Last month marked 65 years since Margalit Ozeri and her family began their journey from Yemen to Israel. Their aliyah (immigration to Israel), like that of most other Yemenite Jews, was put into motion in 1949 when Yemen’s ruler was assassinated and succeeded by his son, and Jews were allowed to leave. The Jewish Agency sent emissaries and began to organize Operation Magic Carpet, which would eventually bring an estimated 49,000 Jews to Israel from Yemen.

Margalit OzeriIn February 1949, Margalit and her parents joined the rest of their community, packing up their belongings and preparing for the journey to Israel. The group traveled in convoys from town to town on camels, then mules and horses and finally in trucks, eventually gathering 50,000 Jews on the arduous journey that lasted weeks. They settled in the Hashed Camp in Aden, a seaport city, in cramped, unsanitary and dangerous conditions, waiting to be transported to Israel. Many people died of disease in the camp and never made it to Israel.

After a month in Aden, Margalit and her family boarded a flight to Israel. Due to weight limitations, they were forced to leave behind all of their belongings, which they had packed and prepared so carefully.

Their hardship was prolonged in Israel, where they were transported to a transit camp—eight families to a tent—in Rosh HaAyin. Eight months later, they moved to a muddy plot of land in Moshav Tzlafon. With limited resources, there, they and their relatives and friends built homes slowly and were some of the moshav’s (village) earliest pioneers.

Margalit, who was 14 at the time, settled into a busy and challenging schedule, planting trees in the morning for the Jewish National Fund and studying in the afternoon. Tzlafon was still very undeveloped, lacking resources such as water and electricity. Margalit’s family lived off of food stamps, using their allocated provisions to prepare traditional Yemenite dishes.

In 1958, Margalit was married at her parents’ home, and shortly thereafter, she began a job as a cook at the regional school and later worked in agriculture, in the egg industry. During the Six-Day War, she dug trenches for the defense, and she was equally active during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Trying economic times followed, and Margalit’s agriculture-cum-food-industry career led her to a job at the Jerusalem chicken plan in Har-Tuv.

Margalit is now retired and cares for her five children and 15 grandchildren. Planting trees, digging trenches and starting afresh over and over, Margalit has built the country, a village, a family, a life and a home. And inside that home, she keeps memories and flavors of her first home, the one she left 65 years ago, alive, too.