Six Jews from Yemen who claim they were
being held against their will by ultraorthodox Satmars
in a village upstate were in Israel last night after
making a daring escape, Israeli officials said.
Na'ama Al-Nahari and five of her children were
smuggled out of the mostly Hasidic hamlet of Monsey, in
Rockland County, with the help of the Jewish Agency for
Israel, which helps Jews move to the Holy Land.
"They were in a scary situation," said Dalia Kirinsky
of the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, a social
service group that also has helped the family. "They had
to get out of there."
Nahari's husband, her older children and other family
members remain in New York but have been in touch with
social workers and are hoping to be reunited with their
kin in the Israeli town of Rehovot.
There was no immediate response from the Satmar
leadership in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
An Israeli government official said Satmar leaders do
not sanction the cruel treatment of the Yemenis, and
believe the Naharis were oppressed by "rogue members of
State police in nearby Monroe, N.Y., said they were
unaware the family was in trouble because nobody had
made a complaint. "We will look into this," an
The Naharis were among 70 Jewish families that fled
the Arab nation six years ago with the help of Satmar
operatives, Israeli officials said.
"The Satmars promised them this 'golden land,' but
the Yemeni Jews found themselves in more of a
Yiddish-speaking shtetl," Michael Landsberg of the
Jewish Agency for Israel said.
Surrounded by Satmars and isolated from mainstream
America, the Naharis told social workers they were
treated like indentured servants. They said their Satmar
"watchers" took them to fund-raisers and forced them to
talk about the hardships they endured in Yemen - then
pocketed the money, according to the Yemenite Jewish
"When I visited the Nahari family, they were living
in subhuman conditions," said federation President
Ephraim Isaac. "They were practically held as hostages."
A plan to spirit the Nahari family to Israel in
December was short-circuited when two of the children
vanished just as the family was about to leave for the
They turned up unharmed a few days later at the home
of a Satmar neighbor who said they had been taken on a
"play date," Landsberg said.
The second escape was launched on Wednesday. Nahari
sent her youngest children out dressed in school
uniforms and told a neighbor she was going to visit her
ailing father. A few blocks away, they ducked into a
waiting van and were driven to Kennedy Airport and their
flight to Israel, Landsberg said.
published on June 4, 2004