'US State Dept. rescues 60 Yemeni Jews'

US State Department res

October 31, 2009 11:45
2 minute read.

Amid a rise in anti-Semitic violence and terrorist activity in the country, the US State Department recently spirited nearly 60 Jews from Yemen and resettled them in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. According to the report, nearly 350 Yemenite Jews lived in the country before the operation. Those who have already moved to the US are likely to be joined by 100 more, while the remainder will most likely move to Israel. "If we had not done anything, we feared there would be bloodshed," Gregg Rickman, a former State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, told the paper. In August, Israeli sources confirmed that the overwhelming majority of the final remnant of Yemen's ancient Jewish community was looking to leave. "About 120 of the Yemeni Jews want to move to Israel, 100 want to move to the US," a source told The Jerusalem Post. "And between 20 and 30 want to stay." Some of the Jews wishing to leave are unable to do so because they are having trouble selling their property, the source said. Violent attacks and persecution have been a regular experience of Yemen's tiny Jewish community in recent years, against the backdrop of tensions and an anti-government insurrection in the northwestern Saada province, where a Shi'ite minority has been clashing with government forces since 2004. The US ambassador reportedly urged Yemeni cabinet ministers to facilitate the departure. After initial reluctance (the Wall Street Journal reported that the government preferred to give the Jews safe haven in the capital city), Yemen agreed to issue exit permits and passports. "It was the embassy's view, and the department concurred, that because of their vulnerability, we should consider them for resettlement," a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration was quoted as saying. The Jewish Federations of North America is said to have raised $750,000 to help the effort. Orthodox groups also pledged to pitch in. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was tasked with their resettlement. The evacuation of the Yemeni Jews, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Diaspora, is apparently a sign of America's growing concern about this Arabian Peninsula land of 23 million. The operation followed a year of mounting harassment, and was planned with Jewish relief groups while Washington was signaling alarm about Yemen, the Wall Street Journal said. It revealed that in July, US Gen. David Petraeus was dispatched to Yemen to encourage President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be more aggressive against al-Qaida terrorists in the country. Last month, President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to Saleh that Yemen's security is vital to the region and the US. Saleh has reportedly been trying to protect the Jews, but his inability to quell the rebellion in the country's north made it less likely he could do so, prompting the US to step in. The alternative - risking broader attacks on the Jews - could well have undermined the Obama administration's efforts to rally support for Saleh in the US and abroad. Jews are believed to have reached what is now Yemen more than 2,500 years ago as traders for King Solomon. "They were one of the oldest exiled groups out of Israel," Hayim Tawil, a Yeshiva University professor who is an expert on Yemeni Jewry, was quoted as telling the Wall Street Journal. "This is the end of the Jewish Diaspora of Yemen. That's it."

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