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September 24: Operation Magic Carpet

September 23, 2016

Israel’s Operation Magic Carpet (the nickname for Operation on Wings of Eagles), which brought some 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the new state of Israel, concluded with its final two flights on this date in 1950. The secret and complex airlift involved 380 flights using British and American planes flying from Aden, the capital of Yemen, which many of the emigrés reached through dangerous journeys; several hundred ended up buried in Aden. This was the first mass aliyah from a Muslim country, and presaged the arrival of more than 700,000 Jews who came to Israel during the nation’s first years. Critics have described the airlift as mishandled and incompetently run, resulting in a high level of infant mortality, and also note that the religious authorities of Yemen greatly enriched themselves through confiscation of Jewish property. In general, however, the mission has been valorized as an heroic fulfillment of Israel’s commitment protecting Jews worldwide, and has been commemorated through street-naming, postage stamps, and by other means. To see a video about Operation Magic Carpet, look below.

“The flight from Yemen to Israel, a journey of more than 1,400 miles, was almost entirely over hostile territory. Though the evacuation was kept secret for fear of sabotage, the planes were routinely fired on by Egyptian forces. Fuel was scarce. Pilots were warned that if they were forced to land in enemy territory, the passengers, and perhaps the crew, risked being executed.” --Margalit Fox, New York Times