USS Anzio lying off Shanghai, China on December 1, 1945, during Operation Magic Carpet. /US Navy

Ask a Jew: What is a Jewish magic carpet?

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By Neal Schindler 

What are the details about a Jewish magic carpet?

Operation Magic Carpet was a legendarily ambitious immigration project intended to bring 45,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel. The operation, which occurred in secret, included “some 380 flights” made by British and American planes, according to Jewish Virtual Library’s account. Yet the 2012 book “The Exodus of the Yemenite Jews: A Failed Operation and a Formative Myth,” which was reviewed in Haaretz, claims the massive effort was far from successful in many ways. The book’s author, Dr. Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, paints a bleak picture from the get-go: “The Yemenite immigrants arrived hungry and sick at the transit camp set up for them in the Yemenite port city of Aden, after having walked hundreds of kilometers.” According to Meir-Glitzenstein, things didn’t really improve from there.

Many deaths occurred as the aspiring immigrants made their way from Yemen to Israel, and fatalities continued even after they arrived in the Jewish state. Meir-Glitzenstein attributes the high mortality rate to “disastrous management.” She adds that the imam of North Yemen, British authorities, the state of Israel, the Jewish Agency, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee all share the blame for the death toll, but that the last of these bears more responsibility than the others. Like many big events in Israel’s history (and, for that matter, in most countries’), the true nature of Operation Magic Carpet remains up for debate.

About Neal Schindler

A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and was a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com from 2007 to 2011. Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is now a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El. He is the director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services. His interests include movies, Scrabble, and indie rock. He lives with his wife, son, and two cats in West Central Spokane.

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