Murder victim buried as fears grow for Yemen community

By Nathan Jeffay, July 5, 2012
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Aaron Zindani's sons in Rehovot

Aaron Zindani's sons in Rehovot

He left the bosom of his family to improve its lot — and came back in a coffin. Last week, a Jewish man who was cruelly murdered in Yemen, was buried in his family’s Israeli hometown of Rehovot.

Aaron Zindani, 46, had moved to Israel 10 years ago but returned to his native Yemen — today a hotbed of Islamism and antisemitism — in 2010 because he was troubled by his family’s economic situation in Israel and decided to release capital by selling all the assets it owned in Yemen.

“He saw that we prayed in a bomb shelter,” said his brother-in-law Atser Yayish, explaining that Aaron had hoped to purchase, among other things, a facility for a small family synagogue in Rehovot.
Mr Yayish said of the funeral: “It was tragic to see 10 of his 11 children taking him to his grave, just because a Muslim terrorist killed him for being a Jew.”

Yemen’s once-flourishing Jewish community, today comprised of just 130 souls, was shocked last month when Mr Zindani was killed in a marketplace — the third Jew to be murdered in the country in the past decade. The family and the Jewish Agency say that the attack was antisemitic.

Most Yemenite Jews left Yemen in 1949 and 1950, when Jewish organisations airlifted 50,000 to Israel in “Operation Magic Carpet”. In recent years, those who remain in Yemen have come to live in fear. Half of them live in a compound with much-needed government protection in the capital city, Sanaa.

But, while many of the Jews left in Yemen could never see themselves leaving, Mr Zindani was just waiting for the right moment to return to Israel, said Mr Yayish. Nevertheless, he had helped to lead the community over the past two years.

The Jewish Agency, with the help of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, convinced the Yemenite authorities to release the body and flew it to Israel in what it called a “complex and protracted operation.”

The Zindanis, an influential family in Yemenite-Jewish circles, are now calling for all Jews living in Yemen to drop their insistence on staying put and head to Israel. “As far as I’m concerned, they need to sell their houses and move,” said Mr Yayish. The Jewish Agency issued a statement saying that it will facilitate the “immediate” aliyah of any Yemenite Jew who wants it.

Last updated: 12:05pm, July 5 2012