Over Memorial Day weekend, 1991, 14,325 Ethiopian Jews fulfilled their dreams of making it home, as they were airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel in 36 hours of around the clock flights during a covert military operation known as Operation Solomon.
At the time, the sitting government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was close to being toppled by Eritrean and Tigrean rebels, thereby threatening Ethiopia with political destabilization. Concurrently, the Mengistu regime had made mass emigration difficult, and the regime’s dwindling power presented a promising opportunity for those who had been wanting to emigrate.
Operation Solomon airlifted almost twice as many Ethiopian Jews to Israel as Operation Moses. The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers’ robes). Planners expected to fill the aircraft with 760 passengers. Because the passengers were so light, many more were squeezed in. Two babies were born during the flight.
images courtesy El-Al, Jewish Agency for Israel and MFA