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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Fox

The Largest Passenger Load in Israeli History

On this day, exactly twenty years ago, it took around thirty-six hours for Israel to execute one of the most difficult and secret operations in the history of the country!

We are talking about Mivtzah Shlomo (Operation Solomon).

The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel. It took 36 hours for Israeli forces to board 14,310 Ethiopian Jews onto 34 planes and bring them over to the promised land.

Let's do a quick recap of that impressive and momentous day and a half!

The Days Before

In January 1985, Mivtzah Moshe (the operation to bring Ethiopian Jews from a refugee camp in Sudan to Israel) was brought to a halt, after news about the operation was leaked to the press. Close to 15,000 Jews were left in Ethiopia and Sudan, and the Israeli government continued thinking of ways to bring them over.

Later on that year, the drought and civil war in Ethiopia caused the Ethiopian economy to collapse, and the DERG (Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia) took control of the state. This meant it was nearly impossible to rescue the remaining Jews that were stuck in the country.

The Transfer - Getting ready to leave

In the late 1980s, Israel and Ethiopia strengthened their diplomatic ties, and around 15,000 Jews were permitted to travel from their villages in the north of Ethiopia to the capital, Addis Ababa, via buses funded by American and Canadian Jewish communities.

The ties between the two countries became even stronger, and after opening an Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa, Israel began providing Ethiopia with military help. In return, Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam would permit the Jews in his country to leave to Israel, a truly momentous decision

Time to Leave

In 1991, Mengistu's time on the throne was nearing a close. As the rebel forces were getting closer and closer, the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, decided it was time to evacuate all of the Jews before it was too late.

Several days before the city fell into the hands of the rebels, Mengistu escaped to Zimbabwe, and Israel reached an agreement with the government representatives that were left. According to the agreement, they would allow the Jews to leave Ethiopia, in exchange for 35,000,000 dollars and guaranteed shelter in the U.S.A for some of the leaders.

After the agreement was signed, the unique and logistically complicated operation began. It took 36 hours and 34 planes to rescue nearly 14,400 people and bring them on Aliyah to Israel. A lot of Israeli forces participated in the operation, including the Mossad, the Jewish Agency, Shaldag army fighters, the JOINT, and the Shabak.

It wasn't easy and took a long time, but eventually, they made it. It just goes to show you that although Israel might have its fair share of flaws, we will always be committed to our family all across the world!


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