Shlomo Hillel, Who Helped 120,000 Jews Flee Iraq, Dies at 97

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The Haganah ran the operation, referred to as Michaelberg — derived from the pilots’ names — one more time, bringing again 50 more Iraqis, earlier than the outbreak of the Israeli war for independence in 1948 rendered the flights too dangerous.

In June 1948, with the war nonetheless raging and the situation rising worse for Iraq’s Jews, Mr. Hillel went to Iran, this time disguised as a Frenchman. He had passed by way of Paris, where he encountered a priest named Alexander Glasberg, who had transformed to Catholicism from Judaism. He had saved some 2,000 Jews throughout World War II by hiding them in monasteries, and was now concerned in getting European Jews to Israel.

The 2 determined that if Jews might make it throughout the porous border to Iran — and if Mr. Hillel might bribe the Iranian police to look the other way — then Father Glasberg, who was associates with the French inside minister, might organize visas for them to get to Israel.

The primary group took a circuitous, transcontinental route; after crossing the Iraq-Iran border by land, they flew to Paris, then took a prepare to Marseilles, where they boarded a ship to Israel. Later teams flew straight, due to a constitution airline backed by the Mossad referred to as Trans-Ocean. Over a number of months, about 12,000 Jews made the journey.

However even this wasn’t quick sufficient for Mr. Hillel, who had since returned to Israel. In 1950 a new government in Iraq passed a law permitting Jews emigrate for one 12 months. Right here was his likelihood to get tens of thousands of Jews out of the country.

Mr. Hillel traveled to Baghdad as soon as more, this time disguised as a Briton named Richard Armstrong, representing an American constitution company referred to as Close to East Air Transport. The company, owned by a pro-Israel American, was actual, although it acquired a lot of its funding from the Mossad.

Working with an Iraqi travel agency, he set about bidding for the unique proper to fly Jews out of Iraq, and shortly organized a meeting with the prime minister, Tawfiq al-Suwaidi, who occurred to personal a share of the travel agency.

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