Feb. 19, 2009 — Yemeni Jews Secretly Are Flown to Israel
Facing threats from Al-Qaeda and other terrorists, 10 of the fewer than 300 Jews remaining in Yemen are secretly airlifted out by the Jewish Agency. The new immigrants to Israel include Said Ben Yisrael, the leader of Yemen’s Jewish community. Yemen’s Jewish population was roughly 50,000 when Israel declared independence in 1948, but almost all were flown to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950.
Feb. 20, 1957 — Eisenhower Tells Israel to Follow U.N. Resolutions
In a nationally televised address, President Dwight Eisenhower discusses the Middle East situation after the October 1956 war over the Suez Canal. He emphasizes the need for Israel to abide by U.N. resolutions calling for its withdrawal from all of Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Israel has refused to complete its promised withdrawal while seeking international security guarantees.
Feb. 21, 1852 — Pope Protests Jewish Emancipation
Pope Pius IX writes to Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany to protest the decision to grant some degree of emancipation to the Jews of the grand duchy. “The spirit of the church, expressed in many dispositions and decrees, … has always been to keep Catholics as much as possible from having any contact with the infidels,” the pope writes, building on a long tradition of church-supported antisemitism.
Feb. 22, 1914 — Technion Chooses Hebrew
The board of directors of the under-construction Technikum in Haifa decides that the language of instruction at the technical college will be Hebrew, reversing an October decision to teach in German. The choice of German had sparked protests in the Yishuv, whose children are taught in Hebrew, and led Ahad Ha’am and two others to resign from the college’s board. The university changes its name from the German Technikum to the Hebrew Technion.
Feb. 23, 1965 —‘Sallah Shabbati’ Is Nominated for Oscar
The Israeli movie industry has its first Oscar nominee when “Sallah Shabbati” receives an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film. Although the movie does not win — the Oscar goes to Italy’s “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” — it does bring home a pair of Golden Globes, including one for star Topol. Part of a genre known as bourekas films, “Sallah” takes a playful look at Ashkenazi-Sephardi tensions.
Feb. 24, 1874 — Early Zionist Moshe Smilansky Is Born
Moshe Smilansky, an early Zionist leader influential from the military to literature, is born in Ukraine. He settles in Rehovot in 1893. He helps found the moshav movement and serves as a leader of the Farmers’ Federation. He joins the Jewish Legion during World War I and becomes a local Haganah commander. A delegate to the Seventh Zionist Congress, he advocates peaceful coexistence with the Arabs and opposes violence against the British.
Feb. 25, 1994 — Muslims Are Massacred in Hebron
Baruch Goldstein fatally shoots 30 Muslims worshipping at the Mosque of Abraham on the site of Hebron’s Cave of Machpelah and wounds 125 others before being beaten to death. Goldstein, a member of the radical Kach party, lives in Kiryat Arba. His attack during Ramadan and Purim sparks two days of riots. Israeli President Ezer Weizman calls the massacre “the worst thing that has happened to us in the history of Zionism.”
Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education.