After the modern State of Israel was founded in 1948, Jews across much of the Arab world were persecuted. The Jews of Yemen suffered attacks, discrimination and threats to their lives. An effort was organized, called Operation Magic Carpet to rescue the Jewish community of Yemen and bring them to safety in Israel. Many people participated in this rescue. (Incidentally, there are some wonderful stories and memories from the Yemenite community themselves about Operation Magic Carpet. I’ll look for some links and post, otherwise, check your library.) One of significant figures in this endeavor was Robert F. Maguire, Jr., the chief pilot. Mr. Maguire recently died and his part in Operation Magic Carpet is remembered in a New York Times Obituary. Some excerpts from the obituary include:
“Robert F. Maguire Jr., the chief pilot of Operation Magic Carpet, which evacuated more than 40,000 Jewish refugees from Yemen to the newly created state of Israel between late 1948 and early 1950, died on June 10 at his home in Northridge, Calif. He was 94….Requiring a little more than a year and 380 flights, Operation Magic Carpet evacuated 40,000 to 50,000 Yemenite Jews without loss of life. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was reported to have called Mr. Maguire “the Irish Moses.” The writer Leon Uris based a character in his 1958 novel, “Exodus,” on him….In Operation Magic Carpet, Mr. Maguire relied as much on his wits as on his aviation skills. He once ran out of fuel and was forced to land in Egypt. When airport officials rushed up to the plane, Mr. Maguire ordered them to send ambulances immediately.
“What for?” they asked him.
“I have smallpox on board,” Mr. Maguire replied.
He got his fuel, and flew on to Tel Aviv.”
You can also read an obituary of him in The Jerusalem Post.
Want to learn more about Operation Magic Carpet?
Take a look at these links:
Jewish Virtual Library information on & picture of Operation Magic Carpet.
Alaskan Airlines on the golden anniversary of Operation Magic Carpet. This profiles some other people involved in the rescue, you can read their words about Mr. Maguire at the bottom.
WZO background and program ideas for Operation Magic Carpet.
A description of Operation Magic Carpet including history on Jews in Yemen.
Photo exhibit on Operation Magic Carpet.
Words of another American pilot, Hank Mullineaux, on Operation Magic Carpet.
Israeli stamp remembering Operation Magic Carpet.
A filmography on Operation Magic Carpet.
Go and Learn!