About Shlomo Hillel, 9th Speaker of the Kneset, שלמה הלל
Shlomo Hillel (Hebrew: שלמה הלל, born 23 April 1923) is an Iraqi-born Israeli 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 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 in Tel Aviv, 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. In 1945, Hillel and his colleagues worked at a Haganah munitions factory disguised as a laundry facility in the basement of the Ayalon Institute in Rehovot. He studied political science, economics and public administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He marred Temima, with whom he has two children, a son and a daughter, and currently lives in Ramat Denya 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 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, 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 Hillel was given a place on the Mapai list. Although he failed to win a seat, he entered the Knesset on 21 December 1952 as a replacement for the deceased Eliyahu Hacarmeli. He was re-elected in 1955, but resigned from the Knesset shortly before the 1959 elections, after which he joined the foreign service, and was appointed ambassador to Guinea in 1959. In 1961 he became ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire, Dahomey, Republic of Upper Volta, and Niger, 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 until 1969.
In 1969, Hillel returned to the Knesset on the Alignment list. He served consecutively from the 1969 elections until the 1992 elections, 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.
In 1988, Hillel was awarded the Israel Prize, 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.
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.
Knesset 2, 3: 21.12.1952 - 16.7.1959 (Partial tenures)
Knesset 7-12: 17.11.1969 - 13.7.1992
Knesset Presidium: Knesset 11 Speaker of the Knesset
- Emissary to Iraq in 1946 for underground Zionist activity
- Active in arranging illegal Aliya from Syria, Lebanon & Iraq, 1948-49
- One of founders of Kibbutz Maagan Michael (1949)
- Emissary to Egypt in 1951
- Israeli Ambassador to Guinea, 1959-1961
- Ambassador to Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Dahomey and Niger, 1961-1963
- Member of Israel’s permanent delegation to the United Nations, 1963-1967
- Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs Ministry for Middle East issues, 1967-1969
- Chairman of World Board of Keren Hayesod (1989)