What Was Operation Magic Carpet?

A Jewish man prays in the synagogue.
A Jewish man prays in the synagogue.

Operation on Wings-of-Eagles, also known as Operation Magic Carpet, was a program that brought over 49,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel. The operation was carried out from mid-1949 to September 1950. During the operation, a considerable percentage of the Yemenite Jews (2,000 Jews from Yemen, 500 Jews from Eritrea and Djibouti, 2,000 Jews from Saudi Arabia, and 1,500 Jews from Aden) were taken to Israel. Numerous American and British planes made over 380 secret flights from Aden to Israel. The secret trips were made public a few months after they were finished. Operation Magic Carpet is sometimes also referred to as Operation Messiah’s coming.

The Operation

The operation marked the beginning of Jewish exodus from numerous Arab nations. Israel considered the entire project to be a successful rescue operation of the Yemeni Jews from oppression. Currently, there are 3 streets in Israel named ‘’Kanfei-Nesharim’’ meaning "the Wings-of-Eagles’’ in honor of this program. These streets are in Kerem Ha Teimanim, Ramat Gan, Herzliya, and Jerusalem. The program’s official name originated from 2 biblical passages (Isaiah 40:31 and Exodus 19:4).

Reasons For The Exodus

The departure was caused by the collision between the Imam of Yemen and Israel. After the 1947 United Nations Partition-Plan, Muslims began attacking numerous Jewish communities in Aden, resulting in the death of about 82Jews. Another anti-Jewish violence occurred in 1948 after the Jews were accused of killing two Muslim girls. According to Meir-Glitzenstein Esther, the leading cause of this operation was the collision between Ahmad bin Yahya (who profited from the confiscatory taxes which he levied on the Jews) and Israel. Tudor Parfitt and Reuven Ahroni argue that the economic motivations also contributed to the exodus of the Yemeni Jews, which started before 1948.


Many people criticized the entire operation with Meir-Glitzenstein Esther criticizing Israel and the American Jewish-Joint Distribution Committee for abandoning many Jews on the Aden-Yemen border. Over 850 Yemeni Jews lost their lives while traveling to the departure points. The infant mortality rate was high among the Jewish communities that arrived in Israel but lower than that of the communities in Yemen. According to Ben-Gurion David’s diary, the children in the transit camps were dying at a very high rate. They were separated from their parents and taken to hospitals to be treated, and the parents were notified of the demise of their children via loudspeakers.

Since the infant mortality rate was quite high, many Jews suspected that the state was kidnapping the healthy children for adoption and then telling the parents that they had died. The suspicion of the missing children was explained by Yaacov Lozowick in 2019. He said that the high infant mortality rate was quite alarming; therefore, the doctors autopsied the bodies of some of the children. Since the Jewish laws were against autopsies, it was kept a secret from the parents.

Status Today

About 3,000 Jews migrated from Aden to Israel in 1959, while others migrated as to the United Kingdom and the United States. The emigrations were stopped by the North Yemen Civil War of 1962. About 250 Jews were living in Yemen in 2013. The Jews in Raydah were shocked by the murder of Ya’ish Moshe in 2008. He was killed by Abdul Aziz, who accosted him and demanded that he should become a Muslim. Other Jews received threats via phone and hate letters, which forced the Amnesty International to urge the Yemeni government to protect the Jews living in the country. Numerous Jewish communities were attacked during the Gaza War.


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