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January 13, 2015 12:03 pm

Historic Aircraft Used to Rescue Iraqi Jews to be Brought to Israel

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Iraqi Jews rescued as part of Operation Michaelberg disembark from the C-46 transport aircraft. Photo: Israel Hayom. – A Curtiss C-46 Commando transport aircraft used in 1947’s clandestine Operation Michaelberg, during which 100 Iraqi Jews were rescued and brought to then-British Mandatory Palestine, will soon return to Israel after being saved from a metal scrap yard in Argentina.

During the mid-1940s, concerns grew for the fate of the Jews of Iraq due to increasing persecution by their Arab neighbors. The British denied the Jewish community’s petition to allow Iraqi Jews to enter Israel legally, leading to the decision to mount a clandestine rescue operation and smuggle them into the country. The rescue operation was designed by the Aliyah Bet group, which operated as part of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that operated in Israel in defiance of the British Mandate. The secret operation was carried out in August and September 1947.

Former Israeli Knesset speaker Shlomo Hillel, one of the individuals involved in Operation Michaelberg, recently learned of the whereabouts of the historic plane and that its current owner had planned for it to be scrapped. Hillel and Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis successfully negotiated with the C-46’s owner, and the plane is scheduled to arrive at its new home—the Atlit Detention Camp Museum, which is dedicated to the history of pre-state Israel immigration efforts—in several weeks.

“This is a worthy cause, and it is important to the history and heritage of the state of Israel,” Riklis told Israel Hayom.

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