The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991 when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers’ robes). “Planners expected to fill the aircraft with 760 passengers. Because the passengers were so light, many more were squeezed in.” Five babies were born aboard the planes
In 24th may 1991 Israel fell into joyous celebration as the Government announced the successful conclusion of an emergency airlift of 14,500 Ethiopian Jews, nearly the entire Jewish population, in just under 36 hours.In order to accommodate as many people as possible, airplanes were stripped of their seats and up to 1088 passengers were boarded on a single plane. Many of the immigrants came with nothing except their clothes and cooking instruments, and were met by ambulances, with 140 frail passengers received medical care on the tarmac. Several pregnant women gave birth on the plane, and they and their babies were rushed to the hospital.
it was difficult to tell who was more joyful — the barefoot Ethiopians who cheered, ululated and bent down to kiss the tarmac as they stepped off the planes, or the Israelis who watched them aglow, marveling at this powerful image showing that their state still holds appeal, even with all its problems.
Role of Israel Defense Forces
In the 1970′s, the Israeli government made the decision to authorize the use of the Israel Defense Forces to enable the immigration of thousands of Jews who were living in Ethiopia, a country that at the time prohibited its citizens from emigrating to Israel. Beginning in 1984, the Israel Defense Forces brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel in three airlift operations, the last of which was Operation Solomon in 1991.
“Operation Solomon truly represents what Zionism is,” said Israel’s air force commander of the time, Maj. Gen. Avihu Ben-Nun. “It demonstrates the purpose for the State of Israel: to provide a home and shelter for Jews around the world who have suffered and were prosecuted merely for bearing the Jewish religion.”
Why Ethiopians was Evacuated ?
In 1991, Ethiopia was experiencing great political instability. The acting government was weak, and the likelihood of it falling to Eritrean rebels was high. Ethiopia’s Jews were in danger. On March 7, Uri Lubrani, an Israeli diplomat, reported on the worsening military situation in Ethiopia, and advised the formulation of “an emergency plan, for the protection and evacuation of the Jewish community.”
Leading up to the operation, $35 million were raised almost overnight in order to pay the Ethiopian government to allow the Jews to leave.
Just off the taxiway several hundred Ethiopians were seen squatting quietly in the darkness. They were divided into small groups by glow-in-the-dark ropes. Each carried a numbered sticker plastered to the center of his forehead so no one would lose track of his flight.
On signal, each group stood and walked quickly to the plane, carrying nothing but small shopping bags or their babies.
Israelis were no less wondrous at the operational accomplishment of ferrying so many people more than 1,500 miles in 40 flights over so short a time. The air force said 35 civilian and military airplanes, including one Ethiopian airliner, had been used in the operation.
At one point overnight, 28 aircraft were in the air at one time. All of the flights were crammed with passengers, often two or three people to a seat.
But the more common problem was pregnant women. Five babies were born aboard the planes. As each plane arrived at the military airport here, nurses waited at the bottom of the steps to slip sick people into ambulances or the newborn babies into portable incubators. 400 Buses Deployed
“We made history,” said Aryeh Oz, who piloted one El Al 747 cargo plane that carried more than twice as many passengers as it was designed to carry. “It’s the first time that any 747 or any air flying vehicle in the world ever carried 1,087 people. I don’t think it will happen again.”
The airlift proceeded through the night according to a complex schedule involving thousands of people in Israel and Ethiopia, the three dozen aircraft, and more than 400 buses at both ends.
The pilot did not take off from here until a returning plane had landed, just before 1 A.M. Flight 9, like all the others, followed a route over southern Israel to the Gulf of Aqaba, and then over water all the way to the Ethiopian coast and west to Addis Ababa, arriving at about 4:30 A.M. Even at that hour, the city was brightly lit, and the plane had to circle for 10 minutes before landing, because so many other planes from several countries were trying to crowd into the airport to evacuate their people. An Isolated, Weedy Taxiway
Upon arrival, the passengers cheered and rejoiced. The majority of the airlift took place on Sabbath; however, there were no complaints, since Jewish law encourages the violation of Sabbath if it is to save lives
Twenty-nine year old Mukat Abag said, “We didn’t bring any of our clothes, we didn’t bring any of our things, but we are very glad to be here”.
In fact, the Sabbath made the operation easier because all the aircraft and buses that needed to be used were idle. The Israeli government placed the entire operation under total military censorship, and did not lift it until the operation was completed. Even afterwards, it refused to discuss details with other countries due to commitments it has made to the United States and Ethiopian governments.
“We’ve stood up to our obligation and completed the operation bringing all the Jews,” Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declared tonight. “It gives us a feeling of strength.”
Source :.jochnowitz.net, wikipedia, idfblog , New York times
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