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Israelis You Should Know: Shlomo Havilio

Shlomo Havilio (Photo: courtesy of family)

This week's Israeli You Should Know served extensively with the Israeli military. But it was his secret mission for the Mossad, writes Haaretz's Ofer Aderet, that was most notable - protecting the Jewish communities of North Africa and smuggling thousands of Jews to safety in Israel:

In 1954, Mossad chief Isser Harel asked the late Shlomo Havilio to embark on a secret mission to North Africa. Israel was worried that when Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria gained their independence, the Arab governments there would be hostile to the countries' Jewish citizens. To provide a response to every possible scenario, the Mossad wanted to establish an underground network that would protect the Jewish communities.

Havilio, who died in May at the age of 96, had an extensive military background. He answered Harel's call, visiting Jewish communities from the Rif Mountains in Spanish Morocco to the Atlas Mountains in the Sahara. He even reached the ancient Jewish community on the island of Djerba, in French Tunisia.

When he returned to Israel, he brought together the commanders of the future underground: young people with ample combat background and French and Arabic speakers. In the course he headed to train them, they studied more French and learned about North Africa and how to work undercover. They were then sent to their destination countries, where they established headquarters and brought in operatives from the local communities.

Thus, “the framework” – the code word for the Mossad-operated Jewish underground in North Africa – was born. Its two main goals were to defend the local Jewish community and to bring Jews to Israel.

“Under your guidance, we established frameworks of wonderful Jewish youth in those communities..."

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