Breaking News: UJC/Jewish Federations of North America Help JAFI's Dramatic Rescue of Yemenite Jews
Another dramatic moment in Jewish history took place at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport on Feb. 19, 2009, when 10 Jews from Yemen landed in Israel as part of a secret rescue and aliyah operation by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supported by UJC/Jewish Federations of North America.
Recent events in Yemen suggest rising anti-Semitism. On Dec.10, Moshe Yaish-Nahiri, a Hebrew teacher, father of nine and brother of a local prominent rabbi, was shot dead near his home in Rida. The perpetrator, a young Muslim fundamentalist, also threatened violence against the entire Jewish community. In response, the Yemenite government paid to relocate the community to the capital of Sanaa in January for better protection. According to a Yemenite news report, some Jews refused to move, fearing this would further endanger them.
Until today, there were 280 Jews living in Yemen: about 230 in the city of Rida and 50 in the capital of Sanaa, who moved there after their homes in Saada came under attack by Al Qaeda terrorists.
Working through several clandestine channels to ensure the safety of both those who chose to make aliyah and those who chose to stay in Yemen, JAFI launched a special operation to bring Yemenite Jewish community members to Israel. Among the first to arrive was Sayid Ben Israel, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Rida.
Several weeks ago, Sayid and his family came under attack by anti-Semitic extremists, who threw a grenade into the courtyard of his home. Following this attack and additional threats to his life, Sayid moved with his wife and seven children to Saana. Today, they came home to Israel. Upon their arrival, the Ben Israel family was being placed in the city of Beit Shemesh, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, receiving the full range of JAFI support services provided to new immigrants. The remaining new immigrants arriving will be placed in the Yeelim Absorption Center in Beersheva, where they will also receive JAFI absorption assistance.
Rescuing Jews from persecution and ensuring their safety and success in Israel is JAFI's core mission. "The Jewish Agency is working tirelessly to ensure the safety of the Yemenite Jewish community in light of recent events," said Eli Cohen, director of JAFI's Department for Aliyah and Absorption. "We strive to bring as many Jews as possible to Israel from Yemen who are interested in making aliyah as quickly as possible."
JAFI – and this special operation in particular – is funded by UJC/Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, foundations and donors from Israel and around the world. Representatives of these organizations, including UJC's Becky Caspi, were on hand to welcome the new immigrants.
Images of the New Israelis
Among the new Israelis is Said Ben Yisrael, one of the heads of the Jewish community in the city of Rida. Ben Yisrael (pictured at left, above) arrived with his wife and seven children. Several weeks ago, a grenade was thrown into his courtyard.
The new Israelis are welcomed at Ben Gurion airport by Becky Caspi of UJC/Jewish Federations of North America.
Welcome to Israel, Leah, Rachel, Yehoshua and Menashe, part of the 9-member Ben Yisrael family which arrived in Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in a special aliyah operation run by the Jewish Agency.