My daughter recently took me to the Alaska Jewish Museum at 1221 E. 35th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska, for my birthday. What a treat! I especially enjoyed the exhibit “On the Wings of Eagles: Alaska’s Contribution to Operation Magic Carpet”. The exhibit offers an inspiring account of the most dramatic humanitarian effort of all time to airlift over 47,000 Yemenite Jewish refugees to Israel from 1948 to 1950. I was moved to tears by the powerful personal accounts of heroic Alaska Airlines pilots who, against all odds (including hostile fire and other dangerous flying conditions), performed the Operation Magic Carpet airlift successfully without loss of life, despite one plane crash.
How could I have been a resident of Alaska for over 56 years and not heard of this amazing story? Or of this Jewish Museum, for that matter? I have traveled the skies with Alaska Airlines for decades and never realized the brave sacrifices Alaskan pilots made while flying missions for the mass immigration of God’s chosen people back to their homeland, Israel. Truly, I can only chalk it up to being out of touch with important stuff at the time; residing comfortably in my mother’s womb during the final months of Operation Magic Carpet – that, and it wasn’t taught in history class at public schools I attended back when – OH NO!
In 1948, the isolated Yemenite Jews were very distrustful of leaving their homes to return to their promised land of Israel. They had become assimilated into the country of Yemen, but after the State of Israel was created, Arab persecution of the Jews increased. It soon became necessary for the Yemenite Jews to escape to Israel. But how?
Link to brief history lesson on how Alaska Airlines helped put the project together.
When Yemenite Jews heard they would be flying in airplanes to Israel, most had never seen an airplane and could not imagine flying in one, but the word of this adventure spread fast as thousands gathered to be carried home to Israel on “the wings of eagles” – excitedly proclaiming that Biblical prophesy was to be fulfilled:
On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt – on that very day – they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” ~Exodus 19:1-6 NIV
“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~Isaiah 40:31 NIV
To learn more about Operation Magic Carpet, there are quite a few online articles of this historical Yemenite Jewish aliyah (immigration to Israel). Click here for a great example.
These vintage photos of the airlift are priceless.
I have been paying more attention in recent years to ongoing importantstuff like global humanitarian efforts to transport thousands of Jews back to Israel. Check it out at Israel Breaking News “On the Wings of Eagles, Yemen’s Last Jews Arrive in Israel”; plus “The first group of 78 Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel after waiting for three years will arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on a flight approved by the Interior Ministry in 2013—one that never took off due to lack of budget for their absorption, which includes housing allowances for at least two years.” – Read more …
I highly recommend a visit to the Alaska Jewish Museum if you are traveling to Anchorage, Alaska. If you can’t make the trip, here’s a link to the museum’s online 3D Tour.
God’s blessings upon you all, my brethren, and, “Thank you, my precious daughter, for the unique gift! I truly enjoyed our visit to the Alaska Jewish Museum.”
Photos credit: C’Les Jensema