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

 

The Haganah ran the operation, known as Michaelberg — derived from the pilots’ names — yet another time, bringing again 50 extra Iraqis earlier than the outbreak of the Israeli conflict for independence in 1948 rendered the flights too dangerous.

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

The 2 determined that if Jews may make it throughout the porous border to Iran — and if Mr. Hillel may bribe the Iranian police to look the opposite manner — then Father Glasberg, who was pals with the French inside minister, may 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, the place they boarded a ship to Israel. Later teams flew straight, due to a constitutional airline backed by the Mossad known as Trans-Ocean. Over a couple 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 brand new authority in Iraq handed a regulation permitting Jews to emigrate for one 12 months. Right here was his probability to get tens of 1000’s Jews overseas.

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

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

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