King's Evangelical Divinity School

25 March 2010

Yemeni Jews

Today's Independent has a lengthy story on Yemeni (aka Yemenite) Jews fleeing persecution and settling in London and elsewhere, which is well worth a read. The history of the Jews of Yemen has always fascinated me, while the Operation Magic Carpet airlift of 49,000 or so Jews from Yemen and surrounds in 1949-50 on British and American transport 'planes represents quite an Exodus story. There are some reports of how many of the Yemeni Jews were fearful of boarding the aircraft because they came from ancient villages and had never even driven in a car. Two biblical passages became associated with the operation - Exodus 19:4 and Isaiah 40:31 - which refer to God saving His people on wings of eagles, and apparently the Yemeni Jews had to be reminded of these Scriptures to persuade them to board the 'planes.

The airlift also highlights how the Middle East conflict has created refugees on both sides, an important part of the narrative often ignored, with many hundreds of thousands of Jews, possibly a million, having fled Arab countries over the years, leaving homes and possessions behind.

Anyway, I think you'll enjoy the article and well done to the Independent for publishing it. Meanwhile, an interesting account of Operation Magic Carpet from the perspective of an Irish-American pilot involved in the airlift (dubbed the "Irish Moses") can be found in this New York Times story. For more on the history of the Jews of Yemen see this online encyclopaedia article.

1 comment:

Philip said...

It's really interesting. I would like to read more on the subject of Jews in Arab countries, but find it hard to find reliable, unbiased info. I went to the only functioning synagogue for a Saturday service in the city in which I live, and it was really something.

A couple of interesting pieces on Jews in Syria, here and here.