Operation Magic Carpet (Yemen)

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Yemenite Jews en route to Israel from Aden, Yemen Op Magic Carpet (Yemenites).jpg
Yemenite Jews en route to Israel from Aden, Yemen

Operation Magic Carpet is a widely known nickname for Operation On Wings of Eagles (Hebrew : כנפי נשרים, Kanfei Nesharim), an operation between June 1949 and September 1950 that brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the new state of Israel. [1] During its course, the overwhelming majority of Yemenite Jews – some 47,000 Yemeni, 1,500 Aden, as well as 500 Djiboutian and Eritrean Jews and some 2,000 Jews from Saudi Arabia– were airlifted to Israel. British and American transport planes made some 380 flights from Aden, in a secret operation that was not made public until several months after it was over. At some point, the operation was also called Operation Messiah's Coming.

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Yemenite Jews ethnic group

Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews or Teimanim are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen. The term may also refer to the descendants of the Yemenite Jewish community. Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, while smaller communities live in the United States and elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Yemen. The few remaining Jews experience intense, and at times violent, anti-Semitism on a daily basis.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, also known as the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.


The operation

The operation's official name originated from two biblical passages:

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

Book of Exodus second book of the Bible

The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah and the Old Testament. It tells of Israel's delivery from slavery in Egypt through the hand of Yahweh their god, of Israel's encounter with God on the holy mountain (Sinai), and the "divine indwelling" of God with Israel.

Book of Isaiah book of the Bible

The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the first of the Major Prophets in the Christian Old Testament. It is identified by a superscription as the words of the 8th-century BCE prophet Isaiah ben Amoz, but there is extensive evidence that much of it was composed during the Babylonian captivity and later. Bernhard Duhm originated the view, held as a consensus through most of the 20th century, that the book comprises three separate collections of oracles: Proto-Isaiah, containing the words of Isaiah; Deutero-Isaiah, the work of an anonymous 6th-century BCE author writing during the Exile; and Trito-Isaiah, composed after the return from Exile. While virtually no scholars today attribute the entire book, or even most of it, to one person, the book's essential unity has become a focus in more recent research. Isaiah 1–33 promises judgment and restoration for Judah, Jerusalem and the nations, and chapters 34–66 presume that judgment has been pronounced and restoration follows soon. It can thus be read as an extended meditation on the destiny of Jerusalem into and after the Exile.

The Operation Magic Carpet was the first in a series of operations. Israel sees the rescue operation as a successful rescue of Yemen's community from oppression towards redemption. 49,000 Jews were brought to Israel under the program. [4]

A street in Jerusalem, one in Herzliya, one in Ramat Gan, and another in Kerem HaTeimanim, Tel Aviv, were named "Kanfei Nesharim" ("Wings of Eagles") in honor of this operation.

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

Herzliya Place in Israel

Herzliya is an affluent city in the central coast of Israel, at the Northern part of the Tel Aviv District known for its robust start-up and entrepreneurial culture. In 2017 it had a population of 93,989. Named after Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, Herzliya covers an area of 21.6 square kilometres (8.3 sq mi). At its western municipal boundaries is Herzliya Pituah, one of Israel's most affluent neighborhoods and home to numerous embassies, company headquarters, as well as prominent Israeli business people.

Ramat Gan Place in Israel

Ramat Gan is a city in the Tel Aviv District of Israel, located east of Tel Aviv. It is home to one of the world's major diamond exchanges, and many high-tech industries.

In 1948, there were 55,000 Jews living in Yemen [ clarification needed ], and another 8,000 in the British Colony of Aden.

Anti-Jewish violence

Following the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Muslim rioters attacked the Jewish community in Aden that killed at least 82 Jews (1947 Aden riots) and destroyed a number of Jewish homes. [5] Early in 1948, accusations of the murder of two Muslim Yemeni girls led to looting of Jewish property. [6] [7]

Reasons for the exodus

Esther Meir-Glitzenstein [8] argues that collusion between Israel and the Imam of Yemen who "profited hugely from confiscatory taxes levied on the Jewish community" led to a botched operation in which the Jewish community suffered terribly. [9] Reuven Ahroni [10] and Tudor Parfitt [11] argue that economic motivations also had a role in the massive emigration of Yemeni Jews, which began prior to 1948.

Tudor Parfitt described the reasons for the exodus as multi-faceted, some aspects due to Zionism and others more historically based:

economic straits as their traditional role was whittled away, famine, disease, growing political persecution, and increased public hostility, the state of anarchy after the murder of Yahya, often a desire to be reunited with family members, incitement and encouragement to leave from [Zionist agents who] played on their religious sensibilities, promises that their passage would be paid to Israel and that their material difficulties would be cared for by the Jewish state, a sense that the Land of Israel was a veritable Eldorado, a sense of history being fulfilled, a fear of missing the boat, a sense that living wretchedly as dhimmis in an Islamic state was no longer God-ordained, a sense that as a people, they had been flayed by history long enough: All these played a role. ... Purely religious, messianic sentiment, too, had its part, but by and large , this has been over-emphasised. [12]


Esther Meir-Glitzenstein also criticized the execution of the operation. She especially criticized the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Israel, which, according to her, abandoned thousands of Jews in the deserts on the border between North Yemen and Aden. Mismanagement or corruption by the imam of Yemen, the British authorities, and the Jewish Agency also played a role. Some 850 Yemenite Jews died en route to their departure points, and in the community which reached Israel, infant mortality rates were high, but still lower than in Yemen. [13] [14] According to David Ben-Gurion's diary, the Yemeni children in the Israeli ma'abarot or tent transit camps were dying like flies. Children were often separated from their parents for hygienic reasons, or taken away to hospitals for treatment, but often, parents only received notification, often by loudspeaker, they had died. According to some testimony, there was a suspicion that the state kidnapped healthy Yemeni children, for adoption, and then informed the parents they had died. As a result, some decades later, the Yemenite Children Affair exploded, in which it was rumoured that something of the order of 1,000 children had gone missing. [15] However, in 2019, Yaacov Lozowick, the former Israel State Archivist, explained the cases of the missing Yemenite babies in an article in Tablet magazine. There was a very high death rate, and disturbed medical professionals, he said, autopsied some of the bodies to try to find out why. Traditionally, autopsies were forbidden under Jewish law, and so this was hidden from the parents. Lozowick wrote that the files contained no evidence of any kidnappings. [16]

The Jewish community in Yemen after the operation

In 1959, another 3,000 Jews from Aden fled to Israel, while many more left as refugees to the United States and the United Kingdom. The emigration of Yemeni Jews continued as a trickle, but stopped in 1962, when a civil war broke out in North Yemen, which put an abrupt halt to further emigration. In 2013, a total of some 250 Jews still lived in Yemen. [17] [18] The Jewish communities in Rayday were shocked by the killing of Moshe Ya'ish al-Nahari in 2008. His wife and nine children emigrated to Israel. [19] Other members of the Jewish community received hate letters and threats by phone. Amnesty International wrote to the Yemeni government, urging the country to protect its Jewish citizens. The human rights organization stated that it is "deeply concerned for the safety of members of the Jewish community in northwestern Yemen following the killing of one member of the community and anonymous serious threats to others to leave Yemen or face death". [20] During the Gaza War, the Jewish communities in Raydah were attacked several times. [21]

It was forbidden for native-born Yemeni Jews who had left the country to re-enter, rendering communication with these communities difficult. Muslims were therefore hired as shelihim (emissaries) to locate the remaining Jews, pay their debts, and transport them to Aden. Little came of this. [22]

See also

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Yemenite Jews in Israel Ethnic group

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History of the Jews in Djibouti aspect of history

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  1. Ministry of immigrant absorption, Israel: “On Eagles’ Wings” – Aliyah from Yemen (1949). Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  2. "MLibrary Digital Collections: King James Bible: Exodus 19:4". quod.lib.umich.edu. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  3. "MLibrary Digital Collections: King James Bible: Isaiah 40:31". quod.lib.umich.edu. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  4. Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis. 1998, pp. 182-185.
  5. Ahroni, R. The Jews of the British Crown Colony of Aden: History, Culture, and Ethnic Relations. Brill, 1994: P210-11.
  6. Parfitt, Tudor (1996), The Road to Redemption: The Jews of the Yemen 1900-1950, Brill's Series in Jewish Studies vol. XVII, pp. 85–124, ISBN   9789004105447
  7. Reuben Ahroni, Jewish Emigration from the Yemen, 1951-98: Carpet Without Magic, pp.xi-xii, p. 1.
  8. Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, The Exodus of the Yemenite Jews − A Failed Operation and a Formative Myth, Resling, Tel Aviv 2012.
  9. 'Operation Magic Carpet: Constructing the Myth of the Magical Immigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel,' in Israel Studies, vol.16, No.3 (Fall) 2011 pp. 149-173.
  10. Reuben Ahroni, Jewish Emigration from the Yemen, 1951-98: Carpet Without Magic, pp.xi-xii, p.20.
  11. Parfitt, Tudor. The Road to Redemption: The Jews of the Yemen, 1900-1950. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996).
  12. Tudor Parfitt (1996). The Road to Redemption – The Jews of the Yemen 1900-1950. Brill. p. 285.
  13. Vered Lee 'The frayed truth of Operation Magic Carpet', at Haaretz , 28 May 2012
  14. Tudor Parfitt, The Road to Redemption: The Jews of the Yemen, 1900-1950, BRILL, 1996, p. 239ff.
  15. Meira Weiss, 'The Immigrating Body and the Body Politic: The 'Yemenite Children Affair' and Body Commodification in Israel', in Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Loïc Wacquant (eds.), Commodifying Bodies, Sage Publications, 2002 pp. 93-110, pp. 93ff.
  16. Yaacov Lozowick, "The Myth of the Kidnapped Yemenite Children, and the Sin it Conceals," Tablet Magazine, March 14, 2019 https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/278261/myth-of-kidnapped-yemenite-children
  17. The Jews of Yemen by Mitchell Bard], Jewish Virtual Library
  18. Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, Jewish Virtual Library, September 2012
  19. "Wife, children of gunned down Yemenite teacher make aliyah - Israel News, Ynetnews". Ynetnews.com. June 20, 1995. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  20. Amnesty Int’l urges Yemen to protect its Jew, JTA, 24-12-2008.
  21. Martin Gehlen, Minderheiten: Verloren zwischen den Fronten in: Der Tagesspiegel, 14 July 2009
  22. Reuven Ahloni, Jewish Emigration from the Yemen, 1951-98, pp. 11ff.