Sunday – Monday marked the anniversary of Operation Solomon when over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were transported to Israel in 36 hours.
It’s been 29 years since Israel conducted Operation Solomon – the heroic and miraculous mission wherein the Jewish State successfully transported over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to the land of Israel. While there were three different airlift missions that concerned Ethiopian Jews, Operation Solomon is the most recent. Israel began transporting Jews out of Ethiopia in 1984.
It was actually agreed upon by Israel’s government in the 1970s that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) could be utilized to bring these Jews back to their ancient homeland. This was during a time when it was illegal for Ethiopians to emigrate to Israel.
With famine, disorganized government, and military conflict being an imminent threat in Ethiopia in May 1991, the Israeli government knew it was time to form a plan to rescue the Jewish community that would likely be left vulnerable. As a first step, the Israeli government set aside $35 million to pay the Ethiopian government to let them transport the Jewish community.
Carrying out this plan, the IDF supplied six (6) El Al Boeing 707 planes and eighteen (18) Hercules planes. There were also ten (10) El Al jumbo jets and other Ethiopian charter planes used. This would allow them to transport roughly 18,000 people. The next step in the process involved organizing all of the Ethiopian Jews at Ethiopia’s Israeli embassy to transport them via bus to the airfield. Each bus was guided by an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent.
According to witnesses, upon arrival in Ethiopia, everything was well-organized in order for Israel to execute its plan. In order to fit more people on each plane, the Israelis removed all of the seats, making it possible to hold near 1,200 people on each plane. In some cases, they were able to fit even more because the Ethiopian community was dehydrated and underfed, allowing for more room.
It was approximately noon on Sunday that the first plane entered the air. Israeli Air Force (IAF) Commander Maj. Gen. Avihu Ben-Nun is on record saying, “Never before, did so few pilots transport such a great number of people in such a short time.”
Upon arrival, they were greeted by then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and others. Many from the Ethiopian Jewish community could be seen kissing the ground after exiting their plane. Several babies were even born during the flight(s).
Interestingly enough, now the alternate prime minister, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, helped lead the ground mission portion of this operation. After the operation, he and others shared their thoughts as to how Operation Solomon represents true Zionism.
IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Avihu Ben-Nun stated, “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.”
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.”