The Continuing Emigration from Yemen

feb20_1The UJC/Jewish Federations of North America has announced a plan to help in the emigration, resettlement and absorption of Yemenite Jews. The entire community now lives in fear of Islamic extremists and the persecution they may inflict in response to Israeli and world events. It is being reported that as a result of these events, this community is actively seeking to leave Yemen.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting “the extraction of the Yemenite Jews comes at the behest of the New York Satmar community.

In January, Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, head of the Satmar hassidim in Kiryas Yoel in New York, called on US Jewry and the Obama administration to “save” the remnant of the Yemenite Jewish community, whom he said faced growing verbal and physical attacks.

Apparently in the wake of this request, the US embassy in Sana’a has been interviewing Yemenite Jewish families in order to grant them visas and refugee status in the United States. Similar efforts by the Israeli government have been unsuccessful because, according to government officials, the Yemenite government has refused to approve passports for Jews wishing to leave for Israel.”

The Jewish community of Yemen dates back to the period following the destruction of the first Temple. Immigration from Yemen to Palestine began in 1881 and continued almost without interruption until 1914; during this period nearly ten percent of Yemenite Jews came to Israel.

The second wave of Yemenite immigration to Israel began in 1949. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, and in response to growing Arab attacks, virtually the entire Yemenite-Jewish community fled the country. Between June 1949 and September 1950, JAFI’s Federation-supported rescue effort, Operation Magic Carpet, brought more than 50,000 Jews to Israel.

In 1962, a civil war in Yemen halted the Jewish exodus, but JAFI led many secret rescue efforts. In 1964, some 1,000 Jews were brought to Israel and again in 1992 a plane of 700 Yemenite Jews arrived. It is believed several hundred remain in Yemen, scattered in various villages.

Just last month, JAFI was involved in the clandestine rescue of the Sayid Ben Israel family from Rida, Yemen.

image: JAFI – members of Sayid Ben Israel’s family on arrival in Israel

update: The Forward is reporting “A secret and delicate operation to evacuate a substantial portion of Yemen’s tiny and beleaguered Jewish population has been thrust into public view and put at risk by infighting among rival Jewish organizations. In the wake of disclosures in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the organizations involved are now accusing one another of endangering Jewish lives.”

Here’s the complete article from The Forward, Secret Yemen Rescue Imperiled by Communal Turf Battles.