Nineteen Yemeni Jews—14 from the town of Raydah, plus a family from Sanaa—are now in Israel because of a successful, secret operation run by the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental organization involved with bringing new immigrants to Israel.
Not much has been reported about just how this group of Olim made it from Yemen to Israel, nor the route they took, given that the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. Reported the New York Times:
It was not clear whether the Yemeni Jews had left by air or sea for the first leg of their journey. Israeli officials remained tight-lipped on the subject, possibly to protect the route in case the Jews who remained behind decide at a later date to emigrate.
Arielle Di Porto, the director of Jewish immigration from distressed countries at the Jewish Agency, who coordinated the journey of the Yemeni Jews and met them upon their arrival in Israel, said only that the recent immigrants had not arrived on an Israeli plane.
In a statement, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, said: “From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, the Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel.”
During Operation Magic Carpet, 50,000 Yemeni Jews were airlifted to Israel. The Jewish Agency says an estimated 50 Jews remain in Yemen, where they remain by choice. One of the Yemeni Jews making aliyah earlier this week—a rabbi—brought with him a Torah scroll, believed to be 500-600 years old.
“This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end,” said Sharansky, “but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”
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Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.