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Secret mission nets 500-year-old Torah




“Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2 000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”    – NATAN SHARANSKY

Since 1948, 51 000 Jews have emigrated to Israel from Yemen, which has one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities. Almost all of them were brought to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950.

In recent years, some 200 Jews have left as attacks against the Jewish community have increased and the country has descended into war. The Jewish Agency announced on Monday that the group landed in Israel on Sunday night following a “complex covert operation”.


The final group of 19 Jewish immigrants from Yemen arrive in Israel accompanied by this ancient Torah on March 20 – Pic: Arielle Di-Porto for JAFI

The group from Raydah brought a Torah scroll believed to be between 500 and 600 years old.

“Nineteen individuals arrived in Israel in recent days, including 14 from the town of Raydah (see map below) and a family of five from Sanaa,” a statement said.

“The group from Raydah included the community’s rabbi, who brought the Torah.”

Yemen map

LEFT: Map of Yemen showing location of Raydah


The Jewish Agency said attacks against Jews in Yemen had risen sharply since 2008, when Jewish teacher, Moshe Yaish Nahari, was murdered in Raydah.

In 2012, Aharon Zindani – whose son and four other relatives were on board Sunday’s flight to Israel – was murdered in Sanaa and a young Jewish woman was abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forcibly wed to a Muslim man, it added.

After the conflict between the Yemeni government and the rebel Houthi movement escalated last year, following a Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention, the Jewish community found itself increasingly imperilled and covert operations by Israel to spirit Jews out of Yemen were stepped up.

50 chose to remain in Yemen

The Jewish Agency said some 50 Jews remain in Yemen, including approximately 40 in Sanaa, where they live in a closed compound adjacent to the US embassy and enjoy the protection of Yemeni authorities.

Yemen home

Both the capital and Raydah are controlled by the Zaidi Shia Houthi movement, whose slogan is: “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam.”

Armed Houthi rebels in Sanaa carry a poster saying:

“God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam.”

Sunni jihadist militants from al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) have also gained ground by taking advantage of the unrest.

The chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, said the arrival of the final group of Jewish immigrants from Yemen was “a highly significant moment in the history of Israel”.

Sharansky with Vladimir“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.

LEFT: Natan Sharansky in Johannesburg last year. Read: I don’t want to be the Commissar of Aliyah. “JA head wants all Jews to make aliyah, but doesn’t believe they should be forced to. He sat down for an hour with SAJR’s Ant Katz at his Sandton hotel. He was a keynote speaker at the Fed’s four-yearly national conference.

“Sharansky’s key message to SA Jewry: ‘How long is there a future for Jews in SA? You must decide. If you want to come (to Israel), we will welcome you.’ But, he added, the JA would support and strengthen Jewish life in the Diaspora for those who chose to remain. Read his views on tackling anti-Semitism and a host of different issues.”

“This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end,” said Sharansky, adding that “Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2 000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”


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