• Issue: September 1970
  • Designer: M. & G. Shamir
  • Plate no.: 298
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

The riots to which the Jews of Iraq were subjected in 1941 led to the organization of illegal emigration, although there were also opportunities to leave the country legally. In 1946, however, emigration was stopped completely, and tension between the authorities and the Jewish community mounted as the imminent partition of Palestine was announced. At that time many Jews, aside from those in the underground, acquired weapons, and residents of Moslem neighborhoods moved to Jewish areas where they felt safer.

The military regime which took over Iraq in May 1948 had an adverse effect on the situation of the Jews. Many members of the Haganah and Zionist youth movements were soon arrested. A number of Iraqi Jews sold their properties and, with the help of the underground, left the country through Iran, which had replaced Syria and Jordan as the pathway to Zion. Between mid-December 1949 and February 1950, some 3,000 people emigrated to Israel.

This illegal emigration impelled the Iraqi Minister of the Interior to propose a law allowing Jews to leave the country if they renounced their citizenship. The law went into effect in April 1950, and interested persons applied and awaited their turn to emigrate. At first, only a small number look advantage of the opportunity, for it was suspected that the real purpose of the law was to flush out the Zionists among the Jews - but within a short time many more signed up.

The first three planes of the American "Near East Airline", which the Israel Government had chartered, left Baghdad Airport on May 19, 1950, for Cyprus and Israel. Later, when the stream of emigrants became larger, the Iraqi Government stopped insisting that the planes must be routed through Cyprus. Illegal emigration, involving forged passports, stealthy border crossings, and a variety of daring operations, also continued throughout the entire period. In 1950 the total number of Iraqi immigrants to Israel was 32,000. The reason for the mass exodus was that the Iraqi emigration law was to be in effect for one year only, and Jews feared that they would not be permitted to leave thereafter.

The bombing of the Baghdad synagogue on January 14, 1951, and the fear of renewed violence further stimulated registration for departure. Additional "Near East Airline" flights were chartered, and in the first two months of 1951, emigration from Iraq reached 16,000. The Iraqi authorities extended the time limit of permitted emigration, and another 65,000 Jews left between March and July of 1951. By the end of 1953, exactly 124,646 Iraqi Jews had immigrated to Israel.

Iraqi Jewry has left its mark upon life in Israel. Many of the immigrants arrived with some means, and were prepared for Israeli conditions. The community included a considerable number of well-trained people, and it did not take them long to integrate into industry, agriculture, and business, and make their contribution to the achievements of the nation as a whole.

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Operation "Ezra & Nehemia"