Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Operation Magic Carpet

One of the first things that Israel did when it first became a state was to ‘gather in the exiles’ from Middle Eastern - Muslim countries. The biggest influx of Jews was from the country of Yemen. 49,000 Yemenite Jews were transported from Yemen to Israel then. It was called Operation Magic Carpet. It was one in response to an increasingly perilous situation for the Jews of Yemen at that time.

Yemeni Jews are one of the few cultures that have been relatively untouched by outside culture. Many people believe that their customs are more authentic since they have not had the kind of exposure to foreign cultures as have Jews of Europe. Conditions in Yemen are fairly primitive and traditions passed on through the generations were kept pretty pure and free of foreign influences – very much unlike the Jews of European origin.

It is because of that kind of isolation that many Yemenite Jews were shocked at the sight of airplanes.

It is also because of that isolation that they remained so loyal to tradition. But isolation is a double edged sword. It makes one very susceptible to outside influences when suddenly exposed to them.

That made Yemeni Jews vulnerable to the influences of the secular society. And the secular Zionists could not have been happier at the opportunity to disabuse Yemeni Jews of their religious traditions.

Some of the early Zionist pioneers were socialists and even atheists who believed that religion was ‘the opiate of the masses.

Considering the primitive nature of their existence in Yemen - it was not that hard to do considering the circumstances. Yemeni children were for various reasons unable to be with their parents were placed into anti religious Kibbutzim. Once there religious practices were ridiculed. These kids were indoctrinated out of religious observance fairly easily.

Now - I’m sure that some of this was organized and I’m equally sure that some of the early Zionist pioneers wanted to create a religion free society of Jews - and worked very hard toward that goal. I have heard some of the stories. And they are disgusting. But I question whether those individual stories were policy or isolated incidences by individual zealous anti religious ideologues.

There is however a segment of Charedi Jewry that does not leave any stone unturned when it comes to bashing the State of Israel. And this is one of their favorite clubs with which they love bash Israel. They call it the Shmad of Yaldei Teiman. They see it as a sort of forced conversion to secular Zionist - anti religious values. Then they say that secular Zioinsts are worse than Nazis. They are destroyed not only those Jews but their very Judaism.

I find that kind of comparison odious in the extreme. To compare Operation Magic Carpet in any way to Nazi atrocities can only come from a hatred that is completely irrational.

I understand that that there is some truth to their claim that there was a concerted effort to indoctrinating Yemenite children with anti religious values. But that was not their primary goal. They wanted to save the lives of those Jews. And yet I hear the term ‘Nazis’ often when this issue is discussed.

The Chazaon Ish would not have thrived in Nazi Germany. He would have been gassed right along with other Jews. Rav Kahaneman could not have built Ponevezh Yeshiva in Nazi Germany. Ponevezh would have been burned own with live Jews right inside of it. An Ponevezh would certainly not have flown a Nazi flag over their building.

It’s time for these people to stop it already. Operation Magic Carpet was not an evil plan to destroy the Jewish people. It was not ‘the final solution’. It was designed to save Yemenite Jews from a society that was increasingly threatening to them.

It is time to realize that Israeli pioneers were not the evil bunch that some Charedi Jews paint them to be. Irreligious? - Sure. And in some cases even anti religious. But for the most part they were idealistic secular Jews who wanted to build a country – a safe haven for Jews all over the world. How they did that and whether every thing they did was ‘Kosher’ will be debated by scholars for years to come. But they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Instead of this constant bashing of the State of Israel and its founders at every turn there ought to be at least a modicum of gratitude to them for the country they built. Because there would not even be a small fraction of the Torah leaned there without them.