• Issue: January 1970
  • Designer: A. Prath
  • Plate no.: 275
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

It seems that the pious Yemenite Jews, who for generations had reiterated the verse, "I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself" (Exodus 19:4; quoted on the tab), would never have imagined that their prayer would become a reality. It will do to transform the eagles' wings into "Constellations" and "Skymasters" and to fly Solomon's exile - as the Jewish community of Yemen was called - on their wings towards freedom in the State of Israel.

The news of the establishment of the State of Israel reached Yemenite Jewry while anarchy prevailed in Yemen. The old Imam Yehia, who had treated the Jews fairly, was murdered after having ruled the country for 40 years. The armies of his two rivaling sons, who were fighting each other for power, caused the Jews a lot of suffering. It is therefore not surprising that for the Yemenite Jews the tidings of the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel sounded like the bells of liberation.

Many of them began making preparations for immigration to Israel; even more set out from their abodes making their way to the town of Aden, where the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency had organized a "liberation camp," which was to absorb the refugees and to become a transit station on their way to Israel. However, the sultans governing the British-influenced areas between the town of Aden and the interior of Yemen, encouraged by the strict British refusal to allow Jewish immigration from Aden into Israel, refused to allow the Yemenite Jews to pass through their territories. It thus happened that the Yemenite refugees roamed along the borders of the Yemenite principalities, unable to decide where to go and, without shelter, an easy prey to their enemies.

As late as September 1948, five months after the proclamation of the State of Israel, Great Britain opened the gates for the Yemenite Jews to leave. Thanks to the efforts of the representatives of the Jewish Agency the Jews were allowed to leave Yemen and to cross the principalities. Wishing to immigrate to Israel, they began flocking into Aden.

At that time, the town of Aden and the "liberation camp" were populated by more than 5,000 Jews. Some were refugees who had already come to the town in previous years and some were remnants of those displaced by the rioting of the Arabs of Aden against the Jews upon hearing the news of the United Nations' resolution on the partition of Eretz Israel.

Because of the war between Israel and Egypt it was impossible to bring the immigrants to Israel by ship. Therefore, suitable aircraft were chartered for that purpose. By March 1949 all the Yemenite refugees already living in Aden had been brought to Israel, but meanwhile the waves of hopeful emigrants from all over Yemen were increasing. Huts and tents were set up on the site, but even these did not suffice to shelter all the newcomers. The "liberation camp" was meant to accommodate about 1,000 people, but the refugees soon numbered over 13,000 per month.

The refugees who had come all the way to Aden on foot or riding for many weeks and even months, arrived at the camp without property, thirsty, exhausted, and suffering, stricken by many diseases, mainly malaria. The emissaries from Israel took care of the sick, dressed their wounds and fed them. Having somewhat regained strength, they were put on the planes a few days later and flown to Israel - "on eagles' wings."

The promise given to the British Government of Aden to bring the Jews to Israel without delay compelled the Israeli authorities to step up the speed of immigration. To achieve this, six additional large "Skymasters" were chartered, flying regularly between Aden and Lod and carrying 120 passengers on each flight.

Between July and November 1949 another 28,000 men, women, and children came to Israel by way of the "Magic Carpet," and at the beginning of 1950 the remainder of Yemenite Jewry, numbering some 45,000 people, joined their compatriots in Israel.

This is the story of the complete "Yemenite Exodus," known in the world as Operation Magic Carpet.

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Operation "Magic Carpet"