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Operation Yakhin was an operation to secretly emigrate Moroccan Jews to Israel, conducted by Israel's Mossad between November 1961 and spring 1964. About 97,000 left for Israel by plane and ship from Casablanca and Tangier via France and Italy.
The accession of Hassan II on 26 February 1961 enabled negotiations to begin on a secret agreement between Mossad's "Misgeret" division and the Moroccan authorities (principally Prince Moulay Ali and labour minister Abdelkader Benjelloun), together with the American organisation HIAS. An economic arrangement was agreed between Israel and Morocco, with the agreement of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and King Hassan II of Morocco, whereby $500,000 would be paid as a downpayment, plus $100 per emigrant for the first 50,000 Moroccan Jews, and then, $250 per emigrant thereafter. The operation also received important help from Francoist Spain. However, some Jews settled in France, Canada and the United States instead of in Israel. Morocco received "indemnities" for the loss of the Jews.
The operation's name Yachin was of Biblical origin- being the name of one of the two central pillars that supported the Holy Temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon, and since Israel regarded immigration as a major pillar that supported the existence of the Jewish state.
The Jewish community of Morocco spans nearly 2,000 years. It became an important Jewish center with the expulsion of Jews from Spain and later Portugal, and continued to be such until the founding of Israel in 1948. Despite singular events of violence, such as the 1948 Anti-Jewish Riots in Oujda and Jerada, the Moroccan Jews were perhaps the most protected Jewish community across the Arab World. Many hesitated to trade their comfortable lives and good businesses for an uncertain future across the seas, with only Israel and France being willing to accept them.
Migration continued into the early 1950s despite these impediments. At the time, Morocco was home to the largest Jewish community in North Africa. Fears that Moroccan independence, which appeared increasingly likely through the early 1950s, would lead to persecution of the Jewish community led to an initial wave of migrants. From 1948 to 1951, approximately 28,000 Jews emigrated from Morocco to Israel.
Upon Moroccan independence from French colonial rule in 1956, full rights and status were conferred to the Jewish population under the subsequent reign of Mohammed V. Nonetheless, immigration to Israel continued. In 1959, under pressure from the Arab League and facing the specter of the Jewish population's continued decline, emigration to Israel was prohibited, narrowing Jews' options for leaving the country. Despite retention efforts, Moroccan immigration to Israel rose to approximately 95,000 Jews for the period spanning 1952-1960.
The formal prohibition on emigration remained in place only through February 1961. While the formal prohibition was ended, Mohammed V maintained a clear public preference that the Jewish community remain within Morocco and barred foreign action to facilitate or encourage emigration. Beginning in 1960, Israeli authorities engaged Moroccan officials in discussions intended to negotiate the facilitation of Jewish immigration to Israel with official (or, at least semi-official) blessing. Even with the removal of the prohibition on such movement, these talks continued. Eventually, this evolved into Operation Yakhin.
On 10 January 1961 a small boat called Egoz carrying 44 Jewish emigrants sank on the northern coast of Morocco. This created a crisis both for the Moroccan authorities and for the foreign aid groups responsible for assisting the refugees.
- Frederic ABECASSIS, QUESTIONS ABOUT JEWISH MIGRATIONS FROM MOROCCO "OPERATION MURAL" (SUMMER 1961): RETURN FROM DIASPORA OR FORMATION OF A NEW DIASPORA? "Since 1960, indirect talks had been initiated between the Israeli authorities and the heir to the throne, and even with the leftist leader, Mehdi Ben Barka (Bin-Nun, 2008). According to Yigal Bin Nun (2009), the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was progressively convinced to consider financial compensation to the departure of the Jews, as it had been done in Iraq and Romania. In early May 1961, Isser Harel, the Director of the Mossad, decided to entrust to Alex Gatmon, chief of the Misgeret in Morocco, the mission to contact Jewish intermediaries to start negotiations with the Moroccan authorities. By the end of July, with the collaboration of Sam Benazeraf and Dr Isaac Cohen Olivar, he was negotiating with Abdelkader Benjelloun (Minister of Labour) and Moulay Ali Alaoui (the King's cousin and brother-in-law) and came to a compromise agreement. An economic clause was planned: half a million dollars would be paid as a down payment for the emigration of 50,000 Moroccan Jews to Europe, and then, 100$ per capita (250$ after the 50,000th). A humanitarian association, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) would be the façade for the Israeli emissaries. The Moroccan authorities demanded that the Jews leave Morocco as entire families and not as single and selected migrants, as was the case since 1953. Furthermore, Alex Gatmon refused to dissolve his network "Misgeret" in Morocco, and clandestine emigration kept on until the end of the negotiations. Raphaël Spanien, the HIAS representative in Morocco, negotiated with colonel Oufkir collective passports issue by the Ministry of Interior. By the end of November 1961, Operation Yakhin had begun. From then till 1964, 97,005 Jews left Morocco with the tacit agreement of the Moroccan authorities."
- In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands, Martin Gilbert, p279
- "In the shadow of the Holocaust and the Inquisition: Israel's relations with Francoist Spain", by Raanan Rein, p.197.
- "The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in modern times", by Reeva S. Simon, Michael M. Laskier, Sara Reguer, p.502.
- Szulc 1991, p. 210: "Under the 1961 arrangement between HIAS and the Jewish Agency, over 100,000 Moroccan Jews, including entire villages in the Atlas Mountains, were directly helped by the Americans in emigrating to Israel; thousands more were later indirectly assisted by HIAS in leaving the country. The cost to HIAS, which relied on contributions from American Jewry, was close to $50 million."
- Every spy a prince: the complete history of Israel's intelligence community, by Daniel Raviv, Yossi Melman, p.111.
- "Return to Morocco". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
- "IMMIGRANTS, BY PERIOD OF IMMIGRATION, COUNTRY OF BIRTH AND LAST COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE" (PDF). Government of Israel. 2009.
- "King of Morocco Lifts Ban on Jewish Emigration; Announcement Issued | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". www.jta.org. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
- "NEW DIASPORAS: THE JERUSALEM WORKSHOP" (PDF). HAL. June 2012.
- "King Hassan II: Morocco's messenger of peace", by Megan Melissa Cross, pp.66-67.
- "North African Jewry in the twentieth century: the Jews of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria", by Michael M. Laskier, Chapter 7: The Israeli-Directed Self-Defense Underground and "Operation Yachin".
- Szulc, Tad (1991). The Secret Alliance: The Extraordinary Story of the Rescue of the Jews Since World War II. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-24946-5.