Absorption hardships for Yemenite Jews

Touching story from Y-net News about the hardships facing new immigrants to Israel from Yemen. They are no longer eligible for state-subsidised mortgages, an anomaly that the government can surely rectify without too much difficulty. It has to be said that the numbers affected are minimal: fewer than 300 Jews still live in Yemen. (With thanks: Albert)

A year after arriving in Israel to be reunited with her son, Lauza Nahari asks to return to Yemen. ‘Son, please get me a ticket back to Yemen. This place is bad for me,’ she says.

Yechiel Nahari hadn’t seen his mother for 12 years. A year and two months ago, his friends from the Border Guard surprised him and brought his mother straight from Yemen to the ceremony marking the end of his basic training. But the originally joyful immigration has turned into a nightmare for the mother, who wanders between homes of distant relatives. It turns out that, unlike new immigrants from Ethiopia, immigrants from Yemen are not entitled to a state-subsidized mortgage.

A year and two months ago, Border Guard policemen surprised cadet Yechiel Nahari, then 19-years-old, by bringing his mother, whom he had not seen for 12 years, to the concluding ceremony of his basic training. Still on the courtyard, Nahari burst into tears as he hugged his mother. “Don’t cry, son. Don’t let people see a soldier cry,” scolded his mother. Yechiel Nahari was taken from his mother 12 years ago in Yemen, at the age of seven, by the Sumter hassidim (Sotmar? Ed) from the United States. After suffering from the strict regime at one of their yeshivot in New York, he wandered the streets until he met Shlomo Grafi, the patron of Yemeni immigrants to Israel in recent years. Grafi helped the boy immigrate to Israel and be accepted to the Border Guard. Grafi promised Nahari that he would do his best to help Nahari’s mother come to Israel also. A year ago, he stood by his word and, indeed, brought her to Israel as a surprise for Nahari’s military ceremony. Following the ceremony, the mother returned to Yemen and, a few months later, arrived in Israel, this time as a new immigrant.

Today, Nahari feels that he and his mother were abandoned in Israel. “They housed us in an absorption center in Ashdod, but all the immigrants there were Ethiopian or Russian. She doesn’t speak the language and she felt lonely and neglected. Since then, she has been wandering from distant relative to distant relative. I serve as a combat officer in the Border Guard and come home only once every two weeks. It’s heartbreaking to see my mother homeless.”

Added Nahari: “My mother is a very sick woman. In Yemen, they tossed a grenade into her house and she suffers from shrapnel wounds and has trouble walking. She also suffers traumas from her difficult life in Yemen. Every time she sees me, she says: ‘Son, please get me a ticket back to Yemen. This place is bad for me.'”

Yesterday, in her cousin’s house in Rehovot, in Yemenite peppered with Arabic (they speak Hebrew of Biblical purity – Ed), Lauza Nahari said: “I wander from house to house and cry night and day. They made me a new immigrant, but I’m actually lonely and abandoned. I don’t know the language and I have no possessions, not even a bed.”

Shlomo Grafi, the man responsible for the Yemeni immigration in the past decade and, specifically, for bringing Lauza Nahari to Israel, appealed several times to the exceptions committee in the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption in order for Lauza to receive government assistance for public housing.

Says Grafi, “In March of 1995, the state decided to stop providing mortgages for apartments such as the ones they gave to Ethiopian immigrants. Recent immigrants (from Yemen) are neither able to leave the absorption centers or to become integrated within them.” The spokeswoman from the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption said in response, “In the past, Yemeni immigrants were eligible to receive state-subsidized mortgages but today, pursuant to an order from the Ministry of Finance, only Ethiopian immigrants are eligible for them. The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption appealed to the Ministry of Finance to extend the eligibility also to Yemeni immigrants, but to no avail. The issue has since been appealed again and is awaiting Minister Zeev’s response on whether all immigrants from troubled countries, including Yemen, will be eligible for mortgages. In the meantime, if Lauza would like to move to the absorption center in Ashkelon, where two Yemeni families are currently residing, we would be happy to help her.”

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More about the last Jews of Yemen here

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