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Georges Gutelman

Hero of Operation Moses passes away at age 80

Belgian Holocaust survivor Georges Gutelman used his airplanes to help Israel smuggle thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan; 'He's one of the greatest heroes of Israel and the Jewish people in our era,' says ex-Mossad chief who worked with him

Georges Gutelman, the Belgian Holocaust survivor and businessman who was instrumental in bringing thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel passed away Tuesday at age 80.

 

 

Gutelman was known for facilitating the evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel from Sudan during Operation Moses in the 1980s, donating several civilian airplanes he owned to the operation.

 

George Gutelman
George Gutelman

 

 

"Georges was a Zionist Jew, and Israel was as important to him as his children," his widow, Aline Gutelman, told Ynet.

 

"The moment the country called upon him – Georges didn't think twice. He said yes, because they are Jews, our brothers."

 

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, then a Mossad operative attached to the operation, recalled his first meeting with Gutelman in Belgium.

 

"I explained to him the situation in Sudan and asked for his help. I talked for 25 minutes and he barely spoke for one," Halevy said.

 

"I wanted to make some sort of organized contract with him, but he simply said 'okay' and that he would bear the cost. We immediately went into action, and in a period of five weeks evacuated thousands of people."

 

Georges Gutelman meeting one of the people he helped evacuate from Ethiopia
Georges Gutelman meeting one of the people he helped evacuate from Ethiopia

 

Halevy said Israel could not have carried out the operation without him.

 

"We had a planned covert operation in Sudan for years. You must remember this was enemy territory, not a friendly nation." he said. "When we realized we had more people to evacuate than a covert action would allow for, we understood we needed help." 

 

Using a planned visit to Sudan by then-U.S. President George W. Bush, a request was made for one-time clearan for the operation. 

 

"Bush talked to the ruler of Sudan, and the mass evacuation was the result," said Halevy. 

 

He said he had kept in touch with Gutelman for years afterward and even enlisted his helped for a number of other issues that still cannot be talked about publicly today.

 

"He's one of the greatest heroes of Israel and the Jewish people in our era," the former Mossad chief said. "He was a modest man, softly spoken, courteous, always smiling, and had an unending love for the nation he served. We all owe him greatly."

 

Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata
Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata

 

Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, who came to Israel as part of Operation Moses, also praised Gutelman for his work to help the Ethiopian Jews.

 

"Georges Gutelman is the embodiment of the phrase 'All of Israel are brothers'. An amazing person, who rose to challenge with no hesitation and helped so much in the migration of Ethiopian Jews in 1984, of which I'm part," she said. 

  

 

"What Gutelman did was a holy mission. He was not afraid of the consequences and bravely worked for the Jewish people. You must remember, he paid a hefty price for his involvement. Many Arab countries boycotted his businesses and he almost went bankrupt. It is to the detriment of Israel that he never received the recognition and appreciation he deserved."

 

Israeli Ambassador to Belgium Emmanuel Nahshon wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Georges Gutelman, a Belgian Jewish businessman and entrepreneur who played a major role in bringing secretly to Israel thousands of Jews from Ethiopia in the 80's. A true hero of the Jewish people. May his memory be a blessing."

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 11.07.19, 12:17
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