

Attacks against Jews in Yemen have risen sharply since 2008, when Jewish teacher Moshe Ya’ish Nahari, Hy”d, was murdered in Raydah. In 2012 Aharon Zindani, Hy”d, was murdered in Sanaa and a young Jewish woman was abducted, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. As Yemen has descended into civil war and the humanitarian situation in the country worsened, the Jewish community found itself increasingly imperiled.

As a result, the Jewish Agency has undertaken numerous covert operations to spirit Jews out of Yemen and bring them to Israel.

About 50 Jews chose to remain in Yemen, including approximately 40 in Sanaa, where they live in a closed compound adjacent to the U.S. Embassy and enjoy the protection of Yemeni authorities. They have chosen to remain in the country without Jewish communal or organizational infrastructure.

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