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Tuesday, 22 March 2016
Israel covertly airlifts 19 Jews out of Yemen
JERUSALEM: Israel has brought in 19 Jews from war-ravaged Yemen in a secret mission. It was described by immigration officials as the last covert operation to move members of a dwindling Jewish community dating back two millennia.
Seventeen people arrived late on Sunday, including a man who doubled up as the rabbi and kosher butcher in the northern Yemeni town of Raydah, carrying a 500-year-old Torah scroll, said officials. Two others came in a few days earlier. The sacred manuscript’s departure from Yemen marked the de facto end of a community that has lived alongside its Muslim neighbors for centuries, only to be driven out by a surge in fighting and political turmoil. Yemeni Jews have complained of increasing harassment since the rebel Houthi movement — whose slogan is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews” — seized control of Sanaa in 2014. Israel has organized waves of Jewish immigration including the mass transfer of most of Yemen’s then 40,000-strong Jewish community in 1949. According to the Jewish organizations, OVER 51,000 Yemenite Jews have been transferred to Israel since the country was founded in 1948. Nearly 50,000 were brought over in 1949 and 1950 in a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet. Around 50 Jews had decided to stay, including at least 40 living in a compound near the US Embassy in Sanaa, under Yemeni government protection. Other operations have transferred Jewish populations from Ethiopia and, more covertly, from Arab or Muslim states with which Israel has no formal relations.