Operation Mural was a clandestine effort headed by Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, to facilitate the emigration of Jewish Moroccan children to Israel.

Background[edit | edit source]

After gaining independence from France in 1956, the Moroccan government restricted Jewish emigration out of the country. In response, the Israeli government tasked Mossad with facilitating such emigration, using clandestine means. The Mossad initially organized illegal departures by boats, but that effort came to a halt in 1961 after the Egoz disaster, in which a ship carrying 44 immigrants capsized, drowning all passengers.

Operation Mural[edit | edit source]

A new approach was then implemented: Working with the Swiss-based NGO Œuvre de secours aux enfants – the Organization for the Rescue of Children – an offer was made to the Moroccan government to take Moroccan children on a vacation in Switzerland. Mossad agents then worked in the Jewish community to find families interested in emigration. Once there, the Jewish children would be flown to Israel instead of returning to Morocco.

David Littman volunteered for this humanitarian mission, allegedly believing that he was working for the Jewish Agency – in reality he was assisting the Mossad to evacuate Jewish children from Morocco.[1][2] At the time, Moroccan Jews were prohibited from leaving the country.[1] From March–July 1961, posing with his wife and baby daughter as Christians, the 27-year-old Littman ran the Casablanca office of the Geneva-based international NGO for children Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants de l'Afrique du Nord (OSSEAN).[1][2][3] Littman's code name was "Mural",[2] and the code name for the mission was "Operation Mural". After months of negotiation by Littman with the authorities – including holidays for Muslim groups in August – the Jewish children left Morocco in five convoys from 26 June to 24 July under the guise of a supposed holiday in Switzerland (with Littman accompanying the last convoy), and from Switzerland went to Israel.[1][2][3] In all, Littman assisted in evacuating 530 Jewish children to Israel without the authorities realizing his goal.[1][2] With the agreement of the Moroccan authorities he used special 'collective passports' and four months later this system was accepted by King Hassan II in an agreement for the exodus of 100,000 Jews from 1962-1964 in what became known as the Mossad's "Operation Yakhin".

The story of Operation Mural was first made public by in a 1984 article in Maariv.[3] That in turn led to public recognition by President Chaim Herzog at an official presidential reception, followed in 1986 – on the 25th anniversary of the operation – when Littman and his wife were honored with the Mimouna Award by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in recognition of their mission in Morocco, and at a Tel Aviv gathering of 120 of the children.[2][4] On 2004 Littman was awarded a Diploma of Recognition by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz at ‘Beit Lavron,’ Ashdod, held on the Day of Remembrance for the Clandestine Network of North Africa. A documentary film on the operation, filmed by Yehuda Kaveh, screened in 2007, and has since been screened three times on Israel's Government Channel 1, on French Canadian TV and in a dozen film festivals.

On June 1, 2008, Israeli President Shimon Peres honored Littman at a Presidential residence special commemorative event with his wife and family and former key Mossad agents in attendance,[1][3] In his brief address, Peres said:

"Well, it is a belated ceremony, but it doesn’t lose its value, because what you did stands on its own legs and is not affected by time.... [T]he saving of 530 children is, I imagine, the most moving experience a man can have. You say in Hebrew: 'The one who saves one life, is like the one that saved the life of the whole world.' But when you save 530 children, it's really unforgettable. I want to express, on behalf of our people, our nation, our recognition of your courage, your wisdom, of your determination under extremely difficult conditions".[3]

A year later the Israel Intelligence and Commemoration Center (MLM) honored Littman in a ceremony on 1 July 2009, when the "Hero of Silence" Order was conferred on him, he being the 9th person to receive it since 1985 ("An order of highest esteem and appreciation, awarded to David Gerald Littman: A clandestine warrior, who risked his life and who served a sacred cause of the People and of the State of Israel").[2]

In March 2009, Le Soir Échos, a Casablanca newspaper, interviewed Littman and published the Operation Mural story.[2] It was the first time that Moroccans learned about the affair.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

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