An elderly couple that heads one of the oldest Yemenite Jewish families has arrived safely in Abu Dhabi, where they were reunited with their relatives. The rescue came about as a result of the joint efforts of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia.

While there have been many efforts over the decades, including “Operation Esther,” to rescue oppressed Jews in Yemen, there are still a handful of families who have refused to leave the ancient Jewish community, which according to some accounts dates back 3,000 years to the time of the First Temple.

But the situation became more unbearable than ever in recent months after extremist groups fighting in the nation’s longstanding civil war took over many areas of the country, and an international campaign was launched to bring the remaining families to safety. Among the items needed for exit visas during the civil war was a country allied with Yemen to sponsor emigrants and grant entry visas.

Lazar was enlisted into the campaign, and he reached out to Prince al Nahyan to assist in the humanitarian operation, and authorities in Abu Dhabi granted citizenship to the elderly couple, and even took part in the rescue itself. Additionally, in an unusual move, citizenship was also granted to the other family members currently living in London, so that they could come to Abu Dhabi and reunite with their parents whom they haven’t seen for the past 15 years.

The reunion was exciting and emotional as family members thanked G‑d for saving their parents. They also expressed their appreciation to the Crown Prince and the Chief Rabbi, and to all those who worked to make this operation successful.

A Special Letter of Thanks

Lazar sent the prince a special letter of thanks, which noted that “on behalf of the Yemenite Jews and their families, we are privileged to thank His Royal Honor for the humanitarian gesture and the assistance that the Prince provided in granting entry visas to the families of the Yemenite Jews, so that they can be rescued from Yemen to Abu Dhabi, thus saving their lives from danger.

“The United Arab Emirates is one of the most unique countries on earth” continued the chief rabbi. “A country with values, a country with tolerance, a country with generosity, a country that is very giving. Therefore, it receives G‑d’s blessings to such an extent. This noble act of saving lives will, with the help of G‑d, further raise the United Arab Emirates, bless the country, bless its leaders, bless its inhabitants, and they will see G‑d’s blessings in all their deeds, every step of the way.”

Lazar also referred to the agreement reached last week between the UAE and Israel: “These days the entire world sees the hand of the UAE extended in peace, desiring to bring about unity between peoples. The move made by the UAE is a big step towards peace and unity. Others may follow suit, but she will forever remain the first,” said the chief rabbi.

Meanwhile, some of the handful of Yemenite Jews who still remain are also seeking to emigrate to the United Arab Emirates.

“There is no doubt that this noble deed of rescuing lives will, please G‑d, bring even more blessing to the Arab Emirates and its leaders,” concluded Lazar.

Rabbi Levi Duchman, who serves as the only rabbi in the UAE and has been visiting the family regularly since their arrival in the country, said “our community is grateful to our leader Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and we are glad that the family is now reunited. Our community is seeing to it that the family receives kosher food and their other needs during their stay in the UAE are met.”