New arrivals, the Ben-Yisraels
Photo: Sasson Tiram

Jewish family flees Yemen in secret operation

After a grenade was tossed towards his home, Sa'adia Ben Yisrael decided the time had come for his family to leave the town of Raida for Israel

All over the world Jewish communities are increasingly concerned with the growing wave of anti-Semitism. For Sa'adia Ben-Yisrael in Yemen, the grenade thrown at his family's home proved the final straw.


Under the cover of secrecy, a group of ten Jews, nine of them members of the Ben-Yisrael family, left their Arab homeland for Israel.


Landing in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon, Sa'adia, his wife and their seven children seemed overwhelmed by the media attention that welcomed them to their new home. Also waiting for them were representatives from the Jewish Agency, which helped organize the clandestine airlift.  

The Ben-Yisrael family (Photo: Sasson Tiram)


A prominent member of Yemen's tiny Jewish sector, Sa'adi said ultra-Orthodox members of the anti-Zionist 'Neturei Karta' sect tried to convince him not to make aliyah. "But I'm very glad that I cam to the Holy Land, me and my family," he said.


The children, aged one year to 12, clung to their mother and mirrored her polite smile amidst the commotion. Two of the boys, six-year-old Menachem and eight-year-old Yehoshua were particularly cheerful. They sang songs in Hebrew for the cameras, recited the Hebrew alphabet and blessed the sweets they received.


The tenth member of the Yemenite entourage is a bachelor, also hailing from the town of Raida. The group will be housed at the Jewish Agency's center in Beersheva.


Only 280 Jews left

The new Israelis were also welcomed by Rabbi Moshe Tenami from Rechasim, who over the past several years has taken part in helping bring Yemen's Jews to Israel. Tenami makes an effort to maintain secrecy regarding the identity of the immigrants and those currently planning to come.


"They're actually in great danger, not long ago someone was murdered there. They're in real danger, we know who we're dealing with," the rabbi said.


The Ben-Yisrael family first departed Raida for the capital city of Sanaa and from there to Israel, with the help of the Jewish Agency and the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America.


Ezra Tzubari, Ben-Yisrael's cousin, said he hoped the family's decision would encourage others to do the same.


"To the people still there in Yemen who are even a little in danger – just come here and see this completely different world," he said.


There are currently 280 Jews remaining in Yemen. Most of them, nearly 230 people, reside in Raida. The rest are in Sanaa. 


פרסום ראשון: 02.20.09, 00:33
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