New York Post

ISRAEL AIRLIFTS N.Y. 'CAPTIVES'

By URI DAN
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June 4, 2004 --

JERUSALEM Israel's Jewish Agency helped a Yemenite mother and five of her children flee an ultra-Orthodox community in Rockland County this week in what was described as "a covert rescue operation."

The members of the Nahary family were spirited out of the close-knit Satmar community in Monsey and arrived in Israel on Wednesday and became a national news story here.

The Naharys are among about 70 refugees that the Satmars are believed to have brought to New York in the late 1990s from Yemen's dwindling Jewish population.

The reclusive Satmars refuse to speak about the Yemenites.

But the Jewish Agency, the oldest organization dealing with immigration to Israel, claims the Yemenites were promised a golden life in America and peppered with propaganda that convinced them they shouldn't try to emigrate to Israel because the Satmars called it a secular, rather than Jewish state.

The Satmars are anti-Zionist and don't recognize the modern state of Israel, believing instead that a Jewish state can be established only by the Messiah when he returns.

Last year, Sayid Nahary, the father of the family, contacted the Jewish Agency and said he had become disillusioned with the Satmars and asked for help fleeing to Israel.

"We tried to bring the family over several months ago but the Satmars apparently found out about it," the agency's Yossi Shraga told The Post.

He explained that at that time, two hours before the family was to leave Monsey, one of the children, 8-year-old Eliyahu, "disappeared" and Sayid and his wife, Naama, called off the trip.

"We learned a lesson and this time we dealt in total secrecy," Shraga said.

He said he told Naama, 47, to tell Eliyahu and her three youngest daughters to pack their school bags. The mother took them in a van with an older son, Yosef, 20.

But a short time later they turned up in New York, where they picked up Israeli visas from the consulate and boarded an El Al flight to Israel.

The family had no passports when they first arrived in the United States as refugees, but the agency smoothed the way through U.S. immigration for them to leave the country.

Now that the mother and younger children are at a Jewish Agency absorption center in Israel, Shraga feels confident the Satmars will allow the rest of the family to join them.


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