In Covert Operation, 17 Yemenite Jews Arrive in Israel

Yemenite children reunite with their parents after a two year wait; photo by Moshe Brin /The Jewish Agency for Israel
Yemenite children reunite with their parents after a two year wait; photo by Moshe Brin/The Jewish Agency for Israel

Jerusalem, August 14, 2013 – In response to heightened security concerns in Yemen, The Jewish Agency today brought 17 Yemenite Jews to Israel.

The group consisted of two set of parents, who were brought directly to Israel from Yemen, and 10 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 Agency, a record number of 151 Yemeni Jews have come to Israel since 2009, reflecting the uptick in the number of anti-Semitic incidents there.

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, Absorption Ministry and The Jewish Agency, worked hand in hand – and expediently – 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 Hassidic 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. 10 of these kids (six belonging to Yahia Karni and four belonging to Haim Karni) were on today’s flight to Israel).

In recent years, Yemenite Jews have been the targets of threats by Muslim extremists, including those identified with the terrorist group 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 Agency estimates. Half reside in the capital Sana’a in a protected area, while the rest are in Omran province’s city of Rida.