In a covert operation by Israel and the U.S. State Department, 19 of the last remaining Yemenite Jews were airlifted out on Sunday, concluding the long-term immigration from Yemen that began in 1949.
Israel is touting it as the completion of an “historic mission” and indeed it is, considering the Jewish state has taken in nearly 51,000 Yemenite Jews since 1948.
But the embattled immigrants’ troubles are far from over.
Although the unrest in Yemen made headlines just last year after Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive against Shiite Houthi rebels, conflict has plagued the small Arab country for several years, in fact, decades. For the tiny Jewish community in a Muslim-majority nation, in particular, religious discrimination made life even worse.
But it was in 2008 when Yemenite Jews realized they could no longer stay in the country when a local teacher and the brother of a prominent rabbi, Moshe Ya’ish Nahari, was murdered in Raydah. In 2012, Aharon Zindani, a Jewish community elder, was killed in 2012.
In the following years, as the Houthi movement began gaining momentum and gained control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, Yemen’s Jews felt most vulnerable amidst the chants of "Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam."
After being airlifted to Israel, Yemenite Jews no longer fear for their safety. But, if history is any indication, their assimilation in their host country is not going to be an easy process.
While aggression against Palestinians living in the occupied territories at the hands of the Israeli government and military is a well-documented fact, the grievances of Arab and African Jews in Israel have long been neglected in the mainstream media.
For instance, in what was referred to as an unprecedented airlift operation, just like the one in Yemen, by the Israeli military through 1984-91, around 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were covertly airlifted to Israel to escape famine. But the community, which now numbers around 135,500 out of Israel's population of over 8 million, claims it has since faced widespread racism and poverty in the country.
Just recently, as Israel concluded its “historic operation” to get the last group of Yemenite Jews out of Yemen, hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis took to the streets in Jerusalem after the Knesset canceled plans to allow their relatives to emigrate from the African nation, calling it an act of discrimination.