The "magic carpet" exodus of Yemenite Jewry: an Israeli formative myth

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


In 1949–50 “Operation Magic Carpet” brought the majority of the Jews of Yemen to Israel through secret cooperation between the Imam of Yemen, the British colonial rulers of Aden, the Israeli Government, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). In order to immigrate to Israel, Yemenite Jews sold or abandoned their property, took their sacred books with them, and set out on foot, trekking many difficult and treacherous kilometres to reach the southern border of Yemen and cross into Aden. When they arrived in Aden they were located in a transit camp, from which they were later flown to Israel. “Operation Magic Carpet” strengthened the Zionist claim of a historic Jewish right to the Land of Israel. As a result a heroic myth developed, presenting the bravery and ingenuity of Israelis who set out to rescue their “distant brethren” from lives of distress, degradation, and persecution in the context of the return of “ancient Hebrews” to Zion and its concomitant realization of the eschatological visions of the prophets of Israel. Based on archival documents, the author reveals the enormous personal cost of the operation. The abandonment of immigrants to death in the desert during their trek to Aden, and the substantive loss of personal property in leaving their homes at short notice calls into question the personal benefit of such a brutal upheaval and demands a re-assessment of the aims of the immigration operation and its prime movers. Pertinent is discussion of the interests of the various states and organizations that were involved in this exodus, which can be seen in retrospect as the first stage in the evacuation of ancient Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and their transfer to Israel. On the wider political level, the question to be posed is: Did the Jews in the Muslim countries pay the price for the establishment of the State of Israel and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem?
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSussex Academic Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9781845196165
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Jews -- Yemen -- History -- 20th century
  • Jews, Yemeni -- Israel
  • Israel -- Emigration and immigration


Dive into the research topics of 'The "magic carpet" exodus of Yemenite Jewry: an Israeli formative myth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this