The airlift of 17 new immigrants from Yemen to Israel was kept secret for fear that anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidim would try to thwart it, Al-Monitor claims:
On March 21, 17 new immigrants from Yemen landed in Israel. These are Jews who were born in the war-torn Muslim nation and brought to Israel in a secret operation, aided by many international players. The Jewish Agency, which works to encourage the immigration of Jews throughout the world to Israel, oversaw the operation.
Indeed, in recent years many Yemeni Jewish families have immigrated to the United States and settled in the towns of Monsey and Monroe in New York State, and the Hasidim have helped them financially. The media has reported on some cases where Yemeni Jews were allegedly kept in the United States against their will.
“Their [Hasidim’s] method is based on disparaging the State [of Israel],” said Shlomo Jerafi, a 74-year-old veteran immigrant from Yemen who told Al-Monitor he has been active in recent years in all the operations bringing Yemeni Jews to Israel.
“Already in the early 1990s, when I first returned to Yemen,” he said, “I had to deal with the Satmars’ anti-Zionist propaganda. I had to convince them [the Jews] that in Israel no one cares if you’re religious or secular. But they didn’t believe me, because they were sure that they would force them to remove their [Jewish traditional skullcap] yarmulkes [in Israel], because that’s what the Satmar said.”
According to Jerafi, the reason that Yemeni Jews especially became a target for Satmar Hasidim is the fact that they are the only Jews in the Diaspora who have all remained religious. “You can see in all the waves of immigration, even the last one, that everyone has beards and sidelocks. When I brought Jews from Iraq, for instance, not one of them had a religious appearance. Even the great majority of Iranian Jews don’t look religious. They look exactly like the local Arabs and so they don’t interest the Satmar. The Satmars are truly convinced that only the religious can be saved from secularization.”