Most of the last Jews in Yemen have been rescued from the war-torn Arabian nation and brought to Israel in a secret operation to “bring Yemeni Jewry home”.
Officials from the Jewish Agency said that 19 people had been spirited out of the country, with 14 from the town of Raydah and five from the capital Sanaa, including a rabbi who brought a Torah scroll believed to be 500 years old.
One of those rescued was the father of Aharon Zindani, who was murdered in an anti-Semitic attack in 2012. Zindani’s remains were brought to Israel for burial.
There are understood to be around 50 mostly elderly Jews still living in Yemen, down from a total of 51,000 before 1949, when the first missions were launched.
“From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, we have helped bring Yemeni Jewry home to Israel,” said Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharansky. “Today we bring that historic mission to a close.”
He added: “This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”
Since the overthrow of Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab Spring, there was been a civil war between Shi’ite Houthi militias and Sunni-backed forces, while jihadists loyal to Islamic State have seized control of the east of the country.
Jerusalem says attacks against Jews have been on the rise since 2008, when Moshe Ya’ish Nahari, a teacher, was murdered in Raydah. There were also reports of a young Jewish woman being abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and married to a Muslim man.
Of the 50 or so remaining, most live in Sanaa, in a secure compound net to the American embassy, and have chosen to stay. Sharansky said the Jewish Agency “will continue to assist any Jew who wishes to make Israel his or her home”.