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Hillel, Shlomo

(483 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
Born in Baghdad in 1923, Shlomo (Salīm) Hillel immigrated to Palestine together with his family in 1934, after they witnessed the massacre of Assyrians following Iraq’s independence. He graduated from the Herzlia High School in Tel Aviv and joined a group of pioneers preparing to establish a kibbutz. He was also involved in the establishment of a clandestine munitions factory. Following the  pogrom against (Farhūd) the Jews of Baghdad in 1941, Hillel was sent as an emissary of the Mosad la-ʿAliya Bet (the organization for clandestine immigration) to help build an underground Zio…

Operation Ezra and Nehemia (Ali Baba)

(1,032 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah (popularly called Operation Ali Baba) was the name given to the airlift in 1950 and 1951 that transported 119,000 Jews, the vast majority of the Jewish community of Iraq, to Israel. From the establishment of the State of Israel and the 1948 war on, Jews were persecuted and prohibited from leaving Iraq. Persecution of Jewsreached its peak in 1949 under Prime Minister Nūrī al-Saʿīd. When his government resigned in December 1949, persecution eased somewhat. In February 1950, the newly appointed prime minister, Tawfīq al-Suwaydī, a moderate pro-British pol…

Kedourie, Elie

(496 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
One of the most outstanding British historians of the Middle East, Elie Kedourie owed his breadth of learning and the formation of his attitudes to his early life circumstances. Born in 1926 and reared in the traditional Jewish environment of Baghdad, schooled at the French-speaking Alliance Israélite Universelle primary school and then at the English-speaking Shammash High School, he acquired a deep familiarity with Arabic, French, and English language and literature. He also witnessed, at the age of fifteen, the farhūd , the pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad in 1941. Graduating in…

Ben-Porat, Mordechai

(775 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
Born in Baghdad in 1923, Mordechai Ben-Porat (né Mordechai Qazzāz) immigrated to Palestine in 1945 following his family's migration two years earlier. In 1947 he joined the Hagana (the Jewish underground defense forces). He graduated the first officers-training course of the Israel Defense Forces in 1948 and fought in the War of Independence. In 1949, as persecution of the Jews of Iraq mounted, he was sent there by the Mossad la-ʿAliya to organize clandestine Jewish emigration. Together with Shlomo Hillel and others, Ben-Porat was a central figure in Operation Ezra an…