Shlomo Hillel
Shlomo Hillel is an Iraqi-born Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i diplomat and politician who served as Speaker of the Knesset, Minister of Police and Minister of Internal Affairs. He was also an ambassador to several countries in Africa.


Born in Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 in Iraq, Hillel immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his family in 1934 at the age of eleven. After graduating from the Herzliya Hebrew High School
Herzliya Hebrew High School
The Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium , originally known as HaGymnasia HaIvrit is a historic high school in Tel Aviv, Israel.-History:...

 in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

, he underwent agricultural training in kibbutz Degania Alef, and later Pardes Hana. Hillel was secretary of a Hebrew Scouts group which later established Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael
Ma'agan Michael
Ma'agan Michael is a kibbutz in Israel. It is currently the largest kibbutz in the country, with a population of over 1,400 residents , and falls under the jurisdiction of Hof HaCarmel Regional Council.-Geography:...

. In 1945, Hillel and his colleagues worked at a Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

 munitions factory disguised as a laundry facility in the basement of the Ayalon Institute in Rehovot
Rehovot is a city in the Center District of Israel, about south of Tel Aviv. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 112,700. Rehovot's official website estimates the population at 114,000.Rehovot was built on the site of Doron,...

. He studied political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, economics and public administration
Public administration
Public Administration houses the implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and that prepares civil servants for this work. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" its "fundamental goal.....

 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

. He marred Temima, with whom he has two children, a son and a daughter, and currently lives in Ramat Denya
Ramat Denya
Ramat Denya is a neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem, Israel. It was established in 1970 between Kiryat Hayovel and Bayit Vegan, 780 meters above sea level...

 in Jerusalem.

Operation Ezra and Nehemiah

In 1946, Hillel flew to Baghdad on an Iraqi passport and remained there for one year. He visited Baghdad again in 1950 to negotiate the mass immigration of the Jews of Iraq, 120,000 of whom were airlifted to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah
From 1950 to 1952, Operation Ezra and Nehemiah airlifted between 120,000 to 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel via Iran and Cyprus. The massive emigration of Iraqi Jews was among the most climactic events of Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. By 1968 only 2,000 Jews remained in Iraq...

 between 1950 and 1952. On these trips, he disguised himself as either a Frenchman or an Englishman. The airlift was made possible through the cooperation of Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, which was a close ally of Israel at the time.

Hillel's partner was Ronnie Barnett, a British Jew who worked for Trans-Ocean Airlines. While organizing pilgrimages to Mecca, Barnett met the director of a travel agency called Iraq Tours, Abdul Rahman Raouf. Barnett and Raouf met in Rome and Hillel came along as "Richard Armstrong." Raouf realized that there was money to be made in transporting the Jews out of Iraq, and arranged for the two to meet with the prime minister of Iraq, Tawfiq al-Suweidi, who was a board member of his company. They visited the prime minister at his home. Al-Suweidi complained that the illegal emigration of the Jews was harming Iraq because they were probably smuggling out property and leaving without paying their taxes. According to his estimates, at least 60,000 Jews would leave the country if they could. They agreed on a ticket price of 12 dinars (about $48) per ticket.

Political and diplomatic career

For the 1951 Knesset elections
Israeli legislative election, 1951
Elections for the second Knesset were held in Israel on 30 July 1951. Voter turnout was 75.1%.-Results:¹ Rostam Bastuni, Avraham Berman and Moshe Sneh left Mapam and set up the Left Faction. Bastuni later returned to Mapam whilst Berman and Sneh joined Maki. Hannah Lamdan and David Livschitz left...

 Hillel was given a place on the Mapai
Mapai was a left-wing political party in Israel, and was the dominant force in Israeli politics until its merger into the Israeli Labor Party in 1968...

 list. Although he failed to win a seat, he entered the Knesset on 21 December 1952 as a replacement for the deceased Eliyahu Hacarmeli
Eliyahu Hacarmeli
Eliyahu Hacarmeli was an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset from 1949 until 1952.-Biography:Born in Haifa during the Ottoman era, Hacarmeli was educated at an Alliance School in his home city, before studying at an Alliance Teachers Seminary in Paris...

. He was re-elected in 1955
Israeli legislative election, 1955
Elections for the third Knesset were held in Israel on 26 July 1955. Voter turnout was 82.8%.-Results:Mapai retained its plurality in the Knesset, although its share of the vote dropped by 5.1 and its share of seats dropped from 47 to 40...

, but resigned from the Knesset shortly before the 1959 elections
Israeli legislative election, 1959
Elections for the fourth Knesset were held in Israel on 3 November 1959. Voter turnout was 81.5%.-Results:¹ The General Zionists and the Progressive Party merged to form the Liberal Party....

, after which he joined the foreign service, and was appointed ambassador to Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

 in 1959. In 1961 he became ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

, Dahomey
Dahomey was a country in west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a powerful west African state that was founded in the seventeenth century and survived until 1894. From 1894 until 1960 Dahomey was a part of French West Africa. The independent Republic of Dahomey...

, Republic of Upper Volta
Republic of Upper Volta
The Republic of Upper Volta was established on December 11, 1958, as a self-governing colony within the French Community. Before attaining autonomy it had been French Upper Volta and part of the French Union. On August 5, 1960 it attained full independence from France.Thomas Sankara came to power...

, and Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

, before becoming a member of the Israeli Delegation to the United Nations between 1963 and 1967. He returned to Israel in 1967, serving as the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The position is one of the most important in the Israeli cabinet after Prime Minister and Defense Minister...

 until 1969.

In 1969, Hillel returned to the Knesset on the Alignment
Alignment (political party)
The Alignment was an alliance of the major left-wing parties in Israel between the 1960s and 1990s. It was established in 1965 as an alliance of Mapai and Ahdut HaAvoda but was dissolved three years later when the two parties and Rafi formally merged into the Israeli Labor Party...

 list. He served consecutively from the 1969 elections
Israeli legislative election, 1969
Elections for the seventh Knesset were held in Israel on 28 October 1969. Voter turnout was 81.7%.-Results:¹ Meir Avizohar defected from the National List to the Alignment² Avner Shaki left the National Religious Party and remained a single MK...

 until the 1992 elections
Israeli legislative election, 1992
Elections for the thirteenth Knesset were held in Israel on 23 June 1992. The result was a victory for the left, led by Yitzhak Rabin's Labor Party, though their win was at least partially due to several small right-wing parties narrowly failing to cross the electoral threshold and thus effectively...

, in which he lost his seat. He was Minister of Police between 1969 and 1977, and Interior Minister in 1974 and 1977. In 1984 he was elected Speaker of the eleventh Knesset
Israeli legislative election, 1984
Elections for the eleventh Knesset were held in Israel on 23 July 1984. Voter turnout was 78.8%. The results saw the Alignment return to being the largest party in the Knesset, a status it had lost in 1977...



In 1988, Hillel was awarded the Israel Prize
Israel Prize
The Israel Prize is an award handed out by the State of Israel and is largely regarded as the state's highest honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the...

, for his special contribution to the society and the State of Israel.

He currently serves as president of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.

Published work

In 1984, Hillel published Operation Babylon: The Story of the Rescue of the Jews of Iraq, a memoir of the operation, which was later translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.

External links

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