January 11, 1961
At approximately 3:00 AM, a few hours after leaving from the Moroccan port of Al Hoceima, the “Egoz,” a boat making its 12th mission to bring Moroccan Jews to Israel, sank drowning forty-four immigrants half of whom were children.
At the time it was illegal for Jews to emigrate from Morocco. The Mossad had leased the “Egoz” for the purpose of rescuing Jews and bringing them to Israel. Prior to sinking, the ship had made eleven journeys bringing between forty to fifty passengers to Israel on each one.
The tragedy shed a light on the situation of Jews in Morocco and began to lead to an easing of emigration restrictions under certain conditions; including the payment of a ransom fee to the Moroccan government. Some 80,000 Jews left Morocco between 1961 and 1964 in the framework of this agreement.
After the “Egoz” sinking, the Jewish Agency and the Mossad worked with threatened Moroccan communities to rescue the children first. Between March and July 1961, a secret operation named Operation Mural was launched in coordination with the Swiss Organization of the Rescue of Children. During the Operation, 530 Moroccan Jewish children signed up to be sent by their families on a supposed holiday in Switzerland. In July, after the sign-ups were concluded, the children were sent to Switzerland, and then onto Israel. The Operation did not become public until 1984.
In 1992, King Hassan II of Morocco sanctioned the restitution of the remains from the “Egoz.” A memorial to the victims stands in Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir watches the broadcast of the Maccabi Tel-Aviv CSKA Moscow basketball game in his office on January 12, 1989.