Tuesday, 19 Nov 2019 - 21 of Heshvan, 5780

Belgian Jewish businessman who brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 80s dies at 81 in Tel Aviv

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Georges Gutelman, was living in Tel Aviv since several years.

A Belgian Jewish businessman, mainly active in the aviation sector and  who made his planes available for the ‘Moses Operation’ that brought 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the eighties, died at the age of 81, his wife announced.

Georges Gutelman, whose health deteriorated in 2015, was living with his family in Tel Aviv since several years.

He was born in 1938 to Polish immigrant parents. During WWII, he was hidden by a Catholic family in Belgium.

After studying engineering at the University of Liege and a trip to the United States, he had the project to organize air travel. In 1971, he founded his airline Trans European Airways (TEA). which brought the Ethiopian Jews via Sudan to Israel.

In 1984, Gutelman was contacted by a senior official of Mossad, Efraim Halevy. The latter explained that  Mossad’s means were insufficient to evacuate all the Jews from Ethiopia who suffered from famine during the winter of 1984-1985.

He asked Gutelman to secretly transport the Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He immediately agreed even though he knew he was taking great risks for his company and for himself. His planes were carrying pilgrims to Mecca during the day and at night they were leaving from Brussels to Sudan, taking Ethiopian Jews, passing them through Belgium, and taking them to Israel. I

In order to make all this as credible as possible, refugee visas in Belgium had been prepared for all these passengers. On November 21, 1984, a first TEA plane flew away from Khartoum at 2:40 am, landing overnight in Zaventem, the Brussels airport. A refueling was done before the aircraft flew to Israel. Each  flight lasted twelve to fifteen hours in all. The passengers did not get off the plane.

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