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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When Cuba promoted aliya

Between 1951 and 1953, Cuba played a major role in bringing olim (immigrants) to Israel. Cuban pilots, it was disclosed this week, flew some 150,000 Jews from Arab countries to their escape in Israel, because Israeli pilots were not allowed to land in Arab countries.
In the first years of the state, Cuban planes and pilots brought nearly 150,000 Jews to Israel from Iraq, Iran, Yemen and India, the official Cuban newspaper Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth) reported on Saturday. Unreported for 60 years, the airlift was one of the largest in history.

In the years after Israel declared independence, Jews in Arab countries began emigrating to Israel as their lives became more difficult. However, due to the lack of cooperation by the Arab governments, traveling by land was very difficult. Since there were no diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab countries, it was necessary for the aircraft to be from a neutral country, according to the Juvente Rebelde report.

The Cuban connection stemmed from someone in the Israeli trade mission in New York's close friendship with Cuban businessman Narciso Otero-Roselló, a licensed pilot, according to the report. The businessman became president of new air company, Aerea de Cuba, which took ownership of the aircraft to be used in the years-long airlift and established offices in Havana and Nicosia in Cyprus.
I suspect there was another place from which the Cuban connection stemmed: The Cuban dictator in the early 1950's was Fulgencio Batista (pictured), who was supported by the United States, ruled Cuba from March 1952 until January 1959, when he was overthrown. Batista was a business partner with Meyer Lansky, an American Jewish casino owner who also had Mafia connections. Lansky was also a Zionist, and attempted to make aliya to Israel in the 1970's, but was returned to the US to face tax evasion charges.

I guess everyone has their good side.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

Meyer Lansky was a cousin of mine. He was a kind and gentle man. Once when I was 6, he gave me $20. Mama took the money from me when she saw it (She gave me $2.00 in quarters.).

To many he was a monster, but to a 6-year old child, he was wonderful!

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Unbeliever said...

Has this been validated? The Cuban Connection was reported last week, but is this fact or wishful thinking?


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