17 Yemenite Jews brought to Israel in covert operation

Jewish Agency helps facilitate arrival of Jews from Yemen in clandestine aliya mission reminiscent of Operation Magic Carpet.

Jews from Yemen to Israel 370 (photo credit: Moshe Brin /The Jewish Agency for Israel)
Jews from Yemen to Israel 370
(photo credit: Moshe Brin /The Jewish Agency for Israel)
The Jewish Agency on Wednesday night helped a group of 17 Jews to move to Israel from Yemen, in a covert maneuver reminiscent of 1949-50’s Operation Magic Carpet, the first mass aliya after the foundation of the state.
Citing heightened security concerns and increasing tensions in Yemen, two sets of parents were brought directly to Israel, along with 10 of their children who had been living in Argentina.
The immigrants landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and were taken to an absorption center in the South.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said: “Tonight we are privileged to engage in a mission that combined the saving of lives, the reunification of a family and immigration to Israel.
Behind the scenes of this operation lies the dedication and expertise of the Jewish Agency and our partner organizations who all contributed to the mission’s success.
“The Jewish Agency stands at the ready to bring any Yemeni Jew who expresses interest in making aliya to Israel, and to help the local community in any way possible,” Sharansky said.
The members of the group had attempted to enter the United Kingdom with the hope of obtaining refugee status. However, after leaving Yemen, they learned that they were denied entry to the UK and would be brought to Argentina instead.
Ten of these children (with Yahia Karni the father of six and and Haim Karni the father of four) were on Wednesday’s flight to Israel.
Recently, Yemenite Jews have been targets of threats by Islamists, including those who identify with al-Qaida.
Anti-Semitic threats and attacks in Yemen have been on the rise since 2008, when schoolteacher Moshe Nahari was killed. His wife and nine children immigrated to Israel.
Anti-Semitic incidents spiked in 2010 when community leader Aaron Zindani was stabbed to death in a market. Subsequently, his wife and five children immigrated to Israel, and took his body with them for burial in the Jewish state, with assistance from the Jewish Agency and the Foreign Ministry.
Things worsened again in 2012 after the ouster of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
As a consequence, the number of Yemenite Jews immigrating to Israel in the past few years has reached recent highs.
An estimated 100 Jews live in Yemen. Half reside in the capital Sanaa in a protected area, while the rest are in Omran province’s city of Rida.
Amnesty International has previously written to the Yemeni government, urging the country to protect its Jewish citizens.
The organization stated that it is “deeply concerned for the safety of members of the Jewish community in northwestern Yemen following the killing of one member of the community and anonymous serious threats to others to leave Yemen or face death.”