Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Shlomo Hillel died, the man who helped 120,000 Jews flee from Iraq to Israel


Hillel was born in Baghdad, where a huge Jewish community lived until World War II. After the massacres of Christians in the 1930s, Israeli Jews, including the Hillel family, began to move to Palestine.

In 1946, Hillel returned to Iraq as an envoy of Jewish organizations. He then organized the transfer of about 100 Jews to Palestine using a transport plane and the help of two American pilots. The transfer was secret because the Iraqi authorities did not agree to the departure of Jews from Iraq, and the British authorities – to their arrival in Palestine.

In the next few years, Hillel organized the mass departure of Jews from Iraq. Posing as a French and British, he bribed Iraqi officials, including the then Prime Minister of Iraq, to ​​authorize the departure of Jews. Their transport took place, among others through France, where Hillel was assisted by Fr. Alexandre Glasberg, a Ukrainian-born Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a priest. Glasberg saved over a thousand French Jews during the war by hiding them in monasteries.

In total, during two operations, Hillel organized the departure of approx. 120 thousand. Iraqi Jews. The Jewish community in Iraq practically ceased to exist – at the time of the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, 10 people of Jewish origin remained there.

Hillel later became a politician, he was incl. President of the Knesset, Minister of Police and Home Affairs, as well as a diplomat and ambassador. As the head of the Ministry of the Interior, he approved the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Among them were, among others future wife of his son.



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