Secret Israeli operation brings Yemenite Jews home

Thursday, August 15, 2013 |  Yossi Aloni

In a secret operation carried out by the Jewish Agency with the assistance of the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Absorption, Israel yesterday successfully brought home 17 Jews from Yemen.

Among the group were parents who escaped directly from Yemen to Israel, and their children, who had been spirited away to Argentina two years earlier.

The story began in August 2011, when members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Satmar movement convinced a group of 30 Yemenite Jews to come to London where they would be provided refugee status.

However, just after leaving Yemen, the group was informed it would not be allowed to enter the UK, and instead made its way to Argentina. Among the group were six of Yehya Karnei's children and four of his brother Haim Karnei's children. The two sets of parents and their children were finally reunited on Israeli soil yesterday.

In recent years, Yemen's small Jewish community has suffered increasing threats from Muslim extremists, including those affiliated with Al Qaeda. On numerous occasions since 2008, prominent members of the Jewish community have been openly murdered with impunity for daring to speak out on behalf of their people.

The rate of Jewish immigration from Yemen has increased significantly as a result of the upsurge in anti-Semitic threats and activity. In the past four years, over 150 Yemenite Jews have come to Israel thanks to special and secretive operations by the Jewish Agency.

According to Jewish Agency estimates, there are only 90 Jews remaining in Yemen, and half of them live in a protected compound in the capital of Sana'a.

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