Yemenite Jews in YemenJun 22, 2012 at 01:11:34 AM
Not long ago I picked up a hitchhiker in Israel. I don't usually do so randomly, but this guy had a sincere look about him. He got in and I started the conversation.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"I was born in Yemen," he answered.
I thought that all the Yemenite Jews had come to Israel on Operation Magic Carpet in 1950. He looked about 18 years old, and my brain quickly calculated that something didn't jive here.
"If you were born in Yemen, when did you come to Israel?" I asked.
"Two weeks ago," he said.
I was shocked. He then told me all about life in Yemen, and about his transition to a far more Western culture. (He was wielding a smartphone and seemed to fit right in.)
It turns out there are about 130 Jews still living in Yemen today. The hitchhiker told me that his family had stayed so long because of business reasons; they left because Yemen has seen a rise in radical Islamic fervor (think USS Cole) and threats against Jews. In 2008, a 30-year-old rabbi was killed when a Yemenite air force pilot told him, "Jew, accept Islam's message" and then shot him five times.
Just this month Aharon Zindani, a 49-year-old Yemenite man, was tragically stabbed to death in what is being described as an anti-Semitic incident. He was buried in Israel on Thursday.
Jews have lived in Yemen uninterrupted for nearly 3,000 years. It's incredible to think that may soon come to an end.