During the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Cuban planes and pilots brought nearly 150,000 Jews to Israel from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and India. “Unreported for nearly 60 years, the airlift was one of the largest in history”, states Juventude Rebelde, an official Cuban newspaper.
In the years after Israel declared independence, Jews in Arab countries began immigrating to Israel as their lives became more difficult. However, due to lack of cooperation by the Arab governments, traveling by land was very difficult.
The Cuban connection arose from Cuban businessman Narciso Otero-Rosello, a licensed pilot. The businessman became president of a new air company, Aerea de Cuba, which took ownership of the aircraft to be used in the years-long airlift and established offices in Cuba and Cyprus.
The Cuban pilots who flew the planes on the historic mission recalled several close calls with death. They told of dust storms suffocating their engines in Iraq, making stops on desolate airstrips in Oman, emergency landings, and crashes while transporting Jews to Israel. The Cuban airlift missions were completed in early 1953 and the pilots returned to Cuba.
As a former Cuban immigrant, and now an American citizen, I still feel a sense of pride for my former country in learning their help of the Jewish people. This is a newly discovered chapter in Jewish and Israeli history and perhaps shows why Cuban immigrants have been so prosperous and blessed in the United States. “For I will bless them that bless thee…” – Genesis 12:3
– Pastor Luis Yosefus
SOURCE: The Jerusalem Post, 10/19/2010
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