Shlomo Hillel – Olim, Aliyah Hero, Speaker of the Knesset

Stand for Israel  |  February 23, 2021

Shlomo Hillel (1985)
Shlomo Hillel (1985)

As a young boy, Shlomo Hillel made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from Iraq with his Jewish family. He would go on to a heroic and distinguished career of service to the Jewish state, including serving as Speaker of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and directly leading to the rescue of 120,000 Iraqi Jews through aliyah. JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports that Shlomo Hillel, a lifelong Israeli servant passed away recently at the age of 97:

Shlomo Hillel’s life spanned the length and breadth of Israel’s immigrant story and he played a critical role in many of its chapters.

Hillel, who died Feb. 8 at 97, helped smuggle Iraqi Jewish immigrants into prestate British Mandate Palestine and then brought more in in the state’s first years…

A New York Times obituary on Sunday detailed how Hillel, who was born in Baghdad, executed at least four undercover operations in the pre-and post-state years in various guises — including as a British businessman — to spirit out Iraqi Jews.

In one instance, negotiating with the then-Iraqi prime minister, Tawfiq al-Suwaidi, a cousin of Hillel’s joined the meeting. The cousin did not recognize Hillel.

Altogether, Hillel was responsible for the aliyah of at least 120,000 Iraqi Jews, saving an ancient community from predations that would follow when Saddam Hussein became dictator in the late 1960s and targeted the tiny remnant with persecution and executions. There are fewer than 100 Jews left in Iraq…

May his memory be a blessing.