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June 15, 2018

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 15, 2018 ShaharAzani Capt. Elgen Long is embraced by Yemenite Jews during a visit to Israel last fall. By Oren Peleg (JNS)--With city lights dotting the night behind her, Dr. Dee Gaines, a neu- ropsychologist, sat for good reason--she's very pregnant. But when Capt. Elgen Long, the last surviving member of a commercial flight crew that saved nearly 2,000 Jewish refugees stranded in Yemen almost 70 years ago, finished his speech, she felt compelled to stand. Her voice shook with emo- tion behind a microphone handed to her. "My great-grandmother and my grandmother were on those planes. In Yemen, they couldn't read. They couldn't receive an education. Now, here I am, a doctor who has pursued higher education. And, because of you," she said, rubbing her belly, "a fifth generation lives on." Snow-haired and perpetu- ally misty-eyed, Long, who turns 91 in August, bowed his head graciously in reply from a podium. Nearly 100 guests seated at tables applauded roundly in the backyard of a private home in Beverly Hills, Calif. The event organized by the nonprofit, pro-Israel educa- tion group StandWithUs for its prominent donors took place on May 30 and honored Long, who, thought not Jewish, was introduced as a "hero of Israel and the Jewish people." Long, a native of Oregon, told guests that returning to the City of Angels--a place he knows well from his past-- was a privilege. After serving as a U.S. naval officer during the Second World War, Long attended the University of California, LosAngeles, on the G.I. bill. While in school, his part-time job was delivering telegrams door-to-door, often to movie stars, in the Beverly Hills area. "Now, to be back here more than 70 years later is incred- ible. It feels like my life has come full circle," he said. "I can't believe I'm here as an honored guest." An Annual Issue Published By HERITAGE Florida Jewish News and Featuring a Variety of Thought-Provoking Articles on Health and Fitness Related Subjects Publication Date: Une 22, 2018 Reaching a Responsive, Health-Conscious Market Deadline for this Important Issue is Friday, June 15, 2018 CALL TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE 'We just kept going' Long's brush with fate happened while working as a commercial-flight naviga- tor for Alaska Airlines in the late 1940s. During a stop in Shanghai in January of 1949, his crew received a telegram from company heads issuing instructions to make for a British Royal Air Force base in Aden, a port city in Yemen. There, his crew took part in a daring rescue mission that would come to be known as "On Eagle's Wings'--a refer- ence to Exodus 19:4--to help airlift tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews facing persecu- tion and death out of Yemen and into Israel, a nation less than a year old at the time. "For us, it was a job," Long told JNS. "But, in the end, it turned out to be much more important than we thought it would be." During his remarks, Long outlined the details of how his crew saved 1,800 refugees--a prospect that seemed dim when their DC-4 aircraft touched down in Aden. With only 48 seats on board and thousands of starving Ye- menite Jews camped out on and around the base, Long's crew got creative in the face ofa"life and death situation." "One of our mechanics sug- gested taking out the seats on the aircraft," he said. "If we did that, he told us, we could fit about 150 people on the plane sitting on the floor. We originated that idea, I'm fairly certain." After receiving permis- sion from the head rabbi of Yemen to take off on the Sabbath, Long and his crew began making runs to Israel delivering batches of refugees. Their route, which called for a 20-hour flight day, was com- plicated by the inability to ac- cess air space over Arab lands. Upon landing in Tel Aviv, they turned right around, complet- JERUSALEM (JTA)--Israel shouldwithdraw as host of the Eurovision song contest if it is not held in Jerusalem, an Israeli government minister said. "I will recommend to the government that if the Eu- rovision is not in Jerusalem, then it wouldn't be right to host it," Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev told Is- rael's public broadcaster Kan on Thursday morning. Her statement came a day afterArgentina's national soc- cer team canceled a friendly match in Jerusalem over pressure and physical threats from pro-Palestinian groups. "It will cost Israel NIS 50 million ($14 million) and is designed to market the country. So I personally say if the Eurovision won't be held in Jerusalem, it's not right to invest the NIS 50 million in public funds," Regev told the public broadcaster. Israel won the 2018 contest on May 19 with the song "Toy" by Netta Barzilai. According to the annual competition's rules, the winning country ing seven days of nonstop back-and-forth transport. "We slept very little, taking shifts and stealing naps when we could," he told JNS. "Even- tually, we didn't look or smell too good from the experience. But we just kept going." Finally, they rested for one day. After a decent night of sleep, they made five more runs, clocking 12 trips in total. While unloading pas- sengers in Tel Aviv, Long still remembers the reception his crew received from Israeli military personnel. "I'll always recall oneyoung Israeli officer who came on board, looked at us and told us, 'You've done a great thing,' " recalled Long. "I can still see him, still hear him saying those words to us when I close my eyes and think real hard." "On Eagle's Wings," which also goes by the name "Op- eration Magic Carpet," saved nearly 50,000 Yemenit.e Jews who have more than 750,000 descendants, including Gaines and her family. 'The mystery of the man' Another one of those de- scendants, Shahar Azani, a 41-year-old StandWithUs employee whose grandpar- ents escaped Yemen, came across Long's story while visiting an exhibit at a Jew- ish museum in Anchorage, Alaska, showcasing the role of Long's flight crew in the rescue. Azani came across a copy of On Eagles Wings: The Untold Story of the Magic Carpet, a book Long wrote on his experience. "I knew then and there that I had to meet this man," he said. WhenAzani first tried to get in contact with Long several years ago to arrange a meet- ing and begin the process of honoring him, Long's family members informedAzani that the 90-year-old was "out at sea." He was on a crew search- hosts the following year's contest. Shortly after the vic- tory, both Barzilai and Regev said the competition would be held in Jerusalem. Israel has hosted the Eu- rovision contest twice before in Jerusalem, a city that most countries do not recognize as Israel's capital. A senior Kan source told Haaretz on Wednesday that officials at the European Broadcast Union were un- happy that Regev, and Com- munications Minister Ayoob Kara, announced that the contest would be held in Jerusalem. Late last month, a message on the official Eurovision Twitter account warned fans not to book flights to Israel "just yet" and instead "keep an eye out for announce- ments on our official chan- nels," leading to speculation of disagreements between organizers and Israeli offi- cials over various aspects of the competition, including matters connected to the Israeli-Arab conflict. At about the same time, ing for the remains of Amelia Earhart, which Azani told guests "added to the mystery of the man." Last fall, Azani and Stand- WithUs organized a trip for Long to return to Israel and tour the country he hadn't seen since 1949. Over the course of a 10-day trip, Long told JNS that he marveled at the innovative nation that "he could barely recognize" from nearly seven decades ago. "I remember when there was just an airfield," he said. "Now it's Ben-Gurion Interna- tionalAirport,where millions of people come through. And everywhere we went, there was so much being built. Israel is an amazing place." Azani said that in Israel, trip organizers offered Long meetings with high-ranking politicians, awards and ap- preciation ceremonies. But he had only one thing on his mind. "He just wanted to see how the Yemenites he helped save were doing," he said. "He kept asking, 'How are they doing? How are their lives here? How are their children?' I'm so happy I got to be with him when we made that happen. They don't make them like him anymore." Reunitingwith members of theYemenite-Israeli commu- nity that he helped rescue was a joyous occasion for Long, but one in which he couldn't help but think of his fellow crew members who didn't live to see it. "That was one of the best moments of my life," Long told JNS. "But everything that happened to me, I can't take credit for. It was my entire crew and me, and I wish they could've been there. There's a certain serendipity to it all--that a guy from a small town on the Oregon coast experienced all of this." Eurovision organizers in an email to JTA dismissed as "speculation" reports of politi- cal tensions over Israel's host- ing of the song contest next year. The organizers said that they are finalizing the event with Israeli officials. Ynet reported Wednesday that the organizers made clear to Israeli officials that if the location of next year's competition became too much of a political football, it would move the venue. The organizers also asked for two cities to submit proposals to host the competition, accord- ing toYnet. In recent days, Regev has come under fire for moving the Argentina soccer match canceled on Wednesday from Haifa to Jerusalem, with op- ponents suggesting that she was politicizing the match, which led to its cancellation. "Jerusalem is the capital of world Jewry and the State of Israel. It is not a politi- cal issue," she said during a Wednesday evening news con- ference regarding the match. "Jerusalem is our capital city."