Editor’s Wrap: Migrants
The aliya of Yemen’s Jews is a chapter all its own in Israel’s history. Highly traditional, the Yemenites held on to much of their culture. Popular among other Israelis, their music and food were ultimately absorbed into the mainstream. Sixty years later, Yemenites remain more traditional than many of their neighbors.
Of course, not all the Jews left Yemen in the 1950s. And now that the last remnant is getting out, their religious lifestyle highlights how much Yemenite-Israeli culture has evolved. “They will feel at home in our community and our synagogues,” Shoshi Sharabi, one Yemenite Israeli, told our reporter Wendy Elliman, “but there will be many things that will make them uncomfortable.” Elliman’s article, “A Magic Carpet’s Last Fringe,” begins on page 26.
Israel’s greatest internal migration affects its 18-year-olds, the vast majority of whom leave their homes for Army service. Like the Yemenites, the Army has evolved over the years, as collectivism made way for individual freedom. But despite recent concerns about draft resistance, and about soldiers who say they would disobey orders that violate religious or ethical convictions, Rochelle Furstenberg writes (page 16) that service rates remain high and that the Israel Defense Forces continues to be a unifying force for a diverse population.
The idea of beginning a new life in Israel plays a pivotal role in the nation’s aboveground ethos, but the country also has subterranean stories to tell. One day while walking along Emek Refaim in Jerusalem, Esther Hecht entered a set of metal doors she had passed hundreds of times and discovered the Alliance Church International Cemetery, a burial ground with a fascinating array of inhabitants—including British soldiers; American Christians who worked for the establishment of Israel; and a daughter of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, buried next to her Protestant husband. Hecht’s story (page 54) adds chapters to a national saga already rich with comings and goings. —Alan M. Tigay